Want to start a business but don’t know what to do? Read six ideas for businesses you can start as a mum – whatever your skills or experience!
If you love the idea of starting your own business but don’t have a clue where to start, you’re far from alone. Thousands of mums around the world see becoming their own boss as the ideal answer to achieving the right work-life balance for their family.
It’s no surprise that one of our most popular articles is Five business ideas you can start at home – just like you, many mums struggle to come up with a viable business idea.
Since we launched Talented Ladies Club we’ve interviewed over 150 women about their careers and businesses – and we’ve noticed some clear patterns and trends in how they think and approach their businesses.
We’ve realised that there’s no mystery in coming up with a great business idea. Anyone can have an idea, and with the right attitude, hard work and willingness to learn, pretty much anyone can turn that idea into a business.
Six business ideas for mums
If you’re feeling a bit stuck or lost right now, we’ve identified six business ideas that have worked for other mums, and may just be right for you – whatever your skills or background.
We hope you find some inspiration from them!
1) Become a consultant
One easy way to start a business is to use the skills you’ve acquired throughout your career and life to offer advice and expertise to other people and businesses.
After all, you already have all the knowledge you need – as well as an existing network of contacts who are aware of and value your skills.
So examine your knowledge and experience. What is useful to others? Where can you add value? How can you make someone’s life easier or better, or save them money? Are there any business problems you can solve? Or ways you can make peoples’ everyday lives more efficient or pleasant?
Don’t get hung up on job titles and labels. Look beyond the actual job you do, or have done, and consider what skills you have that you can exploit.
To give you a successful example of a mum who did just that, Alison Perry used her marketing experience to launch a Twitter consultancy business, Purple Dog, in 2011. She started it as a hobby, but quickly realised she could use her marketing experience to turn it into a business.
Within two months Alison was earning enough to give up her day job, and today she has a team of freelancers around the country working for her.
And it’s not just Alison who has built a business from her career experience. Our team of contributors is full of talented mums who have launched successful consultancy businesses, including PR consultant Nicola Whiteford, marketing consultant Paula Hutchings and B2B marketing consultant Emilia Rice.
So think about what talents you could convert into a fledgling consultancy business.
2) Sell online
If you don’t fancy becoming a consultant, what about building a sales business? Mums Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish built a multi-million pound business from spotting an opportunity to help buyers and makers to sell their products – and customers to find unique gift ideas and personalised gifts that you can’t easily buy on the high street.
But you don’t have to create the next Notonthehighstreet.com – all you need to do is identify a niche or opportunity to sell products (or services) online and work out how you can fill it.
And again, the easiest place to start looking is you. What markets or industries do you know? What are you passionate about? For example, do you love dogs? Maybe you’ve realised that there isn’t a one-stop online shop for dog supplies and accessories? Could there be a need for one? You already understand the target market, so it wouldn’t be hard to start researching.
Mums who have spotted a need and started businesses to fill it include friends Alex Bagguley and Natalie Cunningham who pooled their skills, experience and passions to launch Heppy London, an online store for mums, babies, kids and gifts.
Two more friends, Annie Harvey and Nerissa Buckell, started their online homeware, gifts and accessories website Crimson Tiger in 2013. And Gemma Whates and her mum set up All By Mama to sell beautiful products made by other mums.
If the idea of an ecommerce business appeals to you, we recommend you read 10 places to find online business ideas for an ecommerce website (with examples you can steal).
3) Create a product
Or you could go one step further and actually create a product to sell. Again, think about your life, and that of your friends, family and colleagues. What’s missing? What could be made better?
Some of the most successful business ideas have come simply from solving a problem. If enough people have the same problem, you’ve got a target market.
You can find an ingenious idea in the most everyday moments and places. Actress Julie Cox started her business, Luke Drew This, after she was unable to find a birthday present for her partner. She wanted to print a drawing by their son onto a T-shirt but couldn’t find a company that offered the service – so she started her own.
When Kristin Ahmer’s baby son squeezed a disposable food pouch over himself, it inspired her to develop a squeeze-proof, reusable version called Sili Squeeze. Today she owns three patents and an international business.
When Rachel Berliner was pregnant with her daughter Amy she was frustrated by the lack of healthy and tasty convenience food – so she decided to make her own. Today Amy’s Kitchen products are sold internationally (in the UK they’re available in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons and more) and now-grown up Amy works for the successful family business.
And when Meriel Kehoe and her friend Lucy Woodhouse of Claudi & Fin couldn’t find any healthy ice lollies to wean their children on, they created their own from Greek yoghurt – and won a 12 month contract with Sainsbury’s.
It’s not just practical things you can create. Do you have a talent you can turn into products? Scenic painter and single mum Miranda Law used her creative skills to source fabrics and make lampshades. 18 months after selling her first lampshade she’s now making a healthy living from her business, Swee Mei Lampshades. (You can read exactly how she did it here.)
Another creative mum, Sally Puddifoot, used her design skills (her textile designs have appeared in Vogue and Elle magazines and on the Milan catwalk) to create Small Red Bird greeting cards.
4) Provide a service
Don’t fancy creating something? What about offering a service? Can you monetise your skills by selling your services in some way?
Are you a good writer or designer? Are you fluent enough in a second language to provide translation services? Are you a canny negotiator or buyer?
Even if you don’t currently have skills you could easily and obviously monetise, you can always up skill or retrain, just like actress Sarah Burghard. When Sarah became a mum she realised she needed to find a new, more family-friendly career, so she retrained in art and design. Today she’s an up-and-coming textile designer.
Graphic designer Louise Ayres, meanwhile, took an online business course designed specifically for mums to give her the knowledge and confidence she needed to monetise her existing skills. Online courses and resources (just like our own club Activate!) are a great way to get the knowhow, guidance and training you need to start a successful business, and can be a very wise investment.
Or you could again look for problems that are not currently being solved, and find a way to come up with a better solution – just like mum Zoe Taylor. Frustrated by the poor service offered by her school uniform supplier, she set up her own rival business. She’s now supplying uniforms to over 22 schools and clubs.
After networking with mums across Surrey, another mum, Louise Humphryes realised there was nowhere affordable for them to advertise their services and products. So she created a Facebook page and online directory called Supermum Surrey to help them.
5) Write a blog
If you enjoy writing, you could consider joining the growing ranks of ‘mummy bloggers’ and start your own blog.
Of course, if you want to earn an income from your blog, you’ll have to do more than simply ramble on occasionally about nothing (unless you happen to be very witty and lucky and get snapped up for a book deal based on your ramblings!).
True, you don’t have to look far to read amazing blogging success stories. One of the more famous ones is A girl called Jack. Single mum Jack Monroe shared recipes of dishes she made to feed her son in her blog, which was spotted by a journalist from The Telegraph and has since resulted in two cookbooks and a flourishing media career.
But for every Jack, there are thousands of struggling mummy bloggers with just a handful of readers and even less income.
So how can you turn your blog into a business? The first place to start is by picking the right topic. You can blog about anything, but if you want to make money from your blog, you need to identify an audience and a need, and then meet it.
You also need to arm yourself with some knowledge and skills – you’ll need to hone your own tone of voice and visual style, understand how to grow traffic and navigate social media, and you’ll also need to have an idea of how you’ll actually make money from your blog. There’s no point working hard to grow a healthy readership if you can’t convert it into profit (you can learn how to start your own profitable blog in our three-part series here).
Want to read how other bloggers have done it? We’ve interviewed a number of mummy bloggers, including:
- Hari Ghotra from Hari Ghotra
- Jo Middleton from Slummy Single Mummy
- Nikki Thomas from Stressy Mummy
- Tania Sullivan from Larger Family Life
- Cherry Menlove from Cherry Menlove England
6) Start a franchise business
Maybe you’re already working for yourself on a great business but it’s not enough. Or you’re working for someone else, and can see potential for growth in a business model that’s not being exploited.
A franchise could be the answer.
By franchising you take a proven business or business model and package it in a way that someone can ‘buy’ the model and roll it out. They pay not just for the model you have created, but the brand name and reputation, and often your expertise and advice.
In order for a franchise to be attractive, you’ll need to prove it works by already having a running example. The big advantage for you of franchising is that someone else will do the work to grow your business, while paying you a fee.
Franchises don’t have to be complex business models – you can build them out of businesses you have started from using your existing skills and experience, just like yoga teacher Cheryl Macdonald who created the successful franchise business Yoga Bellies (and even turned down Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons Den!).
Mum of two Penny Holbrook, meanwhile, used her experience as a pre-school teacher to create a physical play programme for young children, which she has since turned into a franchise model called Mini Monkey Gym and is now selling across the UK.
Building a valuable franchise can take time and investment. You can learn more about the process and get tips on raising investment in this article by Chris Mountford, founder of The Band Project.
The information you MUST know to make your business a success
Whatever type of business you decide to start, there’s some key information that you MUST know in order for it to be a success. To ensure you’re properly prepared you need to:
- Identify your ideal customer(s).
- Really understand them and their lives.
- Research your marketplace.
- Be clear about the needs or problems you solve.
- Define your offer and USP.
- Have a well thought-through marketing strategy.
The information, insights and strategy this gives you will underpin everything you do, and give your business a much better chance of success – whether you’re a mum or not.
If you need help with any of this, or in fact any aspect of starting a business – from coming up with an idea to creating a professional marketing plan – you’ll find it in our club Activate. We’ll guide you through the process with step-by-step plans, downloadable tools and 30-minute training videos. You can find out more here.Hannah Martin