Employers are catching onto the idea of flexible working, but there is still a lot of emphasis put on the traditional 9-5. One of the major benefits of being your own boss is that you can work the hours that suit you - making it a great opportunity for parents finding out that traditional work schedules are too inflexible for the demands of their life. Here Sacha Atherton of Premier Parents talks about her life as a mumpreneur, why it's a choice more parents should consider, and the advantages as well as the challenges.

I’m a real life example that being a single parent shouldn’t be a barrier to entrepreneurship. Despite my own challenges, I channelled my passion to launch my own pioneering business ‘Premier Parents Ltd’, a recruitment consultancy for parents, connecting them with family-friendly employment and helping employers improve their workplace diversity. I also designed and delivered my own unique confidence and employability courses for unemployed isolated lone parents, which have since been adopted by other charities and organisations.

Why parents make great entrepreneurs

Being a parent makes me a better entrepreneur in many ways.My balance of corporate experience and commercial acumen with compassion and strong values really shines through and allows me to engage both the parents and the business world equally. The biggest and most successful USP for my business is actually me. It took me a while to realise that people invest in people, and being a mumprenuer gives us some pretty great qualities. I get to be more human, and the business world needs more of that.

The highs and lows

I’ll be honest – my experience of being a ‘mumpreneur’ has been a beautiful nightmare at times. I’ll start with the highs. The big one for me is that leaving employment to work for myself has allowed me to do the school run and all the lovely things that come with it. The morning kiss and hugs at the gate, the little girly catch up after school - I wouldn’t trade that for the world, and when I’m having a wobble, it's one of the main things that reminds me I did the right thing leaving the security of employment. I’ve achieved some phenomenal things since setting up Premier Parents and discovered strength and talent I never knew I had. The big downside for me is the financial challenges. As a single mum with no other income other than what I make through the business and a bit through tax credits, it’s rough and can get scary at times. You sometimes don’t know where your next meal is coming from or how you’re going to pay the mortgage. I’ve had to just accept that I have to live hand to mouth at times but that it’s only temporary, and it will all be worth it.

Sacha Atherton, Premier Parents - Virgin StartUp

Staying focussed and positive

A big challenge is doing everything on my own, but you get used to it. I’ve been on my own since my teens but being a mumpreneur throws up a whole new level of demands and challenges. I had just about gotten used to managing as a single mum and going through multiple life challenges on a personal level - then all of a sudden, I had business ones too! Sometimes I think I must be insane to have started this journey, but I am a big believer in the power of positivity. It sounds cheesy, but I actually have a tin of positivity - every time something good happens, I write it on a piece of paper then put it in the tin. Then when I’m having a bad day or need to remind myself of all the good things that are happening, I go back and read them all.  Seeing the difference I make in people’s lives and knowing that I’m a positive role model to my daughter gets me through.

How to better support mumpreneurs

There are things that need to be done to help encourage more parents to start up. A lot of parents, particularly single parents, face multiple barriers around employment and in their day to day lives. Everything seems like a challenge and a lot of parents lack confidence. Breaking some of those barriers down to make it easier for the parents to even consider that they could achieve something so unimaginable is key; childcare, free resources, influencers that they can relate to and don’t intimidate them. All of these things would help with a change of mindset.

The other thing is that we have always been taught since a young age that employment is the way to go. Many parents don’t even see self-employment as an option; they don’t realise that they have transferable skills, a hobby or passion that could actually be turned into a real life business. Advice and resources need to be more available to this demographic and communicated in a way that they can engage with. I include a short workshop on an introduction to self-employment in my confidence and employability courses, really just to introduce it as an option and to give some tips to those parents that have considered it but don’t know how to get started. There are more parents out there than you might think that want to be their own boss.   

Sacha’s top tips for mumpreneurs:

  1. Stop working when you say you will stop. Force yourself to have breaks, and take time off at half term and Christmas - you are allowed, and you’re a mum first. In the beginning I was working all hours, but it was really unhealthy. I wasn’t sleeping, I started getting ill all the time from being run down and just felt stressed and just rubbish, so I had to listen to my body and stop working weekends and late nights. Now I generally work in the day, have a break when I pick my daughter up from school, then do a couple more hours when she goes to bed.
  2. Don’t over-promise. Be realistic about what you can do. It’s tempting to say yes to everything when you run your own business, especially in the early stages when you’re desperate for business or exposure; but if you spread yourself too thinly the cracks will start to show, and you won’t deliver
  3. Be clear about what you need to do to be successful, happy and healthy. Write your goals down, write down what you need to do to get there, and work towards them. When your plan doesn’t work, think of other ways you can achieve it and be realistic. It’s important to understand which things are actually distractions and wasting valuable time. Have your strategy but try and think of the quick wins too.