Mumpreneurs in a growth frame of mind
The ‘mumpreneur’ phenomenon evolved as a way for women to combine a fulfilling family life with a career – and now Enterprise Ireland wants to get these innovators to think about expanding their businesses
WHEN LULU O’Sullivan was setting up her online gifts company GiftsDirect.comsome 23 years ago, the term “mumpreneur” hadn’t yet been coined, but even if it had, it wouldn’t have applied to her.
While she has four children, she has always seen herself as a fully fledged entrepreneur, and has put the time and effort into growing and developing her business. Even if there have been some sacrifices along the way.
“There are disadvantages and advantages – a disadvantage is that you’re not outside school gate every day and you have to accept that. But if there’s an important school play or a child needs to be brought to the doctor, you can do it,” she says, adding: “There are ways around it if you really want to do it, but you need to think of all these things.”
While the concept of mothers trying to run businesses from their homes at the same time as rearing their children has been around a long time – the late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop is a frequently cited example – the term “mumpreneur” is a new edition to the business lexicon. Indeed, it only entered the Collins English dictionary last year, but there is a groundswell of support behind the movement.
While O’Sullivan has managed to successfully combine both business and family life, it’s not always a straightforward decision for other women.
“I think one of the reasons why women don’t stay in business as long as men do, is that they get overwhelmed and think ‘there’s no way Ill manage to do both’,” she says.
And the statistics back her up. According to Paula Fitzsimons, national director of Going for Growth, a support programme for women who are serious about growing their business, men are two-and-a-half times more likely to be an entrepreneur than women, and this figure hasn’t really changed over the past number of years.
Enterprise Ireland supports about 95 “high-potential start-ups” each year, but according to Julie Sinammon, executive director of global business development, less than 10 per cent of these are female.
This is in line with Fitzsimons’ assertion that there are nine men for every one woman who see themselves as fully fledged entrepreneurs with an aspiration to grow their business. So while women are setting up businesses in significant numbers, it is often for lifestyle reasons, sometimes to try and accommodate both a career and a semi-stay-at-home role.
After all, when faced with an hour commute each way, tired children at either end of the day and a diminishing pay check each month after childcare and rising tax costs are taken into account, the attractions of packing it all in to become a mumpreneur are self-evident. Working from home at hours that suit yourself – and more importantly your family – while at the same time fulfilling your career goals and generating an income; this is a very attractive prospect for many women.
For Mairead Kelly, who trains and advises mumpreneurs through her Cutehoney website, a major factor behind the growth in mumpreneurs is the rising cost of childcare. At a time when salaries are going down and taxes going up, childcare costs are holding steady, which makes fitting in work around your children’s schedules a lot more attractive.