By Patrick J. MacKrell
Women-owned small businesses continue to increase at tremendous rates year after year. Among those women business owners are also mothers, or momtrepreneurs, that dedicate their time not only to running and growing their businesses, but also to managing their families and households.
Given their management responsibilities at home, mothers already have many of the necessary skills to run a successful business. We talked with our clients and staff members that are mothers themselves to find out more about why moms make great small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Moms are Natural Leaders
Small business owners need to have strong leadership skills to move their company toward success. It’s important for business owners to be able to unite a team, to see and work toward their long-term vision, and make important decisions for the company. Mothers possess all of these traits and more, making them great leaders in their business and personal lives.
“Successful business owners are good listeners, consider the views and needs of the people around them and then develop a plan to move their enterprise forward,” explains Tamara Underwood, vice president and loan officer at NYBDC and affiliates. “Mothers do these same things every day as they manage the needs of everyone in their household.”
While 95% of momtrepreneurs are part of a two-income household with their partners, 71% reported that they are still the primary childcare provider. As such, leadership skills are a necessity for these women to maintain order and organization in their homes and personal lives.
“From taking their children to doctors’ appointments, to buying gifts and groceries, moms juggle many tasks while staying focused,” says Tamara. “A good business owner needs to be able to do the same, especially when a business is just starting out.”
Moms Have Great Time Management Skills
It’s no secret that small business owners have a lot on their plates and often have more tasks to do than there are hours in a day. Between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and other family needs, mothers often face the same issue and find a way to be as productive as possible.
“As a mother, one has to manage several lives and the activities of each one of those lives, so time management is a skill that has to be mastered in order to run an organized household,” says Allison DeHonney, owner and operator of Urban Fruits and Veggies.
In a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), 38% of business owners cited poor time management as a major challenge to productivity. Between caring for their businesses, families, homes and, of course, themselves, the opportunities for mothers to master time management are plenty — and once they’ve got it down, this skill translates to all aspects of their lives.
“As a business owner, good time management helps with prioritizing tasks, organizing meetings, and executing short and long term business goals,” adds Allison. Time management is a crucial aspect of Allison’s daily life as she runs a not-for-profit, Buffalo Go Green, in addition to her current business, presents at conferences, and pilots other health initiatives in Western New York. She knows first-hand that when time management is part of your everyday life outside of work, it’s easy to integrate it into your working life as well.
Moms Are Expert Multitaskers
Despite the importance of planning and time management, even the best laid plans go awry and require a business owner or a mother to take on multiple tasks at once, rather than dedicating time to each task individually.
“To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to know how to juggle,” says Desiree Drapala, owner of Happy Hearts on the Hudson. “At work, I’m faxing, I’m emailing, I’m talking on the phone, and at home it’s similar, I’ve got a baby on my hip while I’m cooking.”
According to a study by Mavenlink, small business owners worry most about having to cover multiple jobs within their companies and not having enough time to get everything done.
“It’s hard to do all of these jobs, but we’re mothers. We wear so many different hats,” Desiree explains. Between the demands of their businesses and their families, mothers often give up some of their own outside activities in order to get it all done. After starting their businesses, 88% of momtrepreneurs spend less time on their own hobbies, 67% work out less and 64% hang out with friends less often. Desiree ensures she can still make time for her extended family though, even at work.
“I get to work with my family—my sister is a certified teacher and she came up to build our pre-school program,” she explains. Desiree’s mother is also part of the business, which got started in her basement. “I love running my business and I love being a mom. It would be hard to give up one for the other.”
Moms Are Flexible
“Flexibility is key to running a successful business, and being a mother,” says Sherri Falck, Assistant Vice President at Excelsior Growth Fund. “Just as in life, change — planned or unplanned — may occur at any time in your business or industry. Those who recognize when they need to pivot and make changes to keep on course are more likely to succeed.”
According to a study by CB Insights, 7% of startups attribute their closure to a failure to pivot. Having the flexibility to adapt to a changing landscape or consumer needs can make the difference between success and failure for a business owner. Mothers are faced with similar challenges everyday — having to pick a sick child up from school that derails the day’s meetings, or perhaps finding a solution when the household budget gets tight.
“Being flexible while sticking by your values allows you to evolve — no matter who is on the other side of the negotiating table — client or kid,” says Sherri.
Moms Are Intuitive
“Moms bring an emotional and nurturing element to a business,” explains Leesa Naimo-Fredette, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at NYBDC and affiliates. “They take care of it in the same way they care for a child.”
While a “mother’s intuition” may not be biologically hardwired in every woman, there’s a certain emotional intelligence that helps them lead their businesses to success. Traits such as empathy and self-awareness tend to be more prevalent in women executives than their male counterparts. As such, women business owners are able to sense what their business needs; much like a mother can sense the needs of their child.
“As the business grows, women give it their full attention, and then they know when to step back a bit when necessary to keep it growing. Eventually, they know when to let it go and grow on its own by delegating duties to others,” says Leesa. “A mom also has ‘eyes in the back of her head’ — we can always sense an issue that’s bubbling beneath the surface.”
What Women and Mothers Contribute to the Business Community
Women-owned businesses are on the rise and are showing an impressive track record for success. Today, one in five firms with $1 million or more in revenue is owned by a woman, and 4.2% of all women-owned firms have hit that revenue milestone. Additionally, women-owned firms have created jobs to spur economic growth. As of January 2017, nearly 9 million people were employed by women-owned firms across the country. Momtrepreneurs are a critical part of the growing achievements of women business owners, and the traits they learn through parenting will continue to push them toward success.
Patrick J. MacKrell is CEO of New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), The 504 Company and Excelsior Growth Fund. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served at several posts and stations prior to his release from active duty as a Major.