Having children is no barrier to business success; in fact, it can be a big help.
The most recent Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women revealed that Europe’s highest-achieving business women have raised or are raising families with an average of two children.
Further evidence that success in the business world needn’t be thwarted by motherhood comes from a survey of 2,000 working mums by eco-building architects TG Escapes. It showed that nearly two thirds of mums felt they were more productive at work after having children.
How do entrepreneurs balance bringing up children with running a business? Here, four such women share their insights…
Helen Wooldridge is co-founder of Cuddledry, maker of hands-free hooded-apron towels for baby bath times, and has three children.
“I founded the business with my friend and fellow mum Polly Marsh in 2006 – we came up with the concept over a glass of wine. We’d noticed our husbands struggle to pick up our babies from the bath and thought there must be an easier and safer way of doing it. We did some market research to find out if this was a problem other parents had and when we realised it was we started to sketch out our product.
“We are now stocked in retailers such as John Lewis and Fenwick with growing sales both here and abroad in countries including Russia and Australia.
“Starting a new business isn’t easy when you have small children: there is so much pressure and demands on your time. But you become a different person when you become a mum. You are more driven, focused and become dramatically more productive. You work every hour that is possibly available. I remember working till 4am in the early days because I wanted to get the children to bed before I started in the evening. The family comes first; they are always more important than the business and that mindset has never changed.
“The family comes first; they are always more important than the business and that mindset has never changed”
“As the children have got older there’s still pressure as their needs actually become more complex. But I’ve readjusted my working times now with most of it done during the day when they are at school.
“I definitely see myself as a role model for them. They love the fact that I am the boss of a company and we make products that sell overseas. They are all very entrepreneurial in their thinking. They come up with great ideas for fundraising events for organisations such as the local Scouts group. They are self-motivated and fascinated by business.
“My advice to mum entrepreneurs would be to find a business partner they work well with to help share the load. Family is the priority so you need to compartmentalise your time with them, then with the business. You learn to manage your time very effectively!”
Flo Broughton is founder of chocolate gift-maker Choc on Choc and has two children.
“I started the business with my dad 13 years ago, when we began messing about with rubber moulds of noughts and crosses to fill with chocolate for gifts. We’ve built the company up and are stocked in John Lewis and Selfridges, among other places. We’ve also made gifts for people like Sting and Nicolas Cage.
“I was 24 when I started and was giving the business everything, from early morning to late at night. Six years later, I became pregnant for the first time and I was very worried. I thought, ‘How are we going to cope if I am not there at the factory?’ I was panicking but I put it to the back of my mind.
“I had a caesarean, which meant I could not drive and was permanently exhausted. I just couldn’t make it in to work. In the end, I found that I was in fact replaceable! The team we had created was first-class.
“It was actually very positive in that it convinced me I could take a step back and focus on strategy. I used my time well, I think. I would talk about business and arrange meetings on the phone when I was pushing the pram in the park, and found that you can also do a lot of work during the [baby’s] afternoon nap! In the evenings, you work after their bedtime.
“We’ve had another child since then and, since the factory is in Bath and we live in London, the support of my husband has been invaluable. I am away two or three days a week and I do sometimes have a wobble of guilt when I feel that my focus is not always on my children.
“It’s great for the kids to see that I am not just a mum but a businesswoman. I can be a good role model for them”
“But, I do feel they have made me more productive. They give my work more of a purpose and it’s great for the kids to see that I am not just a mum but a businesswoman. I can be a good role model for them.
“We employ a lot of mums at the factory and we make sure they finish by 2pm so they can spend their afternoons with their children.
“I think getting that balance is key. You have to ensure that the business is not running you, and you have time for your children as well.”
Hazel Cushion is founder of Accent Press and has triplets.
“I was a mum of triplets who was estranged from my husband and with a string of previous jobs from cruise-ship duty free to recruitment.
“I was 40 years old and had lost my identity. I decided to go on an MA creative writing course and I got so much out of it. Rather than become a writer, at the end of the course I decided to be a publisher.
“It was the start of desktop publishing and I began my business from my home. I worked around the children and even got them to help me making some of our picture books. I turned it into a game for them.
“I hired an employee, which freed me up to do the school run and put them to bed without too much worry. I then worked into the evening.
“All my kids have a strong work ethic. They saw me working hard and have followed suit”
“I had no fail option when I started my business. With three young kids, I had to make it work. It was the only money coming in.
“All my kids are now at good universities. They are very independent and all have a strong work ethic. I never remember having to make them do their homework! They saw me working hard and have followed suit. They have also seen their mum make mistakes and get back on with it, which is an important lesson.
“Combining business and being a mum is not for everyone. It’s stressful spinning so many plates, meaning it’s hard to properly plan your business.
“I would like there to be more support available for entrepreneurial women to find that time to speak to advisers about the best way forward for their firms.”
Sam Houghton is the founder of luxury jewellery business Iridescence and has one child.
“I was a single mum when the business started and I wondered how I would juggle everything, but my mind was set to succeed. The main challenges have been having time for me as a person, not as a business owner or a mum. I found it hard to keep my identity, to be honest.
“I always say that ‘single mumdom’ is a great training for business. It set me on the path to being incredibly organised and productive; to be able to prioritise tasks and oversee the whole project while looking after many different needs. I wanted to be a great role model for my son, especially to follow his ambitions and be confident to do so, which he is now at 18.
“‘Single mumdom’ is a great training for business. It set me on the path to being incredibly organised and productive”
“Do not feel guilty: you can be a great mum and be a business owner. Be very organised and have a clear direction of what you want to achieve and get help when you need it.
“If you don’t wish to be a start-up when you are starting a family, then either set up now and wait until established before you try for a child or have the family now and postpone the business. Choose which is most important to you right now.”