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- 23 Mar 17

or… Stop calling me a Mumprenuer, I’m an Entrepreneur just like you.

For the past four years I have worked alongside my business partner day and night to establish my own company.

Our business, Smalls, has won several awards and counts Harrods and Selfridges among its global stockists. And yet, we still lack confidence from time to time in the validity of what we have achieved and in ourselves, as businesswomen.

But why?

Because when a woman – a Mother, no less – starts her own business, she is given a new title. No, not businesswoman, but ‘Mumpreneur’.

And I cannot stand it.

Who decided that a woman who has given birth and then goes on to start her own business should be labeled as if she were some lesser offspring of an entrepreneur, or part of some malformed business subculture? And what is the cut-off for being a mumprenuer? If you started your business pre-children, do you get to be a bonafide businessperson? A straight-up entrepreneur?

About a year ago, I went to an event for women in business under the umbrella description of Mumprenuer. Under my breath I mentioned to one of the speakers that I couldn’t stand the label, she replied, “Yes, but we can’t complain can we? It’d be offensive to those who have embraced it”. But, in reality, it’s offensive to all women.

Selling my product, shoulder to shoulder with intelligent women also trying to make a go of their creative enterprises, I thought: how are we different from any other start up out there?

Referring to a businesswoman as a Mumpreneur eats away at what they’ve accomplished; it is utterly belittling and marginalising.

Being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever had and setting up a new business from scratch is no mean feat either. Juggling a myriad of things; kids, business and work forces us to be more efficient with our time; we can achieve an amazing amount in a small time frame because we are incredibly focused. In many ways, parenthood has made us develop this skillset, so why are we being labeled mumsy-prenuers?

The word conjures up the suggestion that I’m doing something cutesy – more of a hobby than a career. I would never want for my daughter to grow up wanting to be a ‘mumpreneur’, I want her to be an entrepreneur or businessperson, co-founder or founder…. just like her brothers would be.

The real problem with the M word, though, is that it serves as just another reflection of the way in which we view women – and mothers in the UK.

Take, for example, a small study[1] on how Mumprenuers view their identity. The results revealed that Finnish businesswomen identified with the role of mother and the role of entrepreneur, but that the latter was considered more important. By contrast, Maltese businesswomen self-identified as mothers primarily, with the role of entrepreneur coming second.

In the UK, the role of Mother certainly feels as though it is valued less than that of a successful businessperson.  I know from personal experience a lot of women whom I have met, who paused their careers to have children find it difficult to get back into the workforce, equally those who were very successful in their field found themselves marginalised or pushed aside once they started a family and continued working.

In the UK, the word Mumprenuer is used all too often, segregating us further, this feels (to me) like a smack in the face, putting me back in my place, not a serious business person…”just a mum”.  One perfect example that has happened to me time and time again is having people turn their backs to speak to the person on the other side of them at business dinners, once they found out my full time job was that of MOTHER.  Who knew there was still a metaphorical glass ceiling out of that square mile of the City!

A report by Dr. Meraiah Foley published the Sydney Morning Herald[2] says of the rise of the Mumprenuer “…is this phenomenon a cause for celebration, or a symptom of a wider social problem? The first big study of maternal self-employment in Australia suggests that it is an option of last resort for many women…”

There is absolutely no difference between my business acumen and that of my non-parent peer group. New research from Deloitte[3] in April of this year reveals that women-led SMEs could contribute more than £180bn to the British economy by 2025 – not an insignificant amount – so why are mothers in business being segregated as a statistic? Why does it make any difference?

My husband started his own company just as we had our first child, he worked for nothing for a year, he was home every night for bath time, he was sleep deprived, he did the best he could to make a success of his idea and be a great father in the process. Did we hear him being labeled dadpreneur? Will it be discussed at London Business School Entrepreneurship Club? I wonder if anyone ever called Richard Branson a dadpreneur. I doubt it.

Having children has been exhausting, wonderful, and life changing. It has altered my perspective irrevocably but it certainly doesn’t define the way I do business.

Angel Investor of the year 2015, Michael Blakey says of the ‘M word’: “We invest in many female entrepreneurs and indeed two of our successful exits have been with businesses founded and run by women.  To us they are, simply, exceptionally talented entrepreneurs, irrespective of whether they have children or not.”

Dame Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter was “…pregnant at the time with her first child, Isabella, Massenet used her bedroom as stock storage and her bath to keep Net-A-Porter’s famously luxurious packaging.” [4] I don’t believe I have ever heard her referred to as a Mumpreneur.

It’s as though women must choose – to be a businesswoman or to be a mother – but they cannot be both. Those who are, then have to work themselves to the bone to prove their worth in both fields.

Stay at home? Why waste your brain. Starting a business? How heartless of you to leave your children.

It’s time to put an end to the use of this word. I don’t need a trivializing label; I am an entrepreneur, so call me that.

“I have real ambitions and real ideas” – JOY

 

Emma-Jane Adam is Co-Founder of London-based Smalls www.lovemysmalls.com, and at the same time, she’s a mother of three.

[1] Comparing Sense making of Mumprenuer identity: https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/handle/123456789/12757

[2] Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/becoming-a-mumpreneur-is-an-option-of-last-resort-for-many-working-mothers-20160504-golrkl.html

[3] Deloitte article:  http://www.bqlive.co.uk/2016/04/28/female-entrepreneurs-carry-100bn-boon-for-uk-economy,-says-deloitte/

[4] http://www.vogue.co.uk/spy/biographies/natalie-massenet-biography

 

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Cat & EJ

Catriona Pharo • New Zealand-born, Cat, is mum to three girls aged 12, 10 and 6 and lives in Little Venice, London. Cat has been based in the UK since 1999 with her partner, now husband, Russ Hamilton Design Director at Farrell’s www.farrells.com • A former Storm model, Cat worked in Japan, Sweden and Germany before graduating from Auckland Unitec with a degree in Design. Since graduating, Cat has worked as a freelance Art Director and Interior Stylist for Elle Deco, Living Etc, Next Directory amongst others. • Cat and her husband, Russ, are both passionate about design and their London home is piled high with 21st Century design classics. Emma-Jane Adam • Also hailing from New Zealand, EJ, is a mother of two boys and a girl aged 12, 10 and 7. She now lives with her Australian husband and children in Buckinghamshire. • EJ grew up on a farm in New Zealand with pet cats, sheep, a dog and a goat called Mickey. Needless to say, she’s a lifelong lover of animals • EJ graduated in International Business from Massey University and moved to the UK in 1998 where she worked for Mercer Investment Consulting and Overture as Marketing and Brand Manager where she was part of the team who launched Pay Per Click advertising in the UK. • More recently, EJ climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in 2014 in aid of Borne with Will Greenwood.

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