Recession-hit mums hit back

Perhaps it was Plato who first said: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Certainly there are modern-day mums who, out of necessity, are inventing new businesses to make ends meet and boost the UK economy, as Peter Archer discovers

It’s actually in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the word “mumpreneur” can still cause offence. There are those who consider the term belittles a hard-working mum’s business efforts as she juggles family life and making a living. It may have a negative impact on the perception of businesswomen when they already face an up-hill struggle for equal recognition and reward in a male-dominated environment.

Yet the word mumpreneur, defined as “a mother who combines bringing up children with running a company”, seems to be popular with entrepreneurial women who are business owners and mums.

Best estimates put the number of mumpreneurs in the UK at around 300,000 and it is thought they contribute as much as £7.4 billion a year to the economy. Moreover, it seems there are many mums wanting to join their ranks with an estimated 80 per cent saying they would start a business given the chance.

From shape-memorising wool to wheelie bin covers, mumpreneurs are innovating to solve daily household problems for profit

Economic recession has sparked a “can do” attitude. According to a survey by The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair, the double-dip recession fuelled a record boom in inventions by British mums, with 39 per cent saying they had turned to their skills, creativity and initiative to make money.

From shape-memorising wool to wheelie bin covers, mumpreneurs are innovating to solve daily household problems for profit and some 16 per cent are looking into patenting their new ideas. And, of course, mumpreneurs are setting a good example for their children and may even be inspiring future generations of entrepreneurs.

Faced with rising childcare costs – 32,000 women quit their jobs in 2010 due to the increasing and unsustainable outlay – there is a growing pool of untapped female entrepreneurial talent at home with the children and wanting to branch out.

But a mumpreneur may not necessarily be someone with small children, under school age, as there are also those women who find themselves caring for older dependent offspring with disabilities, for example.

Anna Kennedy looks after two grown-up sons with autism and has built a business, based on providing special education and care, which also meets her emotional need to help people with problems. “Lack of provision for children with autism in mainstream schools meant I had to do something,” she says. “The problem was there and needed solving.”

Co-founder of the Mumpreneur UK support network Laura Rigney concludes: “I have always been proud to call myself a mumpreneur. In a word it explains that my children are the reason I started my business and they are also the reason I will strive to be as successful as possible.

“If I hadn’t had children, I would never have started my business and met some amazing achievers.”