Yesterday in The Guardian, Eva Wiseman wrote an extremely poignant column about the rise of the sole mum-in-business. If employment conditions were more just, fewer mothers would have to go it alone. Bravo! We need more high profile voices making this point. Except…in a woeful bid to get some clicks, she goes on to slam the annoying businesses ‘mumpreneurs’ are forced to launch because of being pushed out their jobs. Ms Wiseman needs to do a bit more research.
A number of self-employed mothers I am linked with on Facebook gleefully shared this article. And so they should. Because in spite of the trashing of ‘mumpreneurs’ to get the Mumsnet crew clicking and commenting on her piece for the stats, she draws out a startling statistic from a recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
As Eva Wiseman relates in her article, how many of us have had coffees with our ante-natal crews (I didn’t do NCT) only to find one of us is being pushed out of a job and instead of dealing with motherhood and focussing on their newborn, is researching employment lawyers. 54,000 women are pushed out of their jobs after having a baby, costing British business £280m in hiring, training and payouts.
However, the article takes a bit of a turn when she expresses her obviously disdain for the ‘mumpreneur’, disqualifying her remarks by saying she is ‘being a bit of a dick’ and throwing some slights at mummy bloggers in the process. Queue up the Mumsnet crew to start taking her down. I mean look at me, taking to my keyboard to talk about my ‘feelings’ already.
But Eva Wiseman conveniently misses some important points. Firstly, that these ‘mumpreneurs’, according to an eBay report in 2014, generate £7.2b for the British economy, creating over 200k jobs. Now I’m not sure what sort of mum-in-business she’s been hanging around with but I can assure you, we don’t all sell leather nappy bags and baby-slings.
In fact, many of the ‘mumpreneurs’ I have met, are not only looking for a more flexible way of working but use it as an opportunity to get creative and put their own ideas into action their way. Take for example, Digital Mums, a social media management and marketing company who not only champion flexible working but also have devised a training product for their market with a certification and employment. I freelance for a London digital agency which started as a collective of flexible workers, not just mums but young people finding themselves in the ‘gig economy’ and having to get creative about the way they find work which best uses their skills.
Then there’s the notion that ‘mumpreneurs’ and mummy bloggers create frivolous projects out of desperation, ‘selling organic cot bedding’ (to quote Wiseman) and writing pathetic journals about our domestic lives. Well while there certainly are a lot parent-centric products launched by mums and a new mummy blogger cropping up every time I check Instagram, I go back to that £7.2b being made for our worrying economy. What is exactly wrong with that?
Yes, ideally mums who loved their jobs and didn’t want to leave, shouldn’t feel forced out when their life changes but not all ‘mumpreneurs’ fall into a life of multi-level marketing and selling to their friends. I regularly network with self-employed lawyers, accountants, video producers, photographers, graphic designers, PR experts and product marketing experts all with a thriving client base, all looking to learn together, innovate and drive their businesses forward. These ‘mumpreneurs’ are also finding their own powerful ways to network outside of the testosterone networking breakfast clubs, at groups like The Mumpreneurs Networking Club where we talk, support, learn and collaborate.
Take Mi Elfverson for example, who started a business producing corporate videos and photography but has developed a training academy to help businesses produce their own video blogs. Or Caroline Newton at Number 78, who uses her extensive background in retail and business management to bring top level strategy and marketing skills to businesses of any size. And Jo Wadsworth, journalist and digital editor, formerly with The Argus, who co-runs successful independent news site, Brighton and Hove News. These ladies are just getting on with it, working their way and not just because of the kids.
The ‘mummy bloggers’ may be flocking to the Internet in droves with tepid voices and bad grammar but the ones at the top are shaping digital influence in a way brands are struggling to. Every year at the BritMums conference I see clever and innovative approaches to content from these mums ‘going it alone’: video blogs that are sharply editing and well-lit, Instagram photography which feels like walking through an art gallery (and yes I studied a smidge of Art History, so not just talking out of my backside).
The thing that Eva Wiseman is missing, unlike some mums who want to carry on working and be known as ‘woman’ (that certainly was me) rather than wear the mum-badge as a identity. There are others who are saying, “hey, this is me now but I’m relevant and have a difference to make!” And they do.
If you want to see what mumpreneurs are really about, visiting a Pop Up events for Global Entrepreneurship Week starting this Friday 11th November. There are free webinars every day between midday and 1pm too, so if you can’t make an event, join on-line.