Let's take women's businesses seriously, and ditch 'mumpreneur'
Sydney Morning Herald Article by Nicola Appleton, April 22, 2019.
Full article: http://bit.ly/2J3DUdZ
The term "mumpreneur" has gained traction in recent years, with one study showing that there are now over 300,000 mothers currently running their own enterprises in Australia.
It even earned itself a place in the Collins English Dictionary, but not everyone is happy about being pegged with the "mumpreneur" label.
“I hate it. I think it’s so derogatory,” says Kristy Withers, the founder of Incy Interiors.
“What bothers me the most is that it downgrades my success, as though it’s surprising that I am a mum and also an entrepreneur,” she continues, pointing out that her husband is also an entrepreneur but has never been referred to as a "dadpreneur."
“To me, I think of a mumpreneur as someone who goes on maternity leave and has a hot glue gun at the kitchen table making hair bows, not a multi-national, million-dollar business.
Which is what her business is. By 2017, six years after launching, the company was turning over an annual profit of $7m. That same year, Incy’s status as a global player in children's interiors was further cemented when Serena Williams opted for the rose gold Ellie cot for her daughter, Olympia.
Clearly, this isn’t something Kristy does to keep busy while the kids are at school – her success is underpinned by dedication and experience (she was managing eBay Australia’s marketing and advertising team prior to starting her own company).
But of course, we can’t talk about labels such as "mumpreneur", "mummylancer" (yuck) or even "working mum" without acknowledging the fact that a disproportionate number of mothers are juggling work while doing the lion’s share of caregiving too.
I put the question to Kristy, if she and her husband are both entrepreneurs created equally, does that mean that the childcare responsibilities are split down the middle too? “God, no,” she laughs.
Kristy’s talking to me on speakerphone as she drives home from a parent teacher evening, while I’m sat in my kitchen–slash–office watching the blue light of my baby monitor light up, alerting me to the fact that my toddler has woken from his nap.
Evidently, the juggle is real.
“I think being a working mum makes me better at my job,” says Kristy. Many would agree, perhaps even Gwyneth Paltrow. The actress–turned–business mogul revealed during an interview with the New York Times last year that she actively seeks out working mums when hiring for her multi-million dollar company Goop, because, as she so eloquently puts it, “that b---- will get things done.”
Perhaps, then, the real problem lies within the fact that women who juggle both business and childcare are given a label – ‘mumpreneur’, ‘mummylancer’ or ‘working mum’ – to describe this added responsibility, but these terms then become a stick to beat us with.
We know the workplace can be an inhospitable and inflexible place for working mums (because, even in 2019, it is invariably mothers who are tasked with managing both their jobs and childrearing), hence the spike in self-employed mums launching their own ventures – women with young children are the most likely demographic to be self-employed in Australia.
But we also know that despite a growing number of women starting their own businesses, just two per cent of global venture capital goes to female-led startups.
We’re doing it all, but with our hands tied behind our backs.
Instead of shunning the terms that describe our extra workload, Lisa Burling, Managing Director of PR consultancy firm LBPR believes we should view the "mumpreneur" label as a positive.
“This subset of the entrepreneurial movement gives me a sense of belonging,” says Lisa, who, like Kristy, has a similarly inspiring success story. After unexpectedly becoming a single parent shortly after giving birth to her second child, one of the first things she did after bringing her son home from the hospital was register her ABN.
“Being described as a ‘mumpreneur’ almost gives you permission to say that yes, I have a family and yes, my children come first in everything,” says Lisa. “I’m yet to meet anyone, including prospective or current clients who respond with anything other than bucket loads of respect for my reality and what I have achieved.”
Indeed, just three years after walking into Centrelink to claim for single parents benefits, Lisa had built a thriving, award winning PR consultancy firm from the ground up. She’s even written a book, Dream a Little Dream, which documents how she achieved this when all the odd were seemingly stacked against her.
“My life and the way I operate is very different to a younger person without children, obviously so,” Lisa explains.
“The truth is, I don’t walk around claiming to be a ‘mumpreneur’ or proactively describing myself as that. I am a woman who is a mum, owns and runs a successful business, is an author, and proud ambassador for the AusMumpreneur Network.
“If that makes me a mumpreuneur, then I am very proud to be one.”