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Back to work basics

You’ve been blessed with a bundle of joy and the thought of returning to work has you running for the hills.

Lots of mothers use their maternity leave to set up successful businesses — here’s what you need to know to turn your idea into a reality.

In 2011 the term “mumpreneur” was added to the Collins English Dictionary. By 2012 the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that home-based businesses made up the fastest-growing small business sector in the country and, according to recent research undertaken by Bankwest, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

In fact, the Bankwest Business Trends Report revealed that the number of part-time business owners has increased by 19.1 per cent over the last five years and by 27 per cent over the past 10 years. Alan Langford, chief economist at Bankwest attributes the rise to increasingly flexible work practices and the advancement of technology, which makes businesses much easier to create and maintain.

According to a recent survey by Kimberly-Clark, a staggering 70 per cent of women have seriously considered starting their own business after having children. Taking the leap from a regular pay cheque to becoming a small business owner makes sense to a lot of women who are battling the rising cost (and declining availability) of quality childcare. There is no denying that to many, the flexibility of working from home is an attractive incentive.

While running your own business can be a challenge, successful mumprenuer and author Johanna Baker-Dodwell of Strawberry Communications believes that women are at their most creative when they have children and urges aspiring mumpreneurs to follow their dreams.

Find an idea

“I think most mumpreneur ideas come from two places — either the need to find something that will allow a mum to stay at home with her children and still contribute to the family income, or a gap that is discovered in the market in the course of being a mum,” says Johanna.

No matter which place you come from, differentiation plays a key role in an increasingly crowded mumpreneur market. Specialise in a unique product, offer excellent customer service, align yourself with a charity and follow your own style. Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing — do what you’re passionate about and what you believe in.

Plan your day

Johanna — who started freelancing as a writer in 2006 just before her first son, Noah, was born — now works four days from her home office.

“I built my clients up after his birth until I was working four full days a week from our third bedroom,” explains Johanna. “After my second son, Ethan, was born in 2009 I went back to working four days. Ethan stayed with me in the office and I scheduled meetings around his sleep.”

Becoming a mumprenuer requires some pretty solid organisation skills. But even if you weren’t a diary-queen before you gave birth, chances are you’re much more organised now you have a child. In fact, that old “baby-brain” excuse you’ve been using is heavily contested by researchers at Yale University and the University of Michigan who have found that women’s brains actually grow considerably after having a child.

Those new skills you’ve developed — to function on less sleep, think laterally and make decisions quickly will all help you run a business — so put them to good use. Plan your day, your week and your year and make time to work towards your goals, despite the occasional hiccup you’ll face along the way.

Take all the support you can get

Being a mum is hard work so it’s only natural that being a mumpreneur is going to be tough as well. You’ll need time to run and grow your business and that means you’ll need to take all the help you can get.

“Initially both of my parents had Noah one day a week each so that freed me up to work,” explains Johanna. “Noah started childcare one day a week when he turned one and then went two days the following year. My husband is now the primary carer for our two sons so I can work full-time,” she says.

Creating a professional network is also important to keep you from feeling isolated and to help you grow your business. “As I got more comfortable in my role as a mumpreneur I started to speak with fellow business mums on Twitter, Facebook and I attended networking and business development events to keep in touch,” says Johanna.

Finding support is integral to your success. Here are some great tips on getting your small business started >>

The importance of balance

Balancing home and work is one of the main reasons many women choose to become mumpreneurs. But balancing the time you spend with your family, even when you’re working from home, is really important.

“I work from a home office so I am accessible to my family,” says Johanna.”“My office is under the house and has its own lockable door so I still consider myself at ‘work’ and I work fairly standard office hours so I can walk Noah to school and still be around to eat dinner together,” she explains.

When you work from home it can be hard to switch off so try not to lose sight of why you started a home-based business — to have a career while still getting to spend time with your family. Avoid working weekends where possible and work around nap times to give yourself the chance to enjoy precious moments.

Make the leap

Most home-based businesses can be set up with as little as a computer, an internet connection some time and good dose of faith.

“Don’t hesitate to follow your business dream because the time when you’re having children is when you’re at your most creative,” urges Johanna.

While it might be scary to take a risk, set aside the amount of money and time you’re prepared to lose to give your idea a chance. Even if you don’t succede you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process and you never know — you might just hit on the next big thing.

More small business tips

How to take a break from your business
How to use social media to boost your business
How to turn your hobby into a business

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