‘Businessmums’ (i.e. business-minded mothers) shouldn’t have to choose between their family and their career – that principle is the DNA of Mums & Co, a new venture birthed by entrepreneur and Daily Addict founder Carrie Kwan.
Backed by insurance provider IAG, Mums & Co is a membership-based service that offers businessmums online content as well as a range of free or heavily discounted services to help them grow their businesses, including emergency childcare, HR and legal support, and business insurance for home offices. It also provides members with a community of mums with which to share business knowledge and stories from which inspiration can be mined.
“Everything we do is geared towards helping mums succeed in business,” Kwan, a mother of two, explained. “We’re here to support all businessmums from SME operators and sole traders, to women who work on a freelance basis or run their own consultancies, to those who run a family business with their partner or who are contemplating motherhood and want to set up a business that will afford them the necessary flexibility.”
“Starting a business is daunting and running one is tough – and when you add children to the mix, it takes the challenge to a whole new level. We’re trying to level the playing field for business-minded mums by saving them time and money, while at the same time enabling them to be more productive by providing family-friendly ways of doing business and access to the sort of perks that are taken for granted in larger corporate workplaces.”
Kwan spoke to Dynamic Business about her latest venture as well as the importance of enabling entrepreneurial mothers to be successful in business.
Dynamic Business: What led you to establish Mums & Co with IAG?
Kwan: When I founded my lifestyle site, Daily Addict, in 2008, it was exciting because I was launching a digital start-up at a time when Twitter was new – indeed, the tech industry was still in its infancy. Still, I wish I had a better support network. I didn’t have the advice and expertise to help me navigate the business side of things, access resources and gain knowledge – I had to figure it out all by myself.
Six years on, Daily Addict was a healthy business with 20,000 engaged subscribers, 45,000 social media fans and 50,000 monthly visitors and ready for growth. At this point in time, I was starting a new personal chapter in my life with the birth of my first son, Remy. As a mother running a business, I had new hurdles to overcome. The biggest for me was isolation – I couldn’t attend as many meetings and functions and, despite a ‘virtual team’, was unable to have simple daily office interactions. I had to be more efficient with my time while finding ways to make money stretch. They say it takes a village to bring up a child, and I found that out first-hand: I relied on my partner and family to help to give me time to run the business, attend meetings, source new business and so on. With a family, I also became more aware of the risks I exposed myself to, including business risks. I know how difficult running a business is, and running it with babes in arms is a whole other ballgame. This lived experience, together with the fact that I was expecting my second child, compelled me to partner with IAG in the first half of 2016. Mums & Co operates like an agile start up but has the financial security, strength and scale that come from being backed by IAG. In addition, IAG’s strategic partnerships means members have access to a range of perks, including business and insurance services, they wouldn’t ordinarily get access to.
According to Labour Force data, around 406,400 women runs businesses in Australia, meaning they account for a third of all business operators locally, and this number is growing. Furthermore, there are more than 313,000 businesswomen with dependent children in Australia. On their own, and together, these women are making a significant contribution to the economy, providing employment and providing services that solve problem Thus, affording mothers the flexibility to raise families while pursuing their entrepreneurial ambitions in business can only be a good thing for society. With Daily Addict, had I had the sort of support now offered by Mums & Co, I would have catapulted to the next level much quicker.
Dynamic Business: What problems does Mums & Co help mothers overcome?
Kwan: When my now co-founding partner Phuong Ly [Executive General Manager, Agencies at IAG] learnt I was pregnant with my second child, he said ‘Congratulations. You shouldn’t have to choose between your family and your career’. This attitude is the DNA of Mums & Co. In particular, we help businessmums overcome the following barriers:
1) Isolation: When you’re working from home, the loneliness and sense of disconnect can be challenging. It can create a perception that you’re in this endeavour alone, despite the support of family and friends. I know that I receive a lot of energy and knowledge from being around others, being able to bounce ideas off each other and discuss different approaches. To share small chats and bigger discussions. Many tap into family and informal social networks like Facebook groups or turn to a friend that runs a business, but this is often a loose structure and inconsistent. There is also the challenge of sourcing co-sharing workspaces, especially those that are child-friendly – but this is changing. Mums & Co builds a community offering real business networking opportunities – face-to-face, webinars and chat forums. It also offers a market place for talent sourcing and promotion.
2) Inadequate time: For mothers, lack of time and always being pressed for time is an ongoing concern. They’re having to stay focused and fit everything in while contending with constant distractions. Me-time takes a back seat. Our solution is to help them get the right help fast from our pool of services. We also help them with advice and tips on how to get super-organised and have systems in place.
3) The Guilt Cycle: Mothers often feel guilty about leaving their children if they must attend to work commitments and guilty about leaving their employees if they must leave work early to be with their children. They feel stretched thin between their family and what many refer to as their ‘other family’ at work. At Mums & Co, we support them with a community of like-minded people sharing similar experiences, facing similar problems and going through similar journeys. It’s an opportunity to share family/lifestyle and business-related stories. You can celebrate successes and joys and commiserate with one another about pain points and losses.
4) Risk: Women across Australia are taking control of what’s important to them, they’re building significant ventures and taking on significant risks without access to the training, insurance and professional development normally afforded by bigger companies. Our insurance offering is tailored for home-based businesses, and we have partnered with an insurance broker who specialises in insurance for women.
5) Identity: Mums in business are also constantly battling with identity as they are wearing multiple hats. Is she mum, is she wife, is she a business owner, is she a woman, is she a friend? At Mums & Co, our solution is to nurture her whole identity. We inspire her with rich online content, stories of other successful mothers running businesses, solving problems, disrupting ways of working and industry norms, all whilst juggling family commitments.
Dynamic Business: Could the government do more to assist enterprising new mothers?
Kwan: We are lucky here in Australia that parents get some support from the government, as do small businesses, but greater support would be welcome. Worthwhile government driven initiatives would include reduced red-tape (for example, reducing the amount of time small businesses have to spend on compliance and tax) as well as incentives, grants and resources geared towards female entrepreneurs such as improved child care affordability and accessibility (tragically pertinent if you’re a single mum or don’t have access to grandparents). It’s also worth considering whether government could make a greater effort to award contracts to small, female-owned businesses during the public procurement process. I would add that with paid parental leave, it seems like we’re going backwards here with recent policy changes proposed to the current scheme. We need a social infrastructure that keeps up with modern working mums. Starting your business exposes yourself to a new level of financial stress, and balancing the family budget is always top of mind.