Grants that exclude small start-ups a barrier to 'mumpreneurs'
GOVERNMENT grants that exclude small, non-technical start-up companies are a major barrier to entrepreneurship for mothers, says the founder of Ireland's first training service specifically for mums in business.
"Enterprise Ireland supports about 95 'high-potential start-ups' in different business fields each year, but less than 10pc of these are female," says Mairéad Kelly. Her two-year-old company Cute Honey mentors "mumpreneurs," mothers who aspire to, or already are, running businesses.
She says government funding programmes that target tech and export-driven start-ups and have limited company status are not accessible for most of the businesses launched by mothers.
Still, single mother-of-three Ms Kelly says there is an impressive amount of Irish mums running successful businesses that also fit around family commitments.
"Women made redundant, or who may have left work to raise their family, are developing their own businesses from home to support family income.
"They often identify gaps in the market, or innovative products or services, from their own personal experience of family and business needs that are not being met," she says.
Encouraging entrepreneurship among all parts of the population is important for economic growth. The Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Alumni Survey shows that nearly 13,000 jobs were created by its 300 entrepreneur alumni in 2012 alone. Some 75pc of respondents increased employment during the year and together the entrepreneurs generated over €15bn in revenue.
Kildare woman Ms Kelly has assisted over 100 clients in the last year. She has over 10 years experience building and running her own businesses and also managed one of the UK's biggest party planning companies, where she was responsible for training and hiring a large and changing staff.
In 2011 she decided to merge these skills when she heard many of her old clients bemoan the fact that they could not get out to conventional trainings or early morning and evening networking meetings due to family commitments. They had set up in business because they had a viable business idea and also wanted to be able to spend time with their small children.
Yet they felt guilty that they weren't growing their businesses properly and contributing to the family income.
Or they felt guilty that they weren't spending quality time with their small children as they were constantly thinking about business issues when with them.
Kelly says the guilt felt by working mothers is a big challenge to entrepreneurship that her service tries to address. "Dads experience much less of this!"
Cute Honey provides training "that works around school and crèche runs," and offers several levels of training depending on the needs and progress of a business, from wannabe entrepreneurs to established businesses.
Specific courses cover social media, digital marketing and product and pricing alongside core training modules covering start-up training, time management and strategy and growth planning. This is currently provided through face-to-face meetings and follow-up phone assistance with both groups and individuals but Kelly intends to grow Cute Honey's online offering.
"Our site had visitors from 84 countries last year," she says. "We want to be able to provide the service internationally and even to Irish mums who can't make face-to-face appointments, using web training and Skype."
Clients include women running online and niche retail businesses, providing services from home like marketing, accountancy and life coaching, as well as several crafting businesses as this traditional practice has become popular again.
One such client is Stylemama, run by Dubliner Gillian Ryan, whose business sells pregnancy clothing to Irish women.
Cute Honey's training programme helped Stylemama to set up its website, now an important source of revenue.