Florist Sarah Edwards spends “precious” time with children, Abigail, 3, and William, five months, by running her business from home. Photo: Janie BarrettDawn is still hours away when Sarah Edwards wakes to feed her baby.
Instead of going back to bed, the florist goes to work. Sometimes she takes five-month-old William with her to the flower market in Flemington, arriving at 5am. She arranges bouquets at home in Camperdown or in her parents’ garage before making deliveries to customers.
Ms Edwards used to be a primary school teacher. She started her business, Flowerboss, in 2014, when her daughter Abigail was one.
Running her business from home “works well for our family”, she said. “It’s keeping my brain stimulated, allowing me to work but also be with the kids. I think these years are really precious with kids; you don’t get them back again.”
It’s five years since the word “mumpreneur” entered English dictionaries. While mothers are often pushed into self-employment by the lack of childcare options or workplace flexibility, others are choosing to launch their own businesses as a way to balance work with caring for a young family.
The number of female business operators has risen 46 per cent over the past 20 years. Mothers of young children are up to three times more likely to be self-employed than other working women, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Family Studies shows.
Female business operators are more likely to have dependent children than anyone else in employment, according to a 2015 ABS report for the Office for Women – 47 per cent of the 668,670 women running small businesses having dependent kids at home.
Carrie Kwan, the entrepreneur behind lifestyle website Daily Addict, knows what it’s like to juggle work and family commitments. As she prepared for the birth of her second child – he arrived last week, six days after her eldest son’s second birthday – she was also nurturing her “digital baby”, the networking hub Mums & Co.
Ms Kwan, the co-founder, said the online hub was designed to make life easier for women as they expanded their businesses and managed family life. Mothers often took considerable risks when starting their own business without the resources taken for granted in a corporate environment, she said. “They’re drawing on social media networks for support and advice.”
Backed by the insurer IAG, Mums & Co offers support and services such as financial planning, legal advice and emergency childcare, as well as a forum to pool resources and share knowledge and expertise.
“We’re creating a community of like-minded women that are very inspired and able to share their collective wisdom,” Ms Kwan said.
“More women are becoming entrepreneurs because the conditions and the infrastructure are improving in terms of things like access to capital, start-up incubators and accelerators.
“E-commerce has opened up a new flood of ways to do business. But it’s tough to succeed and it can be isolating.”
Ms Edwards agreed. “When you run your own business from home and you’ve got kids, you don’t always have the support or the face-to-face interactions that you would through an office or workplace,” she said.
“In your 20s, everyone would go and have Friday work drinks and chat about the week, make connections. Mums and Co is your equivalent to that online.”
Ms Edwards said the network “is really fantastic because you are establishing that community, you can engage with other people who are doing the same thing.
“On Friday night you trade the heels for your pyjamas and sit with a glass of wine and read about things that will help your business grow.”
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