Running a business while raising the future
UPDATED 1ST AUGUST 2023
Balancing motherhood and raising a family with entrepreneurship is about as easy as climbing Everest (while carrying a washing machine, solving equations and wearing banana skins for shoes). Yet it also comes with immense rewards. Find out why I believe that for women, this mountain needs scaling.
Juggling family and business: how do you balance entrepreneurship with raising children?
If you think of running a business while raising children as being a bit like climbing Everest, I believe there are two ways of looking at this.
- Firstly there’s the pain in store and the tireless strength required to constantly, relentlessly (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) overcome it. I’m going to be honest with you here, I have never known heartache or hard work like it.
- Secondly, there’s all you’ll learn from daring to experience a soulful journey like no other, the bravery you’ll muster to embark on this exhilarating adventure and the pride you will undoubtedly feel when you and your family (finally) reach the top — which you will. Nothing beats it.
How you approach the climb really does all depend on your mindset. Ultimately, whichever way you choose to do it, I need to tell you this: it’s going to be a SLOG. There are going to be many times you will want to give up, many times you will weep — but really, entrepreneurship is the new women’s movement and what you’ll gain is irreplaceable. The trick is to keep the summit in your sights. So how do you make it to that glorious, snowy peak that feels as high above you now as your dreams are in the clouds? Let me share what I’ve learnt…
Mum entrepreneurs: can entrepreneurs be successful mums?
I found that to try to raise a child and a business successfully, I had to put in milestones. This applied to both my business life and my family life. When they finally sleep through the night, get through the terrible twos (and psychotic threes), start school, learn their skills or make it through their teenage years — how proud you are when you are able to look back at all they (and you) have achieved. When my son left the house to do his A Levels, I thought of how he handled himself; how calm he was, how grounded and rounded, and how hard he had worked to try and carve out the life he wants. It’s such an unexplainable emotion. Yet looking back to when I first launched notonthehighstreet with Harry as a baby, and missing his first steps, there was so much drama and guilt involved. I couldn’t imagine I’d one day look back and see the real rewards that my business has brought into this household.
We’ve raised a young man who’s got his shit together; a Feminist, someone who has run his own business already, who put the work into his exams, who can’t wait to go and explore the world and is fascinated by making it a better place. He’s the guy that everyone wants to hang out with (young and old), and that’s what raising the future is all about. That’s what this business has given him and what I, as a female founder, have contributed to. Were his first steps important in comparison? They weren't. The same goes for your business. I remember at one point, thinking I’d never make it past the first year. Never have more than two people in my team. Never break even. But we did it. And all this came through reaching milestone by milestone, putting one foot in front of the other and simply not giving up.
Protect your energy as an entrepreneur: it’s important to put yourself first
As a female founder trying to raise a family, here’s something that helped me immeasurably — and that’s to reposition where you come in the pecking order. It’s ridiculous (bordering on dangerous) that we put ourselves at the bottom of the to-do list. When you have the responsibility of raising the next generation and building a business, by putting yourself at the bottom of the list, you’re not putting them at the top because you’re damaging the very thing they rely on.
- If you do not work on yourself, on your wiring, your energy and on your confidence, how can you help your family and your business?
- A fitter me, a happier me, a more knowledgeable me, is a strength and stability for them (see our article on self-care tips for small business owners for ideas on this).
So one way to hack this is to think that anything you do for yourself is actually for them — but you have to walk the walk not just talk the talk. We are not being selfish, quite the opposite. We just need to really believe that and to make sure we’re always featured within the top three things on our list, not the last.
Inspiring female founders: we need more of them for future generations to see
There is another honest truth about this. Our curriculum is not designed to raise the future in the way our kids need it to. Here’s why…
- It was estimated by the experts at McKinsey, that by 2030, 375 million jobs will be replaced by automation¹. Will our kids be the horses of the 21st century, left out to pasture because a new ‘wheel’ has arrived?
- Ultimately what will be required is self-starters with imagination who are able to think outside the box, who are used to working hard and not giving up on their dream or vision — becoming brands of the future themselves. How can we help them?
- What we are able to do as founders is to become the missing part of the curriculum to support them in doing that — and set a powerful example along the way. When my son was four, he asked my mother if he too could have a business one day. Then added, “But Grandma, isn’t that something only girls do?” 10 points for Feminism! He’d only ever seen women run them and I’m proud of that. I hope one day, the number will be equal.
- Then by 18, Harry’s understanding of femininity and women’s strength became clear. He understands the quality we bring to business, the emotion and empathy, the flexibility, how we care about the planet and our society — which is what’s needed in today’s world. Not the stuffy old grey businessmen he’s read about in books.
Women entrepreneurs: why flexibility is important for female founders
Running your own business is often thought of as a choice. But really, is there a choice? You need to earn money and you can either do that in a non-flexible capacity, building someone else's dreams, where someone controls your destiny, creativity levels and what you do every day. Or you do it for yourself and take control.
- If you run your own business, you can prioritise your child’s sports day above a meeting or if their mental health is bad, you can take the day off and work in the evening.
- Plus it gives you more control at home and more freedom to live life your way. I can’t imagine I’d enjoy not having the same flexibility I have now.
- Working for yourself gives you the ability to get to know the real riches — not the ones that come from the coins but from the quality of life and the quality of life that we give our children.
Then in time, when they fly the nest (I know, sorry — but), at least you’ll have something for you. For when life slowly starts to settle and you get more time, you’ll have an interesting and creative life there waiting. You’ll have been smart, not just strong and set this up for yourself. And the funny thing is, as I watched my son preparing for his final exams, I hadn’t noticed that I’m higher up the mountain than maybe I thought. I was just so busy putting one foot in front of the other (again and again) I hadn’t noticed, but then isn’t that what climbing is?
Running a business while raising the future: key takeaways…
Running a business while raising the future isn’t easy but for so many, many reasons, it is worth it — for us as women, for our kids and for society. Just remember:
1. Put in mini milestones to climb the mountain:
Trying to be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mum often feels relentless and overwhelming. Putting in milestones and recognising that phases will pass can help. Always look back and remember what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come.
2. Protect your energy as a mum and female founder:
Putting yourself at the bottom of the to-do list means you’re not putting your family and business at the top as they need you to be the fittest, happiest version of yourself that you can be.
3. Remember why you’re doing it:
The future needs a grounded, well-rounded young workforce with imagination, values and drive, and you need to work in a flexible way. Running your own business empowers women to do this and I absolutely know you can do it. The mountain is yours to climb and the views are spectacular.
Sources: 1. McKinsey report on AI and machine learning