Having a new baby changes your life completely, and for many mums inspires a re-evaluation. Do you want to return to work? Go back to your old role or find a new one? Set up on your own either as a sideline or full-time job?
For many, a return to our old workplace, with perhaps more flexible hours, is the perfect solution. For others only starting a business whilst on maternity leave, either to run parallel with their main job or as a complete career change, will suffice.
Companies run by mums contributed £7.2 bn to the UK economy in 2014 according to eBay, and supported some 204,600 jobs, so there are some great role models out there.
Take Natasha Mockett, who launched Cheekies Treasures, selling keepsake jewellery and castings last August. She’s still on maternity leave with her son Zachary, now aged 8 months, and the business is doing so well she has decided to leave her full time job as an accountant to concentrate on her new venture.
‘You have to weigh up the pros and cons as to whether you’ll be better off financially and emotionally for both you and the kids if you set up on your own. I knew I needed the flexibility as I have no family nearby, but didn’t have any real idea about what I wanted to do. I searched around and found the Keepsake Association which helped me set up my business,’ says Natasha.
On the side
But giving up the day job is not for everyone. Jenny Raymond found all the online help and advice overwhelming when she was pregnant with now two year old Hayley. So she spent her maternity leave putting the building blocks in place for a new mum-focused information website www.mamazou.com. Then, once she returned to her accountancy job, launched the site.
‘Mamazou has been up and running for year now and is doing much better than I expected. We are making money but not enough for me to give up my job. It is a sideline,’ says Jenny.
What can you do?
Setting up a new business is hard work without the sleepless nights and stresses of a newborn baby, so it is vital to be doing something you are passionate about.
Melissa Talago, founder of Campfire Communications, which teaches start-ups how to promote their business, also set up her previous PR firm whilst on maternity leave.
‘Think about what you like doing and what you can do. The point where they overlap is where the business idea is. Once you have the idea, talk to friends and family about it. Use social media, join online forums and use free services such as survey monkey to canvas opinion. If there is interest in your idea, then it is worth putting flesh on the proposal.’
Goals beyond childcare
Danielle Manton was a teacher, but retrained as a childminder while on maternity leave with daughter Connie, now two.
She also set up Quayside Wedding Crechers after not being able to find anyone to look after her own children when she married last February. ‘Doing something not baby-related while on maternity leave helps you keep a sense of yourself. Strip it all back to remember what you enjoyed doing before you were pregnant,’ says Danielle.
- Research the tax implications of running your own business both as a full- time job or alongside your existing employment.
- Do you actually want to leave your job?
- Can you afford to go out on your own? Do you have enough savings to cover the set up costs and a wage until you make money? If not, start saving or go back to work and launch while you still have a regular wage. Then leave when the business can afford to pay you.
- Do you have a skill, such as HR or legal experience, that you can repurpose as a freelancer or within a new self-employed context?
- Do you have an idea for a new business? If not, consider franchises or direct marketing opportunities. A franchise will have a tight set of guidelines as to how to run your business and provide a safety net for new entrepreneurs, but can be costly to set up. Direct marketing firms allow you more freedom and have lower costs, but can also offer a lower potential income
- If you have an original idea start researching as soon as you can, preferably before your baby is born
- Make sure your current employer allows you to set up your own business while on maternity leave.