3 Mumpreneurs On The Reality Of Starting A Business With Kids: 'Tiredness Is My Norm'

Their decisions and ambition changed their lives in ways they didn’t expect.
Mykyta Dolmatov via Getty Images

What do you think when you hear the word ‘mumpreneur’? A successful, ambitious, career-driven woman who enviously combines raising kids with running her own business – and takes it all in her stride?

On paper, these women seem to have it all. “I made one million pounds on maternity leave by starting my own business!” the headlines promise, profiling a woman who can transform from being Suzy the homemaker to Suzy the CEO in seconds. But is this a true reflection of a mumpreneur – or an unrealistic goal that’s increasingly hard to aspire to?

We wanted to find out, so HuffPost UK spoke to three mothers who candidly explained why they decided to leave the security of a paid job and start their own business, all while juggling a young family.

These decisions changed their lives in ways they didn’t expect.

‘I Often Get Serious Mum Guilt.’

Shaheen Mahtabuddin, 38, from East London is mum to Chase, seven, Jonah-Tate, four, and Grey, 15 months. She is the owner of French Tip, a nail salon in Loughton, Essex, which opened six months ago.

I’d always dreamed of starting my own business, and when I became a mum I decided to go for it – I was a nail technician and the dream was to have my own salon. I saw it as a way to give my kids financial security in the future.

Two years before I took the leap, I was saving and working full-time. While pregnant with my third daughter, Grey, I took redundancy so had money from that, too. At that time it felt like it was the best option for me. Childcare was getting increasingly expensive – and I reasoned that putting a third child in daycare would’ve been too much of a struggle financially.

Shaheen Mahtabuddin and her three children.
Shaheen Mahtabuddin and her three children.

I knew it was a massive risk giving up my corporate job, but I figured if it didn’t work out, I’d cut my losses and go back to a 9-5. I chose an area that would be easily accessible for me to do the school run, and also where it was common knowledge that women take their beauty treatments seriously. And I went for it.

Since taking the plunge, my daily routine has changed drastically. We drop my oldest off to school and my other two kids come with me to the salon. My clients are understanding and used to seeing the kids in the shop, which I’ve made child-friendly. I’m there full-time, six to seven days a week, sometimes not leaving until after 7pm.

The evenings are when family life kicks in: I cook dinner, settle the kids, and do prep for school the next day. I often don’t get into bed until after midnight.

“The biggest change I’ve noticed is I have virtually no time for myself.”

- Shaheen

The biggest change I’ve noticed is I have virtually no time for myself. I don’t have time to go to the gym; I’m either in salon owner or mum mode. And strangely, even though I made the decision to do this to spend more time with the children, I often get serious mum guilt. Yes, my youngest two are with me daily, but I spend very little quality time with them because I’m there, but I’m not present. I remind myself this difficulty is short-term and once the business is established, it’ll get a lot easier.

My oldest son remembers when I used to work 9-5 and asked me why I left my work to do this as “I’m always busy”. It’s heartbreaking, because he’s too young to understand that I’m doing this for their future. I’m doing this all for my babies. I’m the main bread winner in my family so I’m determined to make this work.

To be honest, because my business is so new I’m seeing little rewards on a financial level. But it’s great I don’t have to send my children to nursery full-time and I do love being my own boss. I know the rewards will come in time.

‘I Have To Be Focused And Use My Time Wisely.’

Kristina Bordas, 39, from Kent is mum to Ariana, three, and Emerson, six months. She is the co-founder of Swave, a personal finance app, two years ago.

Before my kids came along, I had my own business and absolutely loved it. After a few years I chose to return to work – working in investment management in banks. But I promised myself that I’d return to starting another business if the opportunity every came up again. Thankfully it did and I jumped at the chance.

With my first business, I had a tight support network because we were living in London – I could continue to work and attend appointments while someone looked after my daughter. But we moved to Kent, so things were slightly different the second time round.

Kristina Bordas and her two children.
Kristina Bordas and her two children.

Before my son, Emerson, arrived, we built up our business – Swave – really slowly –I was doing most of the work myself. Now with two small children, that extra time is simply not there. Before there were no opportunity costs; if I had an idea, I could mock it up and, in theory, “waste” a whole week on brainstorming, on an idea that could potentially go nowhere.

I don’t have that luxury now. I have to be more focused and use my time wisely, otherwise it will start to encroach on both the business and the family.

It’s tricky, navigating work and family life. What I’ve noticed now is that I only really work when the baby is napping. I have very little time for anything else. But the business is new, and I know this is going to be the hardest time in terms of juggling a family and business. It should get easier once the children get bigger.

I know Ariana, my daughter, enjoys seeing me around and being there to pick her up from nursery, as well as coming to her dance classes with her.

Sometimes I miss the structure of a 9-5. I miss how your work life and family life are two separate entities. When you work from home it tends to a merge and the two worlds inter lap. You never actually switch off from being a boss or a mum.

But there are the positives. Having my own business has given me more financial security and over the course of the working week more time to spend with my family.

‘When My Kids Come In From School, The Laptop Goes Off.’

Kiera Walcott, 22, from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, is mum to Brayden, five, and Elianna, three. She is the founder of Kandor Cosmetics, whic she launched two years ago.

At school, I had severe acne and developed virtiligo. It affected my self-confidence and I ended up leaving school at 15 with no qualifications. I fell pregnant at 16, then moved to Brighton to live with my boyfriend.

During that time I was experimenting with makeup to cover my acne and virtiligo, and started posting before and after pictures on Facebook. I was doing it for myself, but there was a lot of interest in the images. It sparked a business idea to create my own cosmetics range: vegan and cruelty-free makeup that would cover vitiligo and other facial conditions.

Kiera Walcott (right) and her two children.
Kiera Walcott (right) and her two children.

I did some research into starting your own business and applied for a Prince’s Trust Business course. After four weeks, I pitched to the trust for a £4,000 loan to help start my own business – and I was successful.

By this time I was 18 with a child under two and, just as I was about to launch, I find out I was pregnant again. I took a six-month break, had my daughter and continued with my business plan shortly after, launching my brand in 2017. I was 19 and a mum of two children under five.

“When it launched, two years ago, I really didn’t know where it was going to go.”

- Kiera

When the business launched, two years ago, I really didn’t know where it was going to go. It was a scary time juggling it with motherhood – and still can be now. The biggest downside? I don’t have a lot of “me time” – I have long days, my stress levels are high and tiredness has become my norm.

But I see it like this: if I was working a 9-5 for an employer and I wanted time off to spend time with my kids, I would have to ask for it. Now, I plan my work around term times to make sure I’m with them. I love being my own boss and the freedom that working from home gives me.

My extended family have been very supportive – especially if I need to go somewhere work-related. When my kids come in from school or nursery, the laptop goes off and I get to spend a lot of time with them.

I started a business with a small family because I felt I had nothing to lose. And, for a business that has only been running for two years, I can proudly say I’m getting positive results at a steady pace. It’s a great feeling providing for my family doing something I really enjoy – and also helping other people.\

As told to Michelle Martin.