Setting up a work-from-home business while on maternity leave sounds like a dream way to bring in a bit of money, but do you have what it takes to make a business succeed?
Why do it?
Tui Te Hau, the program director at Creative HQ, a Wellington-based agency that assists start-up companies, says the first thing she does when working with someone who wants to set up their own business is to examine their motivation. For mums with young babies, it usually comes down to three reasons:
- going down to one income is hard
- they want something to keep their brain sharp
- they see parental leave as an opportunity to pursue something they've always wanted to do - "so they might have been earning money in the banking sector but what they've always wanted to do was create something beautiful in ceramics," she says.
Is it really right for you?
Te Hau says often women with babies are heavily influenced by the fact they've just been pregnant and have a small child, so they tend to skew towards maternity or baby-related ideas.
"That's because that's what their world is right then, but it's really worthwhile sitting down and thinking 'actually, am I really into this?' Because in three to four years time your kids won't be babies anymore and you might no longer have the same passion for it," she advises.
If you have what you think is a great business idea, don't be afraid of someone nicking it - talk about it and get some market validation.
"The days of doing things in stealth are over," Te Hau says, adding that the chance of someone stealing your ideas is low. "While anyone can see a good idea, very few will actually execute it."
Lots of people have great ideas, but never get any further than the thinking and dreaming stage. Te Hau says you need momentum, and should try to get feedback as quickly as you can.
"If you're looking at an apparel or product business, a really great way to do that is to go in to a market. Take a stall one weekend and use that as market research. Find out what people are actually willing to pay, what the feedback is on the product."
Before setting prices, think about where you want your business to be in a few years' time. You might start off selling online, but do you dream of eventually getting your product into stores? If so, the way you price your products at the outset will have a big impact.
"I see a lot of women who decide to sell online and they mark their product up by maybe 100 per cent mark up to sell online, but then they will always struggle to sell into retail. In retail you need to another 100 per cent on top of that, which then prices their product out of the market."
Clarify your vision
Te Hau advises that would-be mumtrepreneurs put their business ideas onto a mood board. "It sounds a bit naff, but it's a really creative way for them to produce something tangible, and it really helps get a vision for what they're aiming for."
She finds the exercise particularly useful when she's working with people who want to go into business together, as it helps clarify if they have the same vision for the business and how well they work together.
It's easy to get mired down in details, and in the beginning when everything is new you might be hesitant to commit to things in case you make a mistake. Te Hau says it's important to make decisions and keep moving forward, as you can always change things later. Even big things, like your business name, isn't irreversible.
"When you're starting off you will have to make all sorts of decisions with imperfect information. You just have to put a stake in the ground based on what you know."
Thinking about starting your own business? Discuss it all with other mums in the Essential Baby forum.