Like many business owners, I’m also a mother. It goes without saying that it’s all a balancing act. Being a mom is a full-time job and running a business is a full-time job. So, how do we do it all and have the best of both worlds with only 24 hours in a day?
When I first started my business, I didn’t have kids, but I knew I wanted to build something that would allow me the flexibility (the big word) to be the type of mother that my 9-5 job couldn’t offer. It’s been tough but also rewarding. Years later, I own a business I can be proud of that helps support my family. I learned a lot of lessons along the way and learned many of them the hard way. I hope that I can share some of my tips to help fellow moms grow their small businesses and small humans at the same time. Trust me, it can be done.
Take a chance
You don’t need to be a business major or an expert to get started. Passion can get you far with a well thought out plan. Getting a solid business created takes time but doesn’t cost money. It’s a helpful outline to everything you’ll need to get a solid plan and take the leap to get started. There are a million reasons not to try, so start small. My main regret with my business is how long I waited to get started.
Tip: Many community colleges in Michigan have a Small Business Development Center that offer free programs to help small business owners. The center in my area was beneficial in my beginning stages.
Turn off your messaging at a certain time. For me, that means when my business closes for the day, I’m done for the day. When my family is home, that’s what that time is for: family. When I used to answer messages at all times of the day and night, I wasn’t giving my important customers my full attention. And when notifications would pop through during the bedtime routine with my daughter, I was distracted and felt guilty. While we certainly live in a time when people want instant information, any questions can wait until the next day.
Tip: Set up away messages on Instagram, Facebook, and your e-mail account, letting your customers know what time you’re “in office” during the week, so they know when to expect a reply.
It’s OK to say no
For the first few years, I took any and every opportunity that came my way. Even things that I knew didn’t make sense for me, I tried because “you never know.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things but trust your gut. Do your research and make informed decisions for what moves you should make, and don’t say yes out of fear of missing out. If you took every request that came your way, you’d be working day and night. Focus on what makes the most sense and go in that direction.
Tip: I ask myself three questions when deciding if I should commit to something related to business: does it make money? Will it be fun and/or a good deed? Is this a good networking opportunity? If there isn’t an automatic yes in one of the three, I pass.
Get more help
If you can afford it, outsource the little things that someone else can do for you. In your business, that could be data entry or billing. At home for me it’s grocery delivery and bi-weekly professional house cleaning. Trying to do it all at home and at work will drain you and leave you feeling unfilled. Focus on what you’re good at, and if you can, delegate the rest. Don’t convince yourself you can do everything; you can’t.
Tip: You can’t be an expert at everything, so ask for help where you need and want it.
Owning a small business with a family isn’t an easy road; it’s going to be hard. Of course your friends and family will support you but to have women on your side who really “get it,” join a networking group or find a mentor. They’ll really come in handy when you need someone to bounce ideas off of or just to commiserate with you about how hard this gig really is. I’ve found that one of the best ways to grow as a business owner is to find a network of women who have been there and can offer inspiration.
Tip: Join a women’s co-working space in your community. They offer opportunities to work outside of the home when needed, as well as training and networking opportunities to meet other kick-butt business moms like you.
Let it go
You won’t be a perfect parent, and you won’t be a perfect business owner. You’ll mess something up every day…well, at least I do. Don’t get bogged down by the critics (and get ready, you’ll have some) or the days you don’t hit your goals. Slow and steady wins the race, and it can take a long time to be successful. Don’t quit; instead, shake it off and try again the next day.
If you’re a mom who wants to start a business for any reason– be it financial security, flexibility, or to live out a dream– you can do it. Play to your strengths, do what you know and love, and let your passion lead you. I hope my experience so far can be helpful to you, so your family and business can get the attention they need.