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The latest trend in small business might be the mom sitting next to you.
“Mompreneurs”—women juggling a business and raising kids—are a growing trend. Books, blogs and social networks target them.
Data for mompreneurs is hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence indicates they make up a growing niche within Orange County’s field of more than 16,000 women-owned businesses.
Business and personal services, retail and medical care providers are the most common types of companies owned by women here, according to Inside Prospects, a local market research firm that tracks data in OC and San Diego.
Women-owned businesses also have a presence in finance and manufacturing here, the firm has found.
Women-owned-businesses accounted for 129 Small Business Administration loans in the county last year, for a total of nearly $51 million.
That’s an increase of 41% in terms of number of loans and 92% in terms of dollar volume from 2009.
The numbers point to what Jill Salzman has known for a while.
Salzman runs thefoundingmoms.com, a website for mompreneurs. She says the trend has taken off in the past few years.
“There are so many women joining our organization now,” she says. “It’s crazy how many people are identifying themselves as moms and entrepreneurs.”
The site offers support across the country—meetings, business counseling and other services—for women who start businesses while raising kids.
Many mompreneurs spent years in the corporate world but gave it up after children entered the picture, Salzman said.
Others found themselves scrambling for income after their spouses lost their jobs.
Jane Hodgdon was in marketing and event planning for Extron Electronics in Anaheim when she got pregnant with her first child. The company worked with her afterwards, allowing some flexibility in her schedule.
By the time she got pregnant with her second child she knew the corporate job wasn’t going to work out.
Hodgdon settled in as a stay-at-home mom. Then she got frustrated about the selection of bras on the retail market and took the leap as a mompreneur.
Hodgdon founded IBB Designs in her Irvine home in 2007. The newly minted chief executive oversaw several test runs and plenty of trial and error to come up with her first sample of the Itty Bitty Bra for women in need of smaller sizes.
IBB’s bras and lines of panties and camisoles now are sold in boutiques, big-name retailers such as Fred Segal, and through ittybittybra.com.
Being a mompreneur has big advantages, Hodgdon says.
“I get to work out of my house, fulfill orders 24/7 and at the same time be home for my kids and my family,” she says. “There’s just a lot of flexibility.”
Flexibility is key to being a mompreneur.
With no set office hours or fixed commute, mompreneurs can maintain a strong presence in their families’ lives.
“I just didn’t want to go back,” says Karen Allard, founder and chief executive of SBR Sports Inc. in Santa Ana, recalling how she felt after having her first child. “I wanted to be home, and I knew it was going to be difficult to keep those corporate hours. I wanted to be the mom who took her kids to dance or soccer or whatever.”
Allard’s company makes chlorine-removing shampoos, conditioners and body washes. She previously worked in property management for a real estate development company.
Allard, who now has four kids, started her company in 2004. Like Hodgdon, personal frustration about retail selections played a role in her decision to strike out on her own.
For years, her hair was dry and splitting from her days as a competitive swimmer and triathlete.
Allard used her own money to start the company with three products: the TriSwim shampoo, lotion and body wash. She has since added a conditioner, an anti-fogging wipe and a lubricant for chafing from wetsuits, bike riding and running.
SBR’s products are sold in athletic and beauty stores, as well as some bigger outlets such as Dick’s Sporting Goods on the West Coast.
Sales are in the $600,000 to $700,000 range.
Both Hodgdon and Allard agree they work even harder now.
Both also say it’s worth it for them.
“It’s more rewarding,” Allard says. “To know that success or failure lies in your own hands is a good but scary feeling. How much or how little work you put in shows and you have no one to blame but yourself.”
Hodgon’s husband says she works more hours than he does.
“It all seems to work,” she says. “Who doesn’t get exhausted from a regular job? Just being a mom you’re exhausted.”
For others, such as Pazit Ben-Ezri of Santa Ana’s LulyBoo LLC, being a mom led to becoming a mompreneur.
Ben-Ezri faced typical struggles with her kids, who napped better in strollers and car seats. She decided to create a portable baby lounge for parents to take on the go.
She started LulyBoo in 2008 with the Baby Lounge to Go. The company has added the Park ‘n’ Play Mat and Four Season Blanket.
The products are sold at target.com, babiesrus.com, and other baby and kid shops.
She declined to give a sales figure, but said that revenue has doubled every quarter since she started the business.
A former preschool teacher, Ben-Ezri has three kids.
“When I decided to do this, I said, it’s not going to affect my kids,” she says. “I’m very busy, but when I’m with them, I belong to them, 100%.”
Time management is the hardest part, she says.
“Every minute of my day is mapped out,” Ben-Ezri says. “You have to be extremely organized.”
More products are under way. Ben-Ezri was mum on the details except to say they will continue to target the same customer.
“It’s hard,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not with my kids enough, but the benefit is that I am showing them what it’s like to be a businesswoman.”
The tradeoff has other benefits. The entrepreneurism that comes with a small business means learning the ropes on all sorts of jobs quickly.
“When you take a corporate job, you usually only have a few responsibilities,” says Allard of SBR Sport. “When you are your own boss, generally speaking, you are CEO, CFO, sales, marketing, janitor, warehouse worker—and sometimes babysitter/counselor.”
Gomez is a former Business Journal editor and freelance writer based in Long Beach.