Starting your own business when you're a new mom may sound like a seriously risky idea to some, but, as more parents are realizing, the timing can actually be ideal. The first year of parenthood is often a period when moms and dads rethink the work situations they've always known in search of jobs with more flexibility. And on that same token, having a baby can often help spark the Next Big Business Idea. Countless baby products have been born out of a parent's 3 a.m. desperation.
Of course, there's risk involved when you leave a secure job (and a steady paycheck) in order to start something new. It's important to know what you're getting yourself—and your new family member—into before taking the leap. We tapped top business experts and moms who successfully made the switch from employee to CEO in order to find out exactly what it takes to succeed as a mom boss. Spoiler alert: You can do it. Things just may not unfold the way you expect.
Not all parents who start companies have business backgrounds—and that's OK! The key is being 100 percent in with whatever you're doing. Joanne Lenweaver, Director of the WISE Women's Business Center in Syracuse, New York, often counsels women on starting businesses where they have little experience, because passion can be the key to a great business. "Many women may need to be 'unique' again to rediscover that which defines them," Lenweaver says of moms looking to switch fields. "Passion is crucial for a great business. You don't need to be an expert—your passion will lead the way."
Despite the fact that it's 2017, women still may find it harder to find funding for their ideas than men. "I am certain that women have been overlooked for funding due to outdated ideas—especially when the person hiring or lending is a man," says Lenweaver. If you find yourself in an uphill battle trying to gain bank funding, Lenweaver recommends using a crowdfunding platform, such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe, which have had success raising phenomenal amounts of support from fans of an idea.
If your sole purpose in starting a business is to spend more time with your child, you may want to think again. Michal Chesal started Baby K'Tan when her children were young, but that didn't mean she was spending her afternoons at the park. "Your business is your other child," Chesal says. "You have to know that going in. It's going to need just as much attention as your actual children." Liz Fielder, who opened up her third Loving Cup yogurt shop while pregnant, echoes this sentiment. "Being your own boss can give you more flexibility at times, but you don't ever get to check out," she explains. "When it's your business, it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
If both you and your child are on the insurance plan provided by a job you're thinking of leaving, plan accordingly. If you can switch to your partner's insurance plan, that's a good bet, but keep in mind, you might have to wait for the next open enrollment period, which may mean going without insurance for a few months—not necessarily something you want to do when you have a new baby.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," Chesal says of the success of Baby K'Tan, which took almost 10 years to achieve. "It takes time for a business to be successful, baby or no baby—that's important to keep in mind when you're starting out. If you believe in your idea, it will happen. The biggest thing is taking the first step." A general rule of thumb to remember is: The first year of a business you lose money. The second year you should break even. The third year you should begin to show a profit.
While you may think every new parent needs the amazing product or service you're hatching in your head, other parents may disagree. The key is finding this out before you throw all of your time and money into an idea. "Before you start a business, you need to determine if there's a need," explains Susan Solovic, author of The Girls' Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business. "And the best place to start is in your own backyard." Solovic encourages moms to invite a group of people with varied backgrounds over for pizza and to share your idea with them. "Ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, tell them your idea, then get their feedback. Do they like it? Would they buy it? How much would they be willing to pay?" Solovic also advises potential business owners to listen to the marketplace via the Internet and social media. Join online discussion groups and follow any hashtags related to your idea on Twitter.
If you have your idea while you're pregnant, work as much as you can then. As any mom will tell you, you have much less time once a baby enters the picture. "I thought my baby would nap all day and I'd be able to work," says Fielder. "So not the case! It's so much harder to get things done when you have a baby."
If the thought of starting your own company makes you break out into hives, try finding a like-minded partner to go in with you. "I was very cautious about starting a business and didn't do it immediately," reveals Chesal. "Finding a business partner helped me take that next step. Knowing I was in it with someone else gave me a little more security, which, for some people, is exactly what they need to go all in."
Moms are master multi-taskers, but trying to simultaneously parent and build a business is a recipe for disaster. "Separating career from kids is a constant battle working moms fight, and it's more apparent when you're starting a business and the work/home life balance is easily blurred," says Christina Deehring, who started Bump Boxes when she was pregnant. "As a business owner, I've learned I really need to prioritize my time—for the sake of my company and my child." Adds Solovic, "You can have it all, just not all at the same time. If you choose this path, there will be situations where your business will have to be the priority and other times when your children will. Don't try to be superwoman. She is fiction. This is real life."