Momtrepreneurs: the mothers of invention
Spend any amount of time chatting with mothers who have become entrepreneurs, and you are likely to hear a lot about necessity being the mother of invention. Indeed, many "momtrepreneurs" were motivated to enter the business arena because they simply could not find something they wanted or needed for their children.
"I started my business after having my first child in 2005 and not being happy with the options in children's wear available," said Susan Grimberg about why she started Ollie & Bess, a children's clothing company.
Innovative moms have created everything from breastfeeding supplies to educational products. Others have taken skills learned in 9-to-5 jobs and leveraged them to become business owners or independent consultants. Here are three moms who have successfully created thriving businesses and their advice for other would-be momtrepreneurs.
Ten years ago, Amy Hemmert and fellow mom Tammy Pelstring weren't business partners; they were running partners.
"When we run, we talk about all kinds of things, and one day we were sharing our observations about school lunches," said Hemmert, "all the pre-packaged foods, the junk that parents were sending to school and all the trash that remained at the end of the lunch hour."
The two decided to do more than just talk about the problem. They went on to form Obentec, Inc. and develop a line of bento-ware, reusable compartments intended to make packing lunches easier. Today, the company's popular line of Laptop Lunches is manufactured in the U.S. and includes bento kits, cloth napkins and drink bottles.
"It took a strong belief in the mission, an extraordinary business partner, a patient family, some money and a lot of long days and nights," said Hemmert. "Now that we have an amazing staff, it's much, much easier!"
For other moms interested in launching a business, Hemmert advises starting with a detailed plan. Then, seek out feedback from unbiased sources that will provide an honest critique. In addition, carefully consider all aspects of a business idea from potential customers to start-up costs to your personal schedule.
Like Hemmert, Jane DeLaney was concerned about being able to provide wholesome meals. However, when she began developing her business eMeals in 2003, it wasn't lunch that was problematic; it was dinner.
"At the time, I was no different than most parents are today -- busy and struggling to pull off dinner night after night on a tight budget," said DeLaney. "What I needed was a practical weekly menu with simple and affordable dinner recipes along with a complete grocery list. Since it didn't exist, I decided to create it myself."
Eventually teaming with her sister, Jenny Cochran, DeLaney grew the business from 4 initial meal plans to more than 30 that cater to a variety of specialty diets and family sizes. The mom of four worked a full-time job for three years while getting the business off the ground. Today, eMeals can boast the endorsement of popular personal finance expert Dave Ramsey and has provided meal plans to hundreds of thousands.
"I hardly knew how to email when I first started eMeals," said DeLaney. "I had an idea and a destination, but I did not know how to get there. I got up every day determined to figure it out."
DeLaney has three pieces of advice for potential momtrepreneurs:
- Don't be intimidated by what you don't know
- Don't be intimidated by the competition
- Don't give up
Finally, she reminds moms to keep a healthy balance and remember that family comes first.
For moms who think running their own business means hours of leisure time, Cami Zimmer says think again.
"Instead of working a 40 hour week, I work 70 hours a week. I live, breathe, sleep business," said Zimmer.
After her last child was born nearly seven years ago, Zimmer decided it was time to check out of the inflexible world of office work. With 19 years experience in the political arena and four months of work for a tech firm under her belt, Zimmer launched Campaign Touch. The business offers mobile strategies to corporations, non-profits and political candidates and committees.
"I believe it's very important to network with the right people who can help you," said Zimmer. "Without other colleagues in this industry, I would never have been able to accomplish what I am."
She also advises other potential momtrepreneurs to be ready to spend lots of time and hard work on their business venture. In addition, failure is an inevitable part of finding success. Despite the long hours and hard work, Zimmer wouldn't have it any other way. Her business allows her the opportunity to work around her children's schedules and teach them the importance of perseverance.
"I am here when they wake up in the morning and when they get home from school," said Zimmer. "I'm happy to know they are learning amazing life skills by watching me run a business. Priceless."