Juggling family and work commitments can be tough at times. But what about setting up a business while also looking after your children?
Mums who take the plunge to leave the rat race and make their own living, sparked by their own ideas and enthusiasm, are being given a helping hand by a networking group set up just for them.
The Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC) is different from other business networking organisations.
For starters, they meet once the school run is done and only during term time.
And the monthly meetings are not all-guns blazing corporate-focused events.
The idea behind it is to have a good gossip and make connections that will help members help each other.
Businesses represented are as varied as private equity firms, pole dancing schools, property development companies and beauty salons.
Emma Weatherstone runs the Emsworth MNC branch.
The mum-of-one, from Westbourne, owns residential and holiday properties which she lets out, as well as running a life and business coaching company.
She is a very busy lady. Emma says: ‘I think mums are overlooked. The emergence of mums being in business is due to so many different factors.
‘There are a lot of low-cost business models out there.
There was the recession and redundancies.
‘Job cuts meant families had to reassess their finances and establish other income streams.
‘So you have to be creative and women are really good at doing that sort of thing.’
The benefit of Mumpreneurs for me is contact with like-minded people, sharing experiences and helping each other.Lucy Shrimpton
She adds: ‘Flexible working and home-based businesses are really flourishing because childcare costs can be huge.
‘But it can be very daunting starting a new business, especially for a mum.
‘We welcome people and provide an environment that’s non-judgmental, comfortable and safe.
‘A lot of people come to our groups not really knowing what to expect.
‘They go away with a warm buzz because it’s so friendly.
‘People are made to feel welcome right from the start, even if they feel nervous.’
Although the MNC is aimed at mums it’s not exclusive. Emma explains, ‘There are a lot of non-parents and a lot of men.
‘There are also people who don’t actually run businesses but want to tap into the mum market.
‘And it’s about being part of the community too.
‘Since I joined the group I feel as if I’ve become an integral part of the community. I’ve met so many phenomenal people from different businesses and different business arenas.
‘I’ve been able to give support and gain support from other people.
‘Sometimes if you become a parent and a businesswoman as well it can be quite a lonely place. We really try to help and support women in that situation.
‘That’s the fundamentals of why MNC was set up – to provide support for women who are juggling families and business.
‘A lot of the women in the group have a couple of businesses.
‘It’s fascinating. They are multitasking in their professional and personal lives.’
Lucy Shrimpton, a 34-year-old mum-of-two, lives in Fareham.
She is a baby sleep coach, helping parents who struggle to get their children to sleep, and she also founded a promotions staff and event business with her husband.
Lucy says: ‘The benefit of Mumpreneurs for me is contact with like-minded people, sharing experiences and helping each other. It’s not so much about what you get out of it.
‘It’s about seeing if I can help other people. Or put them in touch with a contact I know can help them.
‘I’ve written a book and I’m working on the publishing side.
‘Someone else has been through the process so they are helping me.
‘Running your own business can be quite lonely. It’s a really nice experience to get out and go to the meetings. I’m in the office on my own so it’s good to get out and have a change of scenery.
‘I’m a big supporter of female entrepreneurs anyway. Being a mum means a whole different set of characteristics.
‘We’re a unique breed, we juggle so much which people don’t understand unless they’re in that situation.
‘On top of this there’s guilt that you’re working too much. And then if you slow down you’re worried you’re not doing the best for the children’s future.
‘It’s so good to be around other women who completely understand that and support you.’
The next Emsworth MNC meeting is March 10 at The Brookfield Hotel, Havant Road, Emsworth.
Emma says: ‘Every single meeting is different. And I always say to people, the real magic happens after the meetings. It’s how you utilise these connections you’ve made.’
For more information, go to the club’s website, mumpreneursnetworkingclub.co.uk.
The Mumpreneurs Networking Club was set up six years ago by Nicky Chisholm and Sara Guiel, both from Sussex.
They have five children between them.
Finding it almost impossible to attend the traditional business networking meetings because they were held at times when they were tied up looking after their children, they decided to set up a club aimed at busy ‘mumpreneurs’.
Their motto is ‘never underestimate the power of a good gossip’.
There are now 15 branches across the South East, London and Edinburgh including Emsworth, Chichester and Portsmouth.
Each group is run by local businesswomen who manage them under licence.
Membership is £156 annually and entitles members to attend any of the meetings that are held once a month, after school drop, in term time only.
Meetings can be booked through the website or through the MNC App which is a free download.
Nicky and Sara recently celebrated 12,000 visits through their doors and hosted a group of more than 70 entrepreneurial women at their business networking event in the Houses of Parliament and Google Campus London.
The organisation has recently put together a manifesto ahead of the General Election in May.
It calls for all political parties to ‘shape meaningful, policies in five key areas – leadership, skills, childcare, social security, investment and funding.’
For more information, go to mumpreneursnetworkingclub.co.uk.