I would say there is probably only one job tougher than running your own business, and that is being a full-time parent – especially in those early years.
But how about combining the two? Well now you are just asking for hardship. Or are you? While it may seem impossible, it is far from it. Indeed, there are a growing number of women here in the UAE and around the world who are able to successfully run that small business while being completely committed to their number one job of being a mother.
Specific figures out of the UAE are hard to come by, but numbers from the United Kingdom can act as a useful yardstick. According to the Office for National Statistics, over 1.5 million women combine self-employment with raising children – a figure that has risen by almost 200,000 over the past two years and now contributes upwards of $9bn annually to the UK economy.
While we must acknowledge that it will never be easy, the business you choose to start can have a huge bearing on just how manageable it all is. And there are in fact a number of fields that offer flexible opportunities for those mothers who still wish to work while raising a child.
So what exactly are some of these potential hot areas? While there are too many to list, what we will do in this latest article in our “Virtuzone Mumpreneurship Series” is look at five separate opportunities in the consultancy arena.
As you’re reading these, do try and imagine yourself as both parent and entrepreneur all at once. Can you see how it would be possible? Just as importantly, can you see how it could be enjoyable? Your success will in large part be determined by you answering yes to both of those questions upfront.
1. HR Consultancy
If you have a background in HR (or are simply willing to learn) and have a knack for multitasking while staying super organised, operating as a self-employed HR consultant could be the perfect fit for you.
With turnover fairly high in the UAE, recruiting alone is one area where you can excel rather quickly if you have a specific skill for “matchmaking “. And on the deeper consultancy side of things, ever-changing rules and regulations governing employer-employee relations mean HR departments have to stay on their toes – which they often do by working closely with external HR specialists.
With turnover fairly high in the UAE, recruiting alone is one area where you can excel rather quickly if you have a specific skill for “matchmaking “.
According to Inc.com, around 85% of organisations now outsource at least some of their HR function – meaning opportunities abound in this field. You can essentially find your niche in any number of different areas, and the beauty is much – if not all – of the work can be done right at your computer.
2. Business Consultancy
Who says taking time off to raise a child means walking away from the business world for good? If you hung up your executive hat for motherhood and yearn to put your business skills to work again, the business consulting category offers a lot in the way of options.
Whether your expertise is in sales, marketing, operations – or any other business function for that matter – offering your services as a freelance consultant is a great way to work your business brain and earn a healthy income in those early years of motherhood.
And I really do mean a healthy income. The business consultancy market is valued at almost $8bn in the UK and $40bn in the US; and with the UAE’s real GDP growth over the past ten years coming in at almost twice the GCC average – and continued expansion expected in the decades to come – there should be no shortage of work for qualified business minds.
3. Project Management
A large part of the project management market is in fact made up of freelancers. And that’s because like many consulting roles, project management consulting can offer a fair bit of flexibility in terms of workload. Once you gain enough experience, you will become quite good at gauging upfront just how much work is involved for any given project, and if the workload is likely to be too intense to fit with your current home life, you can simply pass on it.
Even if you do not have first-hand project management experience, if you have past experience in an office environment you have probably done some form of project management. Exceptional organisational skills are of course the order of the day, and your people and general communication skills must also be second to none. You are in many ways the leader of the team as project manager, and so you’ll certainly be challenged accordingly.
Project management can include just about anything, from managing a software development project, to overseeing marketing projects (for example, the design and programming of a new website, the creation of collaterals such as brochures and fliers, etc.), to much more.
4. Fashion Consultancy
The beauty of consultancy is that there is no end to the types of industries that require it. And in the UAE – where in some circles it’s almost a crime to be anything but perfectly suited up – you can develop quite the clientele and have a fair bit of fun working as a fashion consultant.
Let’s face it, much of the population will likely declare themselves to fall into the “fashionably challenged” category. And while many may not give it more than a passing thought, many others will be glad to pay for an expert eye to help them improve their wardrobe and overall look.
You could be working with people on a one-off basis – an individual looking to make an impression at a job interview or someone wanting to look perfect for an upcoming high-profile public function, for example; and you could also be working with steady clients on a general basis to continually improve and refine their overall look.
Just don’t underestimate the size of this particular sector. While again numbers out of the UAE are tricky to come by, in the US there are, according to IBISWorld research, over 28,000 personal shoppers in what is a $762mn market.
5. Lifestyle Consultancy
If you are already a fitness fanatic, then why not channel that to help others? Lifestyle consulting, which for the most part includes fitness and nutritional guidance, is a very popular profession in the UAE due to it being in such big demand. So if you develop a reputation for being good at this craft, expect to be fighting off customers.
Lifestyle consulting, which for the most part includes fitness and nutritional guidance, is a very popular profession in the UAE due to it being in such big demand.
You’ll need of course to get certain accreditation. But once past all the red tape, the sky is the limit. And you can then look to build up a customer base which includes anyone from the high-powered executive, to the person of any age looking to lose those extra pounds, to the parent looking to develop a healthier nutrition plan for the family.
And it is indeed an addictive pursuit with loads of benefits for you as well. After all, the teacher indeed quite quickly becomes the master, and applying your ever-increasing health and wellbeing expertise to your own family is a natural by-product of this very rewarding career.
The balancing act
Balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship offers a fantastic way to keep your mind active and sharp (read “keep your sanity”), while continuing to pull in an income during those often very challenging first few years of parenthood.
What’s more, starting your business while raising your children through those early years can set the framework for much bigger things as your time frees up more and more once your children hit school. Putting in whatever hours you can now is all about setting up the foundation, and while you may decide to keep it part time, you may also decide to one day build on that foundation and expand your business to employ others.
And there are certainly plenty of case studies highlighting such successes. One high profile one is that of US entrepreneur Julie Aigner-Clark, who, after noticing that most education videos were aimed at toddlers rather than babies, started making her own videos and selling them from her home. As the company grew and her children got older, Clark put more and more time into her business, growing it at a rate she could never have imagined. She eventually sold that business – called Baby Einstein – to Disney for around $20mn.
The bottom line is that yes, anything is possible, but that does not mean it will be easy. In fact, just about everything to do with family and career is hard, isn’t it? But the reality is that you get out of it what you put into it. And if you are lucky enough to find something you truly enjoy doing, the rewards will come not just in the end in terms of a potentially nice financial pay out, but during the journey as well – which, as we have all heard many times by now – is where the reward lies.