Emails piling up in your inbox, an iPhone vibrating furiously on the table, a baby tottering precariously around the house. This is a common scenario for self-employed mothers in 2014.
The term ‘mumpreneurs’ was coined to describe such women, who juggle the responsibilities of parenthood with the exciting but uncertain world of self-employment. Recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) research shows the number of workers registered as self-employed increased by 3.6% between 2012 and 2013, and that the number of self-employed female workers is growing twice as fast as the self-employed male workforce.
Why does self-employment seem to be increasingly attractive to females? One reason cited is the high cost of childcare, with recent research finding that many parents in Britain are paying more for childcare per year than their mortgage. It appears the growth in female entrepreneurship may be inextricably linked to the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and many women are going it alone to give themselves the flexibility they need to raise their children.
Sheetal Walsh is one these wonder-women. The founder of Shanti Life, a UK Charity that helps aspiring entrepreneurs in India build their own businesses through microfinance, and cofounder of MetaCert, the world leader in online family safety and parental controls, she is a woman of many talents. She is the Deal Maker for the UKTI’s Global Entrepreneur Programme, which attracts innovative entrepreneurs from around the world into the UK, and teaches Vinyasana yoga in her ‘free time.’
Sheetal recently made the transition from entrepreneur to mumpreneur, giving birth to her daughter Sara Swati Walsh. When balancing her new motherhood duties with work, one of the biggest inspirations are the female entrepreneurs she works with in India:
“They have absolutely no choice but to get up and make it work. Their commitment to their livelihoods is essential in order to put food on the table, pay back their loans, and care for the health of their family. Again – they just get on with it with little or no help whatsoever – and that is inspiring to me.”
“It’s more important than ever to prioritise and not lose focus. Even more key is to spend precious time with the little one because I know she will grow so quickly.”
Like many self-employed mums before her, Sheetal is finding out that, however hard it is, the rewards are worth the effort. The flexibility and freedom of her work situation is a great help – it means she can work to her own schedule and only go to the meetings she deems necessary. Furthermore, she enjoys the perks of being her own boss and not needing to answer to anyone.
Despite mixed opinions of the term ‘mumpreneur’, the label isn’t one Sheetal is scared of – in fact she’s embracing the term.
“It’s funny, I am spending more time in San Francisco and there is actually a meetup group called ‘mum entrepreneurs.’ I think it’s cool and will look to join a group once I get a basic routine in place.”
For permanently employed and freelance mums alike there is support and advice out there should they need it. The aptly named Talented Ladies Club (TLC) is an online community and website which offers inspiration and advice. It was founded by working mums Hannah Martin and Karey Fisher.
Likewise, The Mumpreneurs Networking Club offers meetings in a number of different locations along the South Coast for mums to get together, share tips and advice, or simply to have a gossip.
These groups are vital to the success of mumpreneurs, and mumpreneurs in turn have become a valuable asset to the economy. According to recent research 300,000 mumpreneurs in the UK contribute about £7.4 billion a year to the national economy. Their ventures also tend to have smaller start-up costs, the average being £500. This means that smaller, lower risk loans are given to mumpreneurs, making the group an attractive customer base for risk-averse banks.
The term mumpreneur is a source of contention within the self-employed world. It has mixed responses from those labelled as such – some find it empowering, whereas others finding it patronising. Many question whether there is the need for it, especially when the term ‘entrepreneur’ is unisex.
However, with mumpreneur appearing in the Collins English Dictionary a few years ago, it seems it isn’t going anywhere – much like the mumpreneurs themselves, who are building their own thriving community and creating successful businesses up and down the country.