BECOMING a mum is one of the hardest jobs in the world as you battle with sleepless nights, exhausting days, never-ending feeds . . . and that’s without even mentioning the emotional and physical strains that come hand in hand with having a baby.
The reality of motherhood is a far cry from the serene images plastered across magazines with mother and baby gazing longingly into each others’ eyes, beaming smiles painting a picture of happiness.
The reality is that more often than not, just having a shower can be the biggest achievement of the day for a new mum.
But despite this, there are growing numbers of women who are using the experience of motherhood to carve out careers that not only fulfil their dreams, but allow them to juggle family and work life.
“Mumpreneurs”, as they are known, are women who have set up their own businesses post-birth, enabling them to raise their children, avoid crippling childcare costs and do something that they love.
Elena Torres, 33, from Corstorphine, is mother to 18-month-old Lucia. She is also co-founder of Bubabloon – a multi-sensory fabric balloon cover that keeps the light bouncy effect of a balloon but protects children from popping and the threat of choking – which launched in April.
‘Being your own boss is great – you are in control and make your own decisions’Elena Torres
She says: “The inspiration for the company came in 2013 when I was pregnant, from a toy I received from a friend who was visiting from Australia. Keen to give a similar gift to my mummy friends, but failing to find anything of its quality in the UK, I set about developing the idea for the balloon cover.”
Elena secured funding and, with the help of her friend Lorna Edwards, she turned her dream into reality. Though it wasn’t always easy.
“I didn’t actually find it daunting to launch a new business with a baby because I believed so much in the product that working on it was never a chore.
“There was and still are lots of late nights as any mumpreneur will testify. Having Lorna as a business partner really helped as the logistics of launching a business in between nappy changes, feeding and entertaining my daughter is challenging. It’s difficult at times taking calls with a crying toddler in the background or answering e-mails whilst spending quality time at the park. But you make it work.
“Time is precious with my daughter and I try my best to work only on the two days she is in nursery plus the one day a week my mum takes her. Most people in this industry understand as they too are in the same boat.”
After exceeding forecasts following the launch of Bubabloon, Elena is getting ready to launch a new range next month.
“Being your own boss is great – you are in control and make your own decisions,” she explains. “I get to organise my workload around my daughter and save a small fortune on childcare. Being self employed has definitely given me flexibility and allowed me to spend more quality time with her during these formative years. I know how fortunate I am.
“My advice to any mums considering launching their own business is just do it. You will make it work if you are passionate about it. Yes, it will be tough in the beginning but it is worth it. More and more women are going it alone because of soaring childcare costs that can often outweigh a salary. But also because their mindset changes when you have your first child. You want more from life . . . and thankfully more of us have the confidence to go for it.”
Aromatherapist and beauty therapist Rebecca O’Connor, 43, from Gullane is mum to boys Jamie, nine, and Harry, seven. She is also founder of Beatitude, a luxury award-winning range of natural aromatherapy bath, body and facial oils made from her home. Having trained and worked for Aromatherapy Associates before working with French skincare brand Guinot Mary Cohr and lecturing at Stevenson College, Rebecca finally followed her lifelong dream of launching her own business.
“There has never been a better time to be a mumpreneur,” she says. “There is more support than ever before and technology allows many of us to work more flexibly; the growth of social media has made it easier and more accessible for all of us to interact and communicate.
“Having had two children, I was keen to set up a business that allowed flexibility with hours and that would allow me to enjoy time with the kids, especially in the school holidays. Importantly, I wanted to create a work/life balance that allowed me to develop a career that could grow as they grow up. In 2011 I did just that.
“Launching your own business with children is daunting and it certainly has more challenges and requires a lot more juggling than ever before.
“I developed the business slowly and in the first year it was quite part-time as Harry was pre-school so I needed to spend time with him. At the same time, it really allowed me to develop the brand and invest time in research. I went to retail fairs at the weekend when my husband Brian was around and continued as a beauty therapist, working evenings. I would then open the laptop and continue to work.
With children, the day-to-day running of the business means a lot of evening working and I feel I get a lot achieved then. My husband is also hands-on and helps out.”
Rebecca has just launched her first facial oil Skin Salvation.
She adds: “There are huge benefits to being a mumpreneur and I feel extremely lucky that I can manage my own workload to fit in around the family and get to spend time with my children especially in the school holidays. It also means that if one of the children is ill it doesn’t cause the usual childcare headaches that this causes for many working mums.
“My advice to other mums thinking about going it alone is to run your idea past as many people as possible. We all start with feedback from friends and family but then I think it is valuable to get the opinion of others in your industry. I also found Business Gateway to be very useful. Lastly, have patience, especially as a mumpreneur, and remind yourself regularly that you are juggling many things and keep your expectations realistic.”