(Article for Envoy Magazine, May 2014)
Being a military wife and a mum to two very young children might be considered challenging enough for some people. However, a few years ago I decided to give up my corporate career in the film industry and become a “Mumpreneur”; a rapidly growing group of around 300,000 UK mums who have chosen to be their own boss and build an income working from home, around the needs of their families. Last year Mumpreneurs contributed more than £7 billion to the country’s economy and with the rising cost of childcare, our numbers are set to continue to grow rapidly.
Two years after setting up my own business, in September this year I was privileged to be named as a Finalist in the UK Mumpreneur Awards as one of the top ten International Business Mums in the UK. My two companies, CV Essentials and Military CV Services, offer a bespoke CV writing and interview coaching service, with a specialisation in those leaving the Armed Forces and military spouses. Since launching the company, I have become a “go-to” CV expert for BBC Radio, and am often featured in the national press. I operate in more than 15 countries worldwide and have now written several hundred CVs, all from my home office, whilst still being a full time mum to a 3 and 5 year old.
I am often asked how running a business from home fits in with being a military wife and if I would advise others to do the same. In many ways, it’s an ideal solution; being your own boss means you can take your business with you if you have to move around the country a lot, without having to overcome those employment hurdles that so many military spouses face. But it can also mean a lack of financial security, a lonely existence, a constant juggling act between family and work, and a lot of very long hours. (I get very frustrated with people telling me I am “lucky” to work from home: I don’t remember luck coming into it!)
However, if this is something that interests you, here are some of the opportunities that exist for Mumpreneurs:
- Partyplan / networking marketing companies: these include well established brands such as Avon, Jamie at Home, Phoenix Cards, Usborne Books, and for the slightly more adventurous, Ann Summers. They have relatively low launch costs (generally you need to buy a start-up pack of products costing anything from £30 to £200), plus you have the backing of a well known umbrella company. These companies can be a great way to earn some extra income and also enable you to meet other military spouses, either through hosting parties or “open house” events. The downside is that if you become very successful, you may find yourself having to go out several evenings a week, resulting in additional childcare. Also, to build a serious income you need to recruit and manage team members, which may not be that practical if you find yourself moving frequently with each posting. I worked as a partyplan consultant for a few months after having my second child and found it was a great way of learning about running a home business in a supported environment.
- Franchises: these include baby swimming, music and movement groups, and ante-natal classes. The franchise model offers the opportunity to bring in a significant income, however it is likely that an initial investment of anything from £1,000-10,000 is required, which you will need to work very hard to recoup. You are generally allocated a specific exclusive territory in which to operate, so if you find yourself in the position of moving frequently, this may be a drawback.
- Childminding: this can be an excellent option if you have young children yourself, as it allows you to earn an income whilst still caring for your own family. You may also be able to build a business specialising in providing a service for other military families, as you understand the unique difficulties they face when it comes to finding flexible childcare, or dealing with a parent who is away for long periods of time.
- The “Dragon’s Den” approach: maybe you have an amazing idea for the next big thing in baby products? Or a whole new franchise that no-one has thought of? Such ideas are always worth pursuing. After all, the Cuddle Dry bath towel, the TrayKit backpack and Plum baby food were all been invented by “Mumpreneurs”, all of which have seen sales soar, both in the UK and abroad. There are various grants and initiatives available to those with an idea worth developing, including the University of Wolverhampton’s Forces’ Families Business Start-Up project, as featured in the previous issue of this magazine. Believe in your product, have a clear plan and you never know what might happen.
If you do decide to take the plunge, there are a multitude of networking groups available, both locally and online, to offer support, advice and encouragement. Many of these specialise in supporting Mumpreneurs or Forces families and getting involved may be as easy as joining a Facebook group. I have found such groups an invaluable resource, not to mention a great way of making friends.
Finally, starting a home business needn’t cost the earth. I launched my company with just £75, which paid for my website to be designed and hosted for a year. Within a week of trading, I was in profit. So my advice to anyone thinking of setting up as a “Mumpreneur” is this: don’t be afraid to follow a dream, however crazy it might be. And perhaps we’ll see you at the Mumpreneur Awards next year.