As women enter the workforce in greater and greater numbers, mothers of minor children make up a growing percentage of American workers. Today 47 percent of US workers are women, according to the US Labor Department, and 70 percent of mothers with minor children participate in the labor force.
For the past two decades more women have taken the entrepreneurship plunge in virtually every business category. With more moms participating in the labor force it’s no small wonder that moms seek out work alternatives that offer greater flexibility to balance work and family life. Every year more moms are turning to entrepreneurship to help find this balance. This development, called “mompreneurship,” is becoming more evident among local businesses.
Most mompreneurships begin as small, one-person shops that, with passion, blossom and grow. Some moms start a business because they need extra income to support a family, as was the case with Vonda Lee’s California Cheesecakes in a Cup, which you may have seen at the Carlsbad Farmers’ Market. Lee began her business in her home state of Oklahoma, when she was a single mom trying to support herself and her two small children, while also working other jobs. Back then she returned from work and began baking her cheesecakes in her home oven at night, then delivered them to vendors in the morning. Sleep was a stranger.
After moving to California she worked a job for a while, then after a health challenge she revived her business.“I decided I wanted to do what I wanted to do and started baking cheesecakes full time,” Lee says.
The challenges were great, because she couldn’t create her blueberry, English toffee and chocolate chunk Cheesecakes in a Cup at home. She needed a health certificate and had to work in a commercial kitchen. And she had to figure all that out herself by researching online.
But hard work has resulted in success, and Lee employs three people to help make and deliver her products. Lee recently took the business wholesale and today you can find California Cheesecakes in a Cup at four farmers markets and ten retail outlets. And now that her kids have grown, Lee can work her schedule around her grandchild.
Sarah Davis started her online business, Fashionphile, as a law student to help pay her school expenses. Today Fashionphile employs more than 100 people, operates showrooms in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, and is about to open one in New York City. Fashionphile also operates a distribution center in the Carlsbad Research Center.
It all started in Davis’ home in 1999 with the crazy idea of selling preowned designer handbags and has expanded to include 7,000 merchandise listings on www.fashionphile.com. “I started selling on eBay before there was PayPal,” Davis recalled. At the time Davis and her husband already had one child, and they would soon have two. The business picked up, and Davis never practiced law. “The business was too much fun,” Davis recalled, and too successful to quit. “I was loving selling on eBay and I could do it wherever and whenever I wanted. It worked with the kids.”
As the business grew Davis sought professional advice and was told that to cope with the growth she would have to hire people. And that is a piece of advice she would pass on to prospective mompreneurs today.“If you have an idea that’s working, hire someone to do the things you can hire away,” Davis says. “I loved the creative part of developing a brand and a culture,” Davis said, which she still does.
Davis encourages anyone with a business idea to take advantage of online tools to try it. “If you have an idea, a passion, you can test it out online through marketing platforms before you quit your job or rent space and buy a cash register,” she says. “It’s possible to start out in a way that’s not disruptive.” And once the business begins to take off, “you get a rush out of the work you’re doing,” she says.
Today Fashionphile and California Cheesecakes in a Cup are two of 11.6 million women-owned businesses which employ 9 million workers and generate $1.7 trillion in revenue for the US economy.
And as mompreneurs, they have control. “I have the flexibility to do whatever I want – work my schedule around kids’ activities,” Davis says. “As an entrepreneur, you have more freedom.”