Tired of the rat race? Maybe it's time for a change.
Gina Kaysen Fernandes: It's 4:45 AM, well before the sun rises, when Lisa Druxman heads to work while her children and husband are still sleeping. Lisa doesn't have a long commute, just a walk down the hall to a home office where she runs a fitness empire called Stroller Strides. "I've never worked so hard in my life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything," says Lisa, who came up with her at-home business plan while on maternity leave with her first child. Before giving birth, Lisa ran a health club and often worked 60 hours a week. Once the baby arrived, Lisa realized she didn't want to be away that long from her son -- and that's when she had her "aha! moment." Lisa decided to start working from home by teaching fitness classes to new mothers using strollers. She eventually hired other professionals to help teach classes -- and now Lisa's business has evolved into one of the fastest growing franchises with 1000 locations nationwide.
Lisa is what you'd call a momprenuer -- meaning she has carved out a career niche that allows her to balance work and motherhood on her own terms. "When you're a momprenuer, it's not a 9 AM to 5 PM job, it's a 5 AM to 9 PM job," says Lisa, who also finds time in her busy schedule to write a weekly column for Entreprenuer.com. Lisa's days are booked from pre-dawn to late evening with work, chauffeuring her kids to lessons, cooking meals and allowing a little time for exercise.
In a tough job market, more moms are looking for ways to make extra income with flexible hours. The temptation to try an online work-from-home scheme will only lead to broken promises. As momlogic recently revealed, cyber ads for home-based businesses are most likely a hoax. Instead, you may want to consider becoming a momprenuer. Mothers are uniquely qualified to take on this challenge because of the multi-tasking nature of parenthood. Moms typically have great management skills that include the ability to be problem solvers, mediators and a Jill-of-all-trades. You don't have to have a business degree to be successful but "it's not for the faint of heart because there are risks involved," Lisa says.
Sara Margulis took a leap of faith back in 2005 when she and her husband Josh launched Honeyfund.com. Sara traded in her corporate marketing job for an Internet start-up with no financial backing. The business idea evolved from the couple's own experience with wedding registry when they struggled to find a website that allowed guests to donate money towards their honeymoon that wasn't, as Sara says, "super cheesy and outdated." She was miffed by the 9% transaction fees the companies tacked on to gifts, so she and Josh created their own website which allowed family and friends to donate funds for free. To their amazement, the site collected $8000 dollars to go towards travel related costs such as meals, airfare and excursions. That's when the light bulb in Sara's head flashed on. "I thought, wow! We could totally do this for other people. This is an unfulfilled niche that's not being met," Sara says.
Honeyfund.com is becoming more profitable every year, even after Sara and Josh welcomed their daughter to the world two and a half years ago. Sara says being a mother has made her a better worker because the stakes are higher now that she has to support a family. "As a mom, you're used to having to get stuff done. You do whatever it takes to make it happen," she says. The key to her productivity is carving out work time, which means having a nanny part-time to care for her daughter. She feels gratified by her ability to maintain a life-work balance that allows her to "eat lunch every day with my family," Sara says. She admits being her own boss does have its downside. "Work crises can always happen and you're the only one who can resolve them. Those interruptions can cost you business dollars," Sara says. Time off usually involves "working vacations" when Sara is still connected to the Internet and answering emails. "It's important to do something that you get excited about and love doing because there's so much work, you want to be enjoying it," Sara says.
The goal of most momprenuers is to have a job that allows for more family time. But given the demands of self-employment, that is not always the case. "You always feel torn between family duties and business. It's hard to move your business forward when you have family responsibilities," Lisa says. If the reason for starting your own business is to be home with your kids "your business model must involve that," advises Lisa, who adds it's important to have a plan with your spouse and family to ensure the business is going to fit into your lifestyle.
|Gina Kaysen Fernandes is an award-winning documentary producer and a former TV news producer/writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|