The women balancing babies with new businesses

Amy Palmer-Millin started her business, Kookery, after becoming a mum.
Amy Palmer-Millin started her business, Kookery, after becoming a mum. Photo: kookery.com.au

For most of us, having children opens our eyes up to a whole new world. We look at things from another perspective and see ourselves in a different light, and we come to recognise skills and attributes in ourselves that we had never before acknowledged. 

As well as motherhood teaching us that we can be more tolerant, patient, and loving than we ever thought possible, it has also taught many of us that we are extremely innovative, creative and entrepreneurial.

Amy Palmer-Millin is one such woman. After having her daughter, Amy embraced her passion and creative skills in order to set up her business, Kookery, selling kitchenware with a twist.

Lea Pracy of Manna for Mumma.
Lea Pracy of Manna for Mumma. Photo: ausmumpreneur.com

"I had always done a job in order to pay the bills, but my innermost desire was to create my own product and have my own business," says Amy. "Having my daughter gave me the space and courage to start focusing on what I really wanted to do."

Amy confesses that setting up her business was completely different to anything she had done before – and not without its challenges with a child in tow.

"Motherhood is all consuming and, although I love it, if you are mid-design and little bub doesn't sleep as long as normal or is unwell, everything has to stop," she says. "This can certainly cause a little frustration for your creative mind."

Despite this, Amy believes that the benefits of working for herself far outweigh the negatives, and she cites flexibility as being her most valued commodity.

"I love the flexibility of being the boss or being solo entrepreneur. I can pick up my daughter from school, go for a coffee if my brain needs a rest, or work in the evenings instead."

Lea Pracy, founder and owner of Manna for Mamma, echoes Amy's sentiments, stating that flexibility allows her to be the mum she wants to be.  She also attributes motherhood as the catalyst for her business. 

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"After being home with the kids for almost three years, I really needed to rediscover a part of my 'pre-mum' self, something more than feeding schedules, nappies and toilet training," she says. "I wanted to challenge myself, and get my mind going again."

In establishing a gift hamper business specifically targeted at new mums, Lea believes she has filled a gap in the market that she recognised during and after her own pregnancy. She also believes it has filled many gaps in her own life too.

"I wanted to contribute financially to our household, and to be able to provide my children with holidays and access to experiences that (sadly) only money can buy," says Lea. "But more than that, flexible working hours has allowed me to be present for all the important and fun stuff with the kids, and I think the reawakening of my 'work' brain has also made me a better mother, as I have an intellectual outlet to recharge my batteries."

Leanne Guglielmi of Cozydozee.
Leanne Guglielmi of Cozydozee. Photo: ausmumpreneur.com

Leanne Guglielmi hasn't looked back since starting her own business, Cozydozee. "My business has helped me grow personally, and stretched my thinking into areas and topics I would not have chosen to naturally go into," she says. "It's been a really exciting journey and experience, and definitely educational along the way."

While Leanne also highlights flexibility as her number one benefit, she admits that the success of her business and its rapid growth has meant she is now busier than ever. And having just received a Silver Award for Product Innovation at the recent Ausmumpreneur awards, it looks like this is only set to continue

"I really wasn't planning to work as much as I am now," she explains. "This really started as a side project to motherhood to fulfill myself, and keep my creative juices flowing. The business has definitely become bigger than I planned, and it's fair to say that I am still working on the work/life balance right now."

Peace Mitchell is the director of the AusMumpreneur community and awards, and says that this year saw a record number of women entering the awards – something she believes reflects women's strong need for greater flexibility and more time with their new babies.

"External forces, such as rising childcare costs and the long wait list for places are impacting on this trend," says Peace. "But for many women it's purely the fact that they want to have a more hands-on presence in their children's lives, and being able to work from home in their own business allows them to do this while still pursuing their professional ambitions and contributing to the family income."

Career and small business coach Faye Hollands agrees, saying that women also have to face many issues when returning to the workforce after having children, particularly when it comes to career progression.

"For many mums the logistical and emotional challenges of returning to work are very daunting, and workplace discrimination is still abundant," says Faye. "Being your own boss is a very attractive proposition for many, as the flexibility of hours, as well as the potential to work from home, solves many problems for a working mum."

However, Faye warns that it's not for everyone, as setting up and running your own business comes with its own challenges.

"It's important to be realistic. It can be very tempting to get caught up in the excitement of a new business idea, and the prospect of being your own boss," she says. "But you need to understand what the reality of being in business would mean to you and your family, and consider that you may find yourself going from a well-paid corporate career to a start-up where you're suddenly responsible for every facet of the business, not just the elements of a job that you enjoy or find easy."

Faye offers the following tips for women who dream of starting their own business.

  • Make sure your idea is commercially viable and has the potential to bring in the income your family needs.
  • Do some market research, talk to your target audience, and make sure it's a goer before you invest heavily or leave your current job.
  • Get yourself get good quality business advice to keep you on track.
  • Build up a strong network around you so you have expertise to call on.
  • Get a robust plan in place, with tangible goals, and make sure you have the skills you need to make your idea viable.  
  • Make sure you pursue an avenue you're passionate about.

Meet other mums in business in the Essential Baby forum