Can parents be entrepreneurs?

I never thought I would end up running a business. Aside from watching ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Dragon’s Den’, I have never been interested in the mechanics of business. In many ways, having my children led me down the path to running a social enterprise. I had a rocky start with my first baby five years ago and was lucky to access support from various groups and charities. I soon started volunteering in the community – breastfeeding support, NCT coffee meetups, and helping to set up baby carrier hire services and peer advice groups.

It was a gradual evolution from volunteering to incorporating a social enterprise. I wanted the support and services our groups offered to be more formal, sustainable, and transparent, and to access funding and help. I also wanted to be able to work flexibly around my three
children, and to help other parents do the same.

Setting up a social enterprise
My co-directors and I incorporated Cheshire Parenting Collective CIC in January 2017. Our aim is to provide emotional and practical support for parents, through friendly groups, baby carrier hire, reusable nappy kits, and signposting to local resources.

There are four women in our management team and we have nine children between us, between the ages of 0 and 5. Some are in school and childcare, but we usually have at least one child at our meetings! It can be challenging running a business with children present, but I remind myself that I started CPC to help parents and that has to begin with us. We have taken our children to meetings with funders, with other social entrepreneurs, and with our team members.

Taking your child to work
We have a very informal and flexible working culture and we are supported by volunteers, all of whom are parents of young children. At our groups, we meet our own children’s needs as well as those of our service users. We pitch in and help with each other’s children so
that we can all balance work and family.

When our service users see us meeting our children’s needs while running groups, it shows them that it’s OK to prioritise your children. When our business-world peers see us bringing our children to meetings, it shows that there are ways for mothers to work and raise
families at the same time – it just takes a little flexibility and understanding.

It is not always practical, safe, or fair to bring our children along while we work, so sometimes we make alternative arrangements – video calls, subbing in for each other, or enlisting the help of friends and family. It is often difficult to balance limited childcare with a busy workload, but as a management team we are supportive and understanding – and again, we know that our families come first.

Top tips
1. Bring entertainment! Toys, snacks, colouring – and the beloved Kindle Fires always go down well.
2. Have realistic expectations. You know how well your children are likely to cope in any given situation. It’s not fair to you, your children, or your colleagues to push your kids past their limits.
3. Be open. If someone requests a meeting, tell them that you plan to bring your children along and any arrangements you will need. You could also offer alternatives such as a video call.
4. Recruit help. See if a friend could come with you to help entertain your children to allow you to concentrate.

This article first appeared on the Equity Foundation website.