Today the overall economic impact of the more than 8.6 million women-led businesses in America is estimated at $1.3 trillion, according to a report by American Express OPEN, with women now launching businesses at nearly twice the rate of men.
However, today many “Mompreneurs” -- a phrase coined for female business owners actively balancing the role of mom and entrepreneur -- aren’t getting the support they need, according to Jennifer Friedman, CMO of the Small Business Segment of CT Corporation – a provider of information and compliance services to small businesses.
“The obstacles facing Mompreneurs are significant, from raising funds to finding mentors,” said Friedman. “Considering the tremendous impact of Mompreneurs, the business community needs to work harder to recognize and embrace these businesses and offer solutions to meet their needs.”
Boulder, Colorado-based Jennifer Pillari, mother of two girls under eight-years-old and president and Owner of OHCO/Oriental Herb Company, says people often assume she’s “just a mom” promoting a product. “However, I actually have an education and background that feeds my understanding of my product,” said Pillari.
Pillari, who holds a Master’s in Oriental Medicine, bought OHCO in April 2013, and has grown the business into a nationally-recognized brand, with the company’s best-selling immune support product Cold Snap now being carried in stores such as Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM), Kroger (NYSE:KR), Sprouts, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage and Pharmacia. “The fact that I’m a savvy, holistic-minded mom and I have seen my own children benefit from our formulas increases my ability to sell and market our formulas, but it doesn’t define it.”
Friedman says that this “fight to be taken seriously” is among the chief challenges for many Mompreneurs.
“Momprenuers are often asked ‘isn’t this just a hobby?’ by members of the business community, potential funders, mentors and service providers,” said Friedman.
Melissa Kieling, single mom of three and CEO of PackIt, LLC., ran into the same issue when trying to launch her idea for the first foldable, freezable bag that could keep her children’s lunches cool and safe until lunchtime. In 2014, PackIt ranked No. 28 on Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest-growing private company list and was the No. 1 fastest growing women-led business.
Kieling, who did not go to college, nor have any prior business experience, found it difficult to get someone “to take a chance on her and her product.” Kieling says “she couldn’t give shares away in exchange for financing” when she first launched PackIt, which projects $16 million in 2015 revenue.
While some in the business community didn’t take Kieling serious at first, she believes being a mom making a product for other moms and their children gave her solid credibility. “When you’re a mom, you can use other moms right around you to help you explore your ideas and test your products,” said Kieling. “You have a built-in test market.”
Kieling also believes in the strength of women helping other women. “There are women out there who want to help other women with their business,” said Kieling. “Reaching out, networking and understanding it’s okay to not know everything is key.”
Getting a business off the ground and maintaining it is hard work, even in the best of circumstances, says Friedman, who gives the following tips for all the Mompreneurs out there who are caregiving and raising children, as well as managing a business:
No. 1: Start strong.
Success comes when preparation meets opportunity. If you organize and prepare for success, you will be much more likely to achieve it. For example, understand that forming or incorporating your business early on will reduce your personal liabilities. It will also enable you to take advantage of opportunities such as loans, grants and the ability to bid for contracts that are earmarked for women-owned businesses.
No. 2: Create a network of trusted advisors.
There is power in a team. Whether it is mentors who are Mompreneurs, attorneys who you trust, accountants and other advisors, together you can achieve more that you can achieve alone.
No. 3: Empower yourself.
Many resources are available for women to help you start and grow your business. The Small Business Administration (SBA), with a division dedicated to women entrepreneurs, is a good place to start. Blogs such as www.foundingmoms.com, can help expose you to a community of other Mompreneurs. In addition, most areas have local small business or economic development programs where you can find support and mentorship.
No. 4: Be serious to be taken seriously.
No matter how small your business is – even if you are the only employee and have no plans to grow – run your business holistically with the same discipline as any good business. This means managing cash flow, having a business plan and marketing strategy, and making decisions for the long-term health of the business.