It’s not easy being a Mumtrepreneur!
The word ‘Mum-trepreneur’ very rightly puts the Mum before the ‘preneur’. And that’s how it is actually in terms of priority. All our time, work and effort is first dedicated to keeping the home and family stable and after that only if we have some time and energy left do we turn it towards the other part. Not an easy task let me tell you and over the years that I’ve been one I’ve seen small home-run businesses start with a big bang and fanfare only to fizzle out after a year or two. Some even ‘pause’ thinking they will get back to it, but then you see a sudden announcement of a ‘Closing down SALE!’ It’s sad to see their remaining wares that would have once been bought with so much love and enthusiasm, sold with a heavy heart, at reduced prices. It’s the end of a business, a dream and the end of an entrepreneur who now regains the sole title of being a Mum.
So then why do we even bother to start our own business when we already have so much to juggle in our lives one would ask? The answer is simple. Underneath the layers and layers of being a dutiful wife, a home maker, a mother, a chauffeur and a ‘volunteer’ at the kids school, there lies a highly educated, talented, smart, intelligent individual who loves being a mom and housewife and yet at the same time has a strong urge to prove that she is something more than that. Something that would give her an identity, something that she can call her own and as a by-product gain financial independence and confidence in herself. It could start as a hobby and then gradually progress into a business. It usually happens when the kids are “big enough” to look after themselves although that “big enough” age could vary from 2-22 years depending on how she views it!
I first started my ‘business,’ if you can call it that – selling clothes out of cartons at home to friends, almost 8 years ago in Hong Kong. From HK we moved to London where SUMMER’s life was as short as the British summer and I couldn’t do much between running around the kids and house! We moved countries once again and as luck would have it came back to HK. I settled in first, started writing a blog, this blog – sharing my happiness, fears and anxieties as an expat mum and my journey from the life of stilettos and poses to wiping running noses! It kept me sane and going when life got crazy! I learnt a bit of Cantonese going for my classes in Wanchai for 3 hours every Sunday, rushing back home imagining the house falling apart without me, only to see my three boys sitting happily with their technological gadgets! They were growing up but I still wanted to believe that they needed me, or did I need them as I think in retrospect? I did not move past the carton stage for a very long time. I didn’t have a helper, didn’t want one as I loved doing things by myself. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole motherhood-young mother phase – loved having my kids to myself, playing with them, taking them to their after-school activities and covering all parks, and museums in Hong Kong that were accessible by public transport.
It was only around the time when my kids turned 8 and 12 that I feeling quite ‘useless’ around them. It was then that I felt ready to explore things outside the house. I knew it was time to do something for myself. I didn’t want to get back to a corporate job as I still wanted to be home for the kids when they came back from school. And at the same time I wanted my kids to see me more than a baby sitter, a cleaner, a cook and chauffeur among other things. I dappled in teaching. Did a TESOL course, took up some part-time teaching jobs. I loved being around children, but I realised that with my age, ethnicity and non-teaching educational background I couldn’t go further. I wanted more. And that’s the time I decided to give up teaching completely and put all my energy and focus into my clothing business.
I did it the right way this time. First I contacted my vendor-friends who had been in business for a while understand the market. I got my business registered, gave it a brand name, designed my logo, my business card, started taking product photos, created a Facebook Business Page, created a database with my existing customers and then got going with marketing on social media. It took time but i’m proud to say that I did it all by myself and of course with Google’s assistance! First I only stuck to home pop-ups which were easy to manage with kids school and activities, then with encouragement from a close friend who was also a vendor we started doing joint pop-ups in each other’s apartments. Friends came and supported us and I am most thankful to them as without that support there would’ve been no SUMMER. Next I signed up for fairs and bazaars. I went slow signing up for smaller ones which needed less investment, less working hours and usually on weekends so my hubby could look after my boys. Oh did I mention that my other-half was an invaluable support without whom I could’ve never progressed? The silent support, the encouraging smile kept me going through thick and thin! A special mention for his hand-cooked delicious spaghetti prepared just the way I liked with spinach and roasted garlic and a glass of sauvignon waiting for me at the end of each working day!
Being a ‘mumtrepreneur’ is not easy. Besides the positive spirit and mental strength that we need to keep us going, we do a lot of physical labour in our job! Imagine carrying your “shop” from one place to another! Huge suitcases packed to the brim, display cases, racks, banners are just to name a few. After doing the first few bazaars I was proud to show off my well toned arms and sometimes even bruises to anyone interested! And on top of that we had to look good and smile the whole time we were there! Yet I loved my job! Loved going from one market to the other, setting up my shop as pretty as it could get, talking about my clothes, my brand, meeting new people, making new customers and most importantly building a rapport with other ‘mumtrepreneurs!’
It was this new network with other mum-vendors that encouraged me to add on another aspect to my business. I called it Mums@PLAY – a platform to bring ‘mumtrepreneurs’ together offering them an opportunity and a common space to showcase their products and services at a reasonable cost, focussing more on a long-term relationship and work as support group. I’ve always enjoyed organising social gatherings and being a part of one. I felt that expat mums, specially the ones new in any city, need an opportunity to come together, know their neighbours, have play dates for their kids and make new friends! A family-friendly venue, healthy food choices and shopping from local ‘mumtrepreneurs’ offers that much-needed common platform to get started. And that’s how Mums@PLAY was born! It started in a vibrant Mexican restaurant in Cyberport with group of vendor-friends – just 9 at that time. Mums@PLAY Bazaar – ‘The friendliest bazaar in town’ I call it, as I want people whether they are vendors or guests to come, eat, network and really enjoy their day with us! From bazaars I moved to doing workshops for small businesses. With spiralling costs and small budgets it’s not easy getting professional help for small businesses. So I went out and looked for these professionals who could talk to us for a few hours, taking us through some basics and answering our questions. Accounting, Social media marketing, Facebook marketing, Shopify just to name a few. And we also have pop-ups at convenient central locations offering a ‘shop space’ to vendors from a day to a week. It’s been over 3 years and our Mums@PLAY vendor team has grown leaps and bounds! While I still get new vendor applications its heartening to see past vendors, now friends, who like to participate with us again and again and our brand values – passion, love, positivity, sincerity and team spirit keep us going!
So onwards and upwards we go my vendor-friends! The year is coming to an end giving us the much-needed festive holiday, time to be our family and friends, time to recuperate. Rest and relax and don’t think about work. Come back refreshed and make a new start in the new year!
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Anonymous.