Mompreneurs: All Jugglers, Multitaskers and Communicators Welcome
By Schellene Clendenin, GoForth Institute
Melissa Gunning has her hands full.
She's raising two little girls, keeping an eye on her sister's three daughters and running Wean Green - a home-based business selling specially designed glass baby food containers in Calgary.
Gunning, passionate about healthy food options for her girls, was dissatisfied with organic food storage options available to her when her second child was born. Seeing a need she designed Wean Cubes, containers advertised as a safe and renewable storage alternative for parents like her who make their own baby food.
And she's not alone. One-third of self employed Canadians are women. So says the Women's Enterprise Centre, a small business resource centre in British Columbia that works exclusively with women entrepreneurs. It goes on to state that women entrepreneurs hold ownership in about 45 percent of Canadian small and medium enterprises.
A typical day for Gunning includes conference calls in pajamas, skinned knees and visits to the park with her laptop in tow. "...An important buyer is asking questions and informs me that they are interested in selling my product in their 20 stores," she wrote in an email. "My 2-year-old is clinging to my foot...demanding more to drink. My 8-year-old turns up the TV so that she can't hear the 2-year-old - and I can't hear my phone call. The noodles are now boiling over and the meat in the oven is about 30 minutes past being finished. The delivery driver has shown up at my door to unload 15 pallets into our onsite warehouse. And I have to pee."
Gunning and fellow Mompreneur Nicole Garza of Mally Bibs, agree on one thing, networking is key to running a successful small business. "Bouncing ideas off of someone who has knowledge in all areas of business is extremely valuable," Gunning said. "I think that if I had sat down in a GoForth class I would have been able to launch my business months sooner while saving some money. There are so many aspects to running a business that can't be foreseen in even the best business plan, a GoForth course would help me examine the entire plan."
"Everything was a challenge," Garza added. Five years ago Garza, whose business is located in Abbottsford, began designing and producing leather bibs for her 10 month old daughter. Instead of watching her laundry fill up with dirty bibs, she wanted one that was safe, durable and easy to keep clean. Thus Mally Bibs was born.
Garza began networking with other small businesses like hers for advice and agrees that sharing challenges and solutions with others was helpful.
Gunning said her biggest woe is transporting goods. "Shipping has been the most expensive lesson. I have met some great people in this industry since and I am happy to say that our shipping costs are gradually going down."
She also had to find a company that would manufacture her product - at her specifications - for a price she could afford. "We were lucky enough, after nearly 100 manufacturers, to find a good few that had the capabilities and desire to work with our company to design the Wean Cubes," she said. "Plastic was not an option and after a lot of research it was clear that glass was best for food storage. At that time there were no glass storage containers that were able to hold a baby sized meal."
Garza said being a Mompreneur has many advantages. Some include being able to work from home - Mally Bibs was moved to an off-site location two years ago to allow Garza a bit more balance in her home life - others involves her children.
"I love to see what my kids pick up on about entrepreneurialism. They are 6- and 8-years-old and from their early days of play I've noticed they really seem to observe my business and what I do...It's really cute, but not only that, I can see how they have actually learned from my business, especially when my 8-year-old starts to brainstorm ways of marketing and advertising his little inventions."
Schellene Clendenin is a freelance journalist who specializes in covering the small and medium-sized enterprise scene. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her scottish terrier, Angus. Contact Schellene: email@example.com
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