The glass ceiling sadly still exists, with the latest Guardian figures showing men earn on average 18 per cent more than women. And for those starting a family, there’s the inevitable career break, plus the challenge of balancing returning to work with raising children.
We thought this was an issue worth exploring further so we conducted some research with parents and found that a staggering two-thirds (65 per cent) of mothers believe they could have a higher job title if they hadn’t become a parent.
But we believe that in some cases, starting your own business as a parent can be an even better alternative to climbing the career ladder when working for someone else.
Starting up on your own can give you greater control over your time and working life.As your own boss, you can decide when you work and how much you take on – giving you the flexibility to decide when to spend time with family and friends.
If this sounds of interest to you, we’ve put together a short guide for starting up a business. Here we give our tips, plus some insight from inspirational women about their experiences of building their business.
One: Find your idea
We’ve all heard ‘it’s all about the idea’ and to a large degree that’s true. Launching a business involves a lot of commitment early on, so make sure you’re passionate about your idea.
Start off by doing initial desk-based research to find out what has already been done and whether there are any gaps in the market you’re interested in. Search the internet to see what other products and services are in that sector to see what your idea could bring that’s different and would appeal to potential customers. Ask yourself whether you, or your family and friends would pay money for it, we’re usually our harshest critic so don’t be afraid to critique your initial ideas.
Remember too that the best ideas are often borne out of necessity. Go about your normal day and then in the evening think about any inconveniences or problems you faced. It might be that nothing in the supermarket took your fancy, or that your phone apps kept crashing. Write these down and think how you could come up with a business solution.
Lucy Woodhouse and Meriel Kehoe encountered a problem when they wanted to give their children an alternative treat to the sugary snacks on offer. Their solution was to create their own 100% natural lollies – and the result was the launch of their business Claudi & Fin. Listings with major supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Budgen’s and Waitrose soon followed and they’ve now seen sales of over a million at till.
“Our business was completely inspired by our children, so much so that we named it after them! It makes every day at work enjoyable because the business has a real family-feel. We had successful careers in television, and brand and marketing but now we’re able to spend more time with our families and help other mothers buy healthier treats. It’s hard work but incredibly rewarding.”
Lucy Woodhouse co-founder of Claudi & Fin.
Think about your previous or current job – what were you best at? Could you do it better yourself? At this stage, all you need is an initial idea.
Two: Plan and practice
Make sure you devote time to research. Look at other brands on the market, how much other companies charge and find out what your brand needs to do. A great starting point is to create a spider diagram to decide on your business objectives, then put all your information into a business plan. You can develop your product or service from here, and if things don’t go right at first – go back to the drawing board.
Use every opportunity to get some honest feedback. If you have children, ask other parents at your children’s school for advice and feedback or at your local mother and toddler group. The local Women’s Institute is also a great place to start, as they are always keen to support other women.
Kokoso Baby, an organic coconut oil designed for baby skincare was founded by Lauren Taylor. To get some feedback from other parents, she visited local mother and baby groups to get their advice.
“It’s so important to go out there and get some feedback on your product. I spoke to other mothers and asked them to try Kokoso Baby, which was really helpful and built my confidence in the product. Once I had some positive feedback I knew I was onto something.”
Lauren Taylor, Founder of Kokoso Baby.
Three: Think of the logistics
There are many elements to starting your own business so you need to think practically about how you’ll launch your product or service, set up your business and bring it to the market. If you have a business mentor, be sure to ask them for help and advice so you don’t miss anything.
Firstly, you’ll need funding. Look around for different options, some businesses source traditional funding, others find multiple investors, or use other lenders such as the government-backed Start Up Loans Company. Be careful to choose the best option for you and make sure you’re aware of rates and repayments.
Cash is king, and the ultimate objective of running a business is making profit. But remember, small businesses often trade with narrow profit margins so don’t be scared if these start off small.
You need to be savvy about the legal and financial regualtions around starting a business too. Should you be registering with Companies House?
Work out whether you’d need to pay income or corporation tax, as there are differences between a sole trader and a limited company. Remember to work out when you’d need to file a Self-Assessment Tax-return. We’ve produced a range of free guides which explains these in further details, and there’s plenty of information online.
Four: Take a breather
A great advantage of being the boss is that you control your hours. You’re no longer glued to a desk for eight hours so take advantage of your new found freedom. Stephen Covey, author of ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’, recommends using timeslots to bundle activities – this can be an efficient way of getting things done in a short time.
If you’re a mother, it’s important to plan your day around spending time with your children. Most people find they have more energy in the morning so try to fit in a couple of hours around your family schedule. Before you launch your business, take a day off to make sure you’re ready.
No matter where you’re at with your business, make sure you take some time off each week as well. In the office, workers tend to become disillusioned with their job when it’s repetitive so you need to set aside some downtime for yourself.
Stick to it – your business, and work/life balance will be better for it.