Labours of love for mum entreprenuers

Women are setting up businesses, inspired by their motherhood experience

Fiona Dillon

The idea behind a couple of new businesses was born when two Dublin women became mothers for the first time. They are part of a growing band of mummy entrepreneurs -- women who spot a niche in the market while pregnant or shortly after having their first child.

When Liza Crotty from Kilmainham (40) had her first baby, Mia (4), her career in the corporate IT sales world, which involved business development, was going very well. However, the world of nine-to-five was leaving her with very little time to spend with her new family.

"While I was researching possible new career and business options, I stumbled upon the idea for ClapHandies. I wanted to join some activities with Mia and was surprised by the limited choice of fun developmental and educational activities there was for us to do.

"I also wanted to take a first-aid course and I found it very hard to find a suitable one-day course. When I put these two gaps in the market together, I felt there was a business there." She set about developing the fun parent-and-child programmes and tested the market.

"I went through the mentoring programme with the Dublin City Enterprise Board, which really focused me," she says.

She collaborated with a group of childcare experts to develop Play Labs -- fun and creative music and play classes for infants, toddlers and pre-school children, which are now run weekly at eight venues across Dublin.

The idea was to provide age-appropriate stimulation for infants and children -- interactive play and floor time with their parent is a vital activity for a baby's development and learning.

Liza had a background in drama, and had also worked in the film and television industry before going into IT sales.

She also teamed up with Responder Training to deliver one- day first aid courses, which are now run nationwide.

"I started in 2007, so when the sudden downturn in the economy hit, it was a shock," she says.

But the business continues to grow, and four years on, "we run over 30 different classes every week across Dublin", says Liza, adding: "We also run a baby massage course."

"In the beginning, it seemed like I was doing 80-hour weeks, but now I do get to spend so much more time with Mia and baby Tom (1). My main role these days is managing and growing the business," Liza explains. "My workday really starts after they go to bed," she goes on. "Mia tells me when I tuck her in that I've to go to work now. I think she means 'go do all that work now mummy so tomorrow we can play'," says Liza.

When Siobhan Elsom (38), from Baldoyle, was pregnant with her first child, she found herself looking for more natural alternatives in baby skincare and toiletries.

Conall (2) was born in January 2008, and Siobhan says that she looked "high and low" for natural organic products for him, anything from bubble bath to sun cream.

"I found it was difficult to source everything in the one place, so the idea was born. My husband Chris is a web designer so I had that bit sorted. I started researching suppliers and products over the course of my maternity leave and put in place the nuts and bolts of an online shop.

"Giving useful information about products and babycare in general is crucial to inform potential shoppers about what they are purchasing, so I spent a lot of time gathering information that parents-to-be and new parents would find useful."

Siobhan had her second baby, Cian, in 2009, and during her maternity leave, she finalised the plans for the website. During the summer, she launched her online shop for natural organic babycare products,, which sells everything from eco-nappies to amber teething necklaces, and bedding and towelling to bathtime treats for mums.

"So far, we have had a huge amount of interest in all things eco and natural, especially cloth nappies. They are making a real resurgence. We sell the bumGenius brand, which is one of the most popular on the market."

She says on average it will cost about €350 to get up and running with enough cloth nappies and accessories, which is a big investment initially, "but it pays for itself so many times over", she claims, adding: "Also, they'll last for a second -- or even third -- baby."

"Other big sellers are Nature Babycare eco-disposable nappies, which don't take nearly as long as regular disposables to biodegrade," says Siobhan.

Amber teething necklaces (€13.99) are also popular as the amber releases a resin when heated to body temperature, which helps boost immunity and ease teething pains.

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