A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to write a piece for her local magazine about starting Cotton Twist, and I was more than happy to oblige. The magazine came out in August and can be found for free about our west London stomping ground, but for people further afield, here is what I wrote.
The rise of the Mumpreneurs
Maybe it’s just where I am right now, but I seem to be surrounded by inspiring women who are setting up their own businesses. Or is it just me? Because I’m setting up on my own, I’m looking at everyone else in the same boat - a bit like being pregnant and suddenly noticing lots of other pregnant people. Or is it that modern life is enabling, empowering or possibly even forcing more women with children to start their own businesses rather than stick to working in more conventional jobs?
The term mumpreneur has been kicking around for a few years – it’s a pretty awful term, joining ‘playdate’ on the list of words that I use but cringe at myself in doing so. Somehow it manages to have a belittling edge; it says something like ‘you’re doing it on the side.’ A nice little hobby job. But all the mumpreneurs I know are taking their business enterprises very seriously.
I see them on the nursery run – like my friend who has just started importing baskets from Senegal (www.artisanne.co.uk) – we chat about how hard it is to do it all; the paperwork, building the website, the marketing and organizing the shipping. In our previous conventional jobs, we were able to focus on one aspect of a business and had a budget with which to do them in uninterrupted time.
Then, picking my daughter up from school, I see a friend whom I’ve been helping out with twitter. She set up her own business (www.saltskin.net) designing and selling brightly-coloured animal-print wetsuits after walking idly on a beach one day and asking herself why children’s wetsuits looked so black and boring. Her background didn’t prepare her for this but that doesn’t mean that she can’t do it. She is doing it and doing it well!
Sometimes I co-work with a local friend who is setting up an online portal for refugees. We sit on our computers in companionable silence and then have our own water-cooler moments to break up the day. That’s the one thing I really miss about ‘conventional work’; the colleagues and the shared annoyance at a bad manager is something I look back at fondly… but I don’t want to go back. I also don’t want to feel embarrassed or disparaged for making this choice. I’m trying to create my own job, on my terms, around our family life.
Being a mumpreneur may sound like a bit of a cliché, but for many of us it’s the natural choice. If things go well then we’ll be snapping up all the other talented people out there who want a flexible job around their children because we know there’s a great, untapped talent pool out there!
Alexis Allan has just started Cotton Twist with her business partner (and fellow Mummy) Anne-Clare selling eco crafting kits – perfect for party bags fillers and rainy day activities.