Which Business is for You?

Many women I talk to, both employed and unemployed, like the idea of having their own business, and they are way talented enough to run one on their own, but they get stumped at the idea of actually chosing a business.  Yes, it’s great if you actually have a novel, easy to implement million-dollar idea.  However, I have to credit a recent guest speaker at Mothers and More, Ethan Mollick, for these wise words:  Originality is overrated.

Start with a quick search on home-based businesses  or something similar, and you are likely to get overwhelmed.  Here is a great post to get you started.  http://simplemom.net/5-business-ideas-for-work-at-home-wannabes/ 

Why Every Woman Should Own Her Own Business (Of Any Size)

You have probably seen the news recently about new financial regulations from the Fed due to start in October.  http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20110318b.htm    The new provisions of the Credit Card Act of 2009 that will go into place in October prohibits banks from giving credit cards to people who do not have individual sources of income, such as non-employed parents.  Non-working spouses will no longer be able to use their household income to qualify for credit.   

Who cares?  Non-employed spouses should.  For this reason alone, a woman  should consider starting up her own business, whether she already has a job and is hoping to take time out of the workforce to start a family or she stays at home. There are many reasons to own a business in this country, including tax advantages, continued professional development, flexibility, and income potential.  This new regulation is one more reason for a mom to have a business, even a teeny-tiny one, that documents profitable income. What some may not realize is that small businesses can be more alike than they are different, from the occasional Pampered Chef consultant to the very part-time blogger mom to the retail store owner and more.  Moms who are business owners have advantages over moms who are not.    

“We’re not sure at all how this is going to work in practice,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said. “Since most stay-at-home spouses are women, this could put women back more than 20 years in terms of their access to credit.”  http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=Newsletter&op=viewlive&sp_id=324&id=51
I was married and divorced nearly twenty years ago, I went through a rocky time personally that nearly ruined my credit. I believe that this provision takes us back even further than twenty years.  We forget that stay-at-home moms (and dads) have economic value in our society, even though they don’t receive a paycheck.  A non-working spouse should have access to credit throughout their marriage partnership so they don’t incur terrible hardship as a financial unknown should death, illness, or divorce markedly change their status after years, sometimes decades.  Family tragedies happen every day and are difficult enough without removing access to credit, an almost undeniable necessity of modern life in America.  Although I advocate for debt-free living, having a credit history is as important as having a job.  Credit doesn’t necessarily mean credit cards, but can impact basic life functions such as the ability to rent, buy a car, or even establish phone service.  
Many women make major changes to their employment situation when they are pregnant or shortly after having a baby.  Many professionally trained and talented women take a huge step off a professional cliff when they start a family, potentially creating unintended financial concerns for herself and her family.  A business that a mom runs during naptime and on weekends can not only rewarding and economically beneficial in more ways that you can count on just a profit and loss statement, but it now becomes a woman’s ticket to financial independence, without depending on her spouse to approve her inclusion on a credit account. 
Recent articles have advocated that non-employed spouses rush to apply for a credit card before the regulations go into effect, but the banks can already apply the new standards if they chose.  Older women with established credit histories may be less impacted.  I am more concerned for younger women.  I think the best thing we can do is learn to be aware of our options, and owning your own business is certainly one of them.
Moms put others first in so many ways, but when staying at home to raise children means you give up your own financial identity, that’s just wrong.  Way before this provision, I realized that I could never comfortably put my entire financial well being into another person’s hands again.  Add this new law to the list of reasons for a woman to have and maintain a business before, during, and after her baby. 

Why On Earth Would I Be My Own ChildCare Provider?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the last few days about why it is so important to me to run a business in such a way that I can also be the primary childcare provider for my daughters.  From the moment I became pregnant, I knew this was important to me.   I talk a lot in my book about this being paramount.  But why?  Here’s what I’ve learned:

1.  I’m frugal.  Where I live, full time daycare can easily run $10K- $12K for just one child.  Look, I know early childhood education workers are worth that and more.  But the sad truth is that here in America, that kind of bill is really tough for most families to handle.  Most Americans don’t have assistance with that huge bill for the early years.  What a relief it must be for parents with kids in daycare to finally send their kids to elementary school.  

2.  I’m a germaphobe.  Kids are tiny Petri dishes, and the little ones seem to bring home every nasty thing.  My first daughter was not sick a day in her first 18 months of life.  But with the increased interaction that both of my daughters had just this last winter at school, church and playgroups, and the sickness that came with it, my entire family missed two entire weeks of work and school.   Even when I was pregnant, I knew the germs were headed our way.  I don’t really buy that line about sickness making them stronger.  I wanted my children to grow up a little before I threw them out into the big, bad world.

3.  I’ve been there.  Because my own parents separated when I was very young, and then my blended family had two working parents, I spent a lot of time in all types of childcare as a youngster.  I’m not saying they are evil, but some are better than others, and parents can’t always tell which is better. 

4.  I’m a bit of a control freak. If I have the luxury of just a few years where I can ensure my kids are eating very healthy foods, are napping on schedule, and are not watching TV and commercials, by George, I’m going to take advantage of that.  I think this falls under the heading of pick your battles.  I know there will be plenty in the teenage years that I don’t have a hope of controlling or even adequately influencing, so I’ll take my turn now and hope some of it sticks.

5.  I love being with my kids.  Even though I am not a woman who gushes over babies in general, it turns out that I really loved hanging out with my own tiny humans.  They were generally happy, giggly babies, so they were a lot of fun to be around.  As they learned to be mobile and then talk, they got a bit more challenging.  Now, as my older daughter is four years old, I feel a bit like a cruise director many days, trying to keep her occupied and stimulated.  So I’m thrilled that she does attend a preschool, where she does cute crafts that would just never occur to me.  But I still love to pick her up from school in the mornings and hear all about it.  I am one lucky mom.

By the way, when I was pregnant, I had fantasies that my kids would be so much fun to be around that I would want to home school them.  I now know that I am not equiped to entertain toddlers and youngsters for hours on end, and our awesome public school will do a great job of helping them to grow into the fabulous people I know they will become.

Disclaimer:  My choice to structure both child-rearing and business-building into my day is neither an endorsement for this lifestyle nor an indictment of those who make other arrangements.  The structure and flow of family schedules that we moms support are amazing.  Choose the path that’s right for you.