Growing up I had a stay at home mother, as did most of my friends. One friend from high school had a mother who worked at a bank four days a week. This was so far out of the norm for me that for years I assumed she was the Bank Manager as there could be no other explanation as to why she worked so much!
I admit that I had very few working women as role models when I was younger, but I have always been incredibly driven and ambitious. I guess that drive is part of my personality, because it wasn’t something that I witnessed and wanted to emulate as a child. Perhaps it was the lack of financial freedom and little money that my family had that has ensured that I want to avoid financial stress.
During the 80’s my own mother and her friends would often have side projects to give them ‘pocket money’ as they often referred to it. This was usually as part of a multi level marketing business such as Tupperware or Mary Kay. Some of these women were very successful with these businesses and continued with them long after the children had gone to school.
I started my business, The Tenant Company, when my daughter was a little over a year old, as working full time in my corporate job put a lot of pressure on my home life. While my corporate role was well paid, it was very demanding with little flexibility.
When I started The Tenant Company, I was well prepared. I had the business plan done, the financial forecast and website up and running. I didn’t expect to earn the six figures that I previously had, but I anticipated that by working around my daughter I would still make a comfortable income.
Fast forward two years and I will honestly say that the financial predictions I made have not eventuated. So what’s going on? I see entrepreneur’s spruiking themselves as having made a fortune almost overnight – how giving up the corporate world set them free (and let them tell you all about it – for a fee). Is it just me going through this?
Instead of beating myself up about this I approached a group of female entrepreneurs and asked the question “Who earns enough money from their business to support their family?” It might surprise you – perhaps it doesn’t – but most don’t. Most of these women are working to cover business overheads, pay staff or pay themselves ‘pocket money’.
Indeed, the answers left me wondering if entrepreneurship has become the modern day equivalent of selling Tupperware.
Why is it that women are busting their arses to run businesses that aren’t making any money? Some of the women I spoke with told me it gave them a level of freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have working for someone else. Others are laying the foundations of a good business whilst their children are young, with the intention of expanding on this when the children go to school. The very few who told me that their businesses are providing them with a substantial income are those that have been operating the business for a number of years and their children are now older.
It seems that some women are spending 4 -5 years running businesses making very little money instead of working part time for someone else because very few part time positions exist. These women are highly skilled and want to make a contribution to the work force, but their request for part time or flexible working hours aren’t being fulfilled.
Is it possible to pay yourself a market wage from a business whilst working flexible hours?
This is an edited version of a post first published on Amanda’s blog, where you can comment on this story.