Young mothers discover the joys of starting up

Deepa Krishnan

Why would a mother who is in her 30s start a business at this stage of her life? The answer is a complex mix of factors. Today, women are marrying and starting a family much later than the previous generation. They are also armed with solid work experience before they start a family. This comes in handy if they choose to take a break in their career or are in it for the long haul.

Young people, even those raising children, are also keen to experiment with their ideas, a yearning that has arisen from a change in work culture among Young India. This has led to the emergence of ‘mom entrepreneurs’ or ‘mompreneurs’ - young mothers who are running successful businesses.

But surprisingly, most women tend move away from their traditional career path and follow their passion. What are the key drivers of their success?

Time Management Is Crucial
Having a baby is a huge responsibility but it also makes you reassess your time and resources, and focus on your business! If you’re wondering how that’s possible, read on. Suman Dash, a Gurgaon-based entrepreneur who started an online jewellery retail brand called Vastradi, was a software engineer. When she started her family, she gave up her job and launched her business.

Dash started Vastradi in a small way and put in a lot of her own resources. So she simply had to make it work. “Managing a child and a business can be challenging but it really puts things in perspective,” she says, adding that she compartmentalises her time so that she can do justice to being a mom as well as an entrepreneur.

For Mumbai-based Gunjan Pai, a copy writer, the big challenge was to separate her work time and her family time. "You have to learn to switch between the ‘two roles’ with ease and this balance comes only with time and practice," she points out. “The fact that you have a constant personal deadline is the big driving force.”

Pai advises, "Don't get frantic. You simply have to trust that you’re on the right track, and you also have to learn to let go. You cannot be on top of everything all the time. And plan well.” A few years of success and Pai says she’s still learning!

Be Organic In Your Approach
Every once in a while, a business idea doesn’t pan out the way it’s supposed to. And when that happens, you should be flexible enough to turn it around. Raising a child is good practice!

Dash originally started Vastradi as a women's clothing line. However, she noticed that the few pieces of jewellery she displayed at her first exhibition sold better. "The key is to be open to change. If something isn't working, you should be willing to try something that is," she remarks.

Dash has a two-year-old and is still learning how to manage her work-life balance. But she feels she’s taken the best decision of her life. Now, she and a friend, Shephali Kasliwal, have started an exhibition and event start-up, Pitaara.

Set Achievable Goals
Shephali Kasliwal, a former investment banker, has a three-year-old daughter. She also runs a children's clothing line called Knotty Angels. Despite being moms and operating businesses of their own, Dash and Kasliwal teamed up to launch Pitaara because they actually had time on their hands.

"We started Pitaara as a house party concept just to keep busy. We were not looking at a commercial venture. We hosted exhibitions at various houses first, then, colonies and now we are looking at exhibition centres," Kasliwal reveals.

A Great Support System Goes A Long Way
It goes without saying that every home-grown business requires a strong support system at home. Pai says her husband, who is in the merchant navy, has been with her all the way. "He stayed in Mumbai all through the first year after we had our child. If not for that, I would not have been able to concentrate on my business."

The Power of Networking
According to Pai, a golden rule to being a successful mompreneur is to build a solid base of clients. This comes with time and from past experience. For her, the transition from an advertising copywriter to a creative solutions consultant was smooth. When she was still working full-time, she had begun to dabble in freelancing on the side. This helped her enormously when she decided to become a writer and consultant from home, after her child was born.

"I was always well-networked and this helped me get my own business. I now have a very steady stream of clients," says Pai. She has another word of advice: it's best to keep the business lean. "I always work on the basis of trust, and with people on the basis of need. I was clear I did not want to start an agency. In that case, I needn't have quit my job!”

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