by Nicole Morell of Honeybunch
Amy Ballon and Danielle Botterell are best friends and business partners in a successful personalized fleece blanket company called Admiral Road. With the recent launch of their book Mom Inc., they are also newly minted authors. A week after the official launch of Mom Inc., I chatted with the pair to get their take on the state of Mompreneurship in Canada:
First of all, congratulations on your book, Mom Inc. We all know how challenging it is to run a business and a household, but adding a book into the mix? I bow down to you. How did the idea for Mom Inc., come about?
We’ve been mulling the idea of a book for a very long time. In the early days of our business we realized that despite having MBAs and corporate work experience we had so much to learn about getting Admiral Road up and running. We thought it would be great if there was a book on starting a business for mompreneurs. It took us a while before we felt like we really had a story to tell, but once we started interviewing all of the other mompreneurs featured in Mom Inc. we knew we could create a great resource for future mompreneurs.
What is your Twitter-length synopsis of the book?
Mom Inc. is an honest look at life when you’re juggling business and family, filled with practical advice and tips for budding entrepreneurs.
You founded Admiral Road in 2002 before the term “mompreneur” had even been coined let alone become the social and business phenomenon that is today. Has the road gotten any easier for mompreneurs? Or, how has the road changed?
Mompreneurship has been a choice for women for ages. In fact, both of our grandmothers were mompreneurs! What’s changed in the last decade is the general awareness about entrepreneurial moms. Social media has enabled mompreneurs to become more organized: Now there are dedicated networking groups, online communities and conferences for mompreneurs. As media coverage of mompreneurs increases there’s a greater understanding and acceptance of women making the choice to actively attempt to balance work and family.
Up front you make the distinction between mompreneurs and what you call “Big E Entrepreneurs.” What defines a mompreneur?
In our opinion, a mompreneur is any woman who has started her business with a view to having some availability or flexibility to be with her children, and has carved out some of the work week to be available to her children.
I like the idea that entrepreneurship can be taught; I think a lot of us were taught that you’re either born with the drive to make your own way in the world or you are, essentially, a worker bee. Does mompreneurship offer a sort of stepping stone to “Big E” entrepreneurship? Can anyone be a mompreneur?
We think anyone can be a mompreneur. We do encourage women to really think about what they want from their business and from their lives overall. It’s so important to know what your goals are before jumping in. If the goal is to (make your company huge/) start a big company, then you’ll need to invest and plan accordingly. It’s also important to have a good sense of your own personality, needs and factors affecting a potential business (like family demands, the strength of your relationships, etc.) to make sure that the timing and entrepreneurial venture are right for you. We think it’s important to make sure you’re in the right place in your life to take on a new business. In our research, many of the women had no business background whatsoever. Interestingly, however, once these women experienced their lives as mompreneurs, they found the idea of returning to work for someone else almost impossible. By desiring to have more control of their lives, they became entrepreneurs.
In your list of Top Secrets of Mompreneurship one in particular struck a chord with me: running your own show can be lonely. Admiral Road is a partnership, which is unique among the mompreneur community. How do you work together on a daily basis? Are you physically in the same location? Can you elaborate on the theme of being alone in your work?
We’re huge fans of partnership for mompreneurs. Having a partner can not only spell you off so you can be there when your family needs you, but she can also share the ride with you, providing encouragement, accountability and companionship, not to mention capital. While we’ve been in a great partnership for over 9 years, for most of those years we haven’t shared a location. Since we try and get most of the work done ‘carpool to carpool’ we don’t like to spend a lot of time commuting – so we both work from our homes. The Admiral Road office has been run out of each of our homes over the years. We are in constant touch, though. We have lunch every Monday to set the agenda for the week and work together in the office at least one other day. And we’re on the phone and e-mail all the time.
The isolation that comes with self-employment is something that is often overlooked. When you leave the corporate world behind you also leave your co-workers and the social interaction an office brings. Harder still is finding the self-discipline to keep at it every day on your own. In Mom Inc. we offer lots of tips and advice about how to manage working alone. It’s an obstacle that can definitely be overcome.
What is your sense of the business world’s impression or awareness of the mompreneur community? Do we need them? Do they need us?
While it’s true that some people don’t take mompreneur-run businesses seriously, we think this impression is changing. There are approximately 1 million women business owners in Canada, many of whom are moms – it’s one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian economy. More and more women are jumping into entrepreneurship and enjoying great success, which is changing the way people view mompreneurship.
Everyone loves to talk numbers. Among the 200 mompreneurs you surveyed, 71% of mompreneurs invested under $10,000 in their start-up and 54% took less than $10,000 a year out of their business. And 43% work less than thirty hours a week at their business. Did you uncover any other interesting numbers?
Probably the most interesting finding was that of all the varied types of businesses we encountered for Mom Inc, and for all the varying degrees of financial success, one thing was nearly universal. Nearly every single woman we spoke to or surveyed said she considered herself successful. We think that mompreneurs see success holistically and look at the general happiness of their lives in addition to the bottom line when judging their overall success.
The separation between work and home is especially blurry if, like I do, you work from home. What are some good tips to delineate work time from home time?
We work from home too! There are lots of great tips in Mom Inc. for separating your work and home lives, even if you work in the house. Here are a couple:
Find some dedicated work space at home. Ideally it’s a room with a door you can close, or even a work center that closes. It’s important to be able to ‘leave work’ at the end of the day. It’s so easy to get caught up in your work as an entrepreneur, but you’ll need some time away to stay sane!
Set office hours. If you can make a schedule delineating work hours it’ll go a long way towards managing everyone’s expectations of you. If your family knows when you’re not available they’re more likely to respect your work when you are.
Schedule time for getting personal errands done. If you worked outside of the office you’d still be able to go to the doctor or hairdresser, right? Don’t forget to make time in your schedule to take care of the things that need doing. It’ll help you stay calm and motivated in the business.
So hot on the heels of Hollywood award season, how great would it be to have Mompreneur awards to recognize achievement amongst ourselves? I think we’re ready.
We’ve met women in the mompreneur community who have invented new products and women who have created new categories in the market altogether. We’ve met women whose businesses have grown more quickly than they ever imagined and women who’ve achieved more financial success than they ever dreamed. So, yes! We love the idea of Mompreneur Achievement Awards!
And finally, where can we buy Mom Inc.?