Starting a new business isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, but for single mom entrepreneurs the path to business ownership and growth is littered with additional challenges. Already women face more hurdles in securing funding, gender bias issues, and work-life balance problems than men. Single moms are, by definition, almost always a team of one. And even if you’re co-parenting, the challenges moms face in general are typically exacerbated manyfold.
Did you know that the entrepreneurial activity rate in the US is only 13.6%, compared to 50% in Latin America and roughly 37% in Canada? Yes, launching and growing a business is a tough job, but you decided to do it!
So why do moms launch themselves into business? Nearly 70% say they’re attracted to the flexibility it gives them, with the ability to set their own hours and possibly work from home being the main factors. Now that you’re committed to wearing the single mom entrepreneur hat in addition to the many others already firmly situated on your head, let’s jump into how to launch and grow your business.
First things first.
Create a clear plan
Ask yourself: “How do I make money with my chosen business?”
Start by creating a business plan. This is one of the most important documents you’ll need to secure funding, and to remind you over time what your original goals and strategies were, keeping you on track. Determine where and how you’ll spend your budget and plan your finances. Learn where the perfect location is to sell your products/services and who your customers are.
Make it plain and write it down
Ask yourself: “How do I convince the bank and investors that my plan is profitable?”
Don’t just let the ideas bounce around in your head where they’re here today, gone tomorrow. Grab a pen and write it all down! In fact, if you need funding for your business, you must write down a clear and concise presentation for your investors. The good news is that there are plenty of free templates available online to use as your guide. Let them know how and when their investment in your new company will bear fruit, project at what point your business will likely become profitable, and when you’ll be able to repay the loan.
Set strong goals with deadlines
Ask yourself: “What’s my next step?”
As moms, we know nothing can grow without nurturing. Likewise, a business can’t thrive if you start it and leave it. Keep a close eye on your expenses and profits, keep meticulous records, educate yourself, and invest your time. Approach your new business with discipline and determination.
Ask yourself: “When do I want goal XYZ to be accomplished?”
Work out a doable, but aggressive, timeline for your goals. When will I be ready for my first customer? When is opening day? By what day will I have earned my first $5,000; my first $20,000; my first $100,000? When will I need and hire my first employee?
Remind yourself of your mini-goals and their timeline daily.
Know what your idea of success is
Ask yourself: “How do I know if my business is thriving?”
It’s important to be able to measure your success. Prosperity can be defined in many ways— gross profit and net profit are the main financial indications of success. However, you’d also want to ask yourself if you’re satisfied with the number of customers whose needs you’re catering to and the lives you’re changing. Most importantly, ask yourself if you and your kids are happy with the life you’re living
Determine what kind of schedule you can accommodate while also raising your children
Ask yourself: “How can I ensure my children remain my priority?”
Raising children while also growing a business is a conundrum many single moms face. We work for our children to grow up graciously but we also need to ensure our business grows consistently. Create a schedule that allows time for your children. If additional work hours are needed, try to squeeze them in while the kids are sleeping. Remember to keep commitments made to your kids and set aside time spent exclusively with them. Stick to your schedule even when it’s difficult, remain involved in your children’s lives, and stay present.
Choose your business model
Ask yourself: “What am I offering and what is the value I bring to the table?”
Will you be selling a product? A service? A subscription? Will you sell to other businesses (B2B) or the end consumer (B2C)? These are all important questions to ask, then drill down into detailed answers. Define your brand with in-depth consideration of the business model you’ll subscribe to, then work out a thoughtful vision and mission statement.
Personally, I’m a firm believer in the mantra “Sell it before you build it”. Why? Because the approach facilitates growth, even when you’re not sure you want to sell – ever. Don’t be afraid to take your idea to market with just a few key buyers. Get their feedback up front, and make important decisions and transitions even before your company is fully operational.
The difference between a customer and a client
Ask yourself: “How does my business fit into the market?”
Simply put: If you’re selling a product (i.e. a tangible item), you’ll be selling to customers. If you’re selling a service, you’re selling to clients. There are some nuances that blur the line a bit as you may explore certain levels of luxury and VIP service, generally speaking, this is the simplest way to remember the difference.
Lawyers, accountants, real estate agents…they all cater to clients. This business model is built on customization. Retail stores and restaurants, on the other hand, cater to their customers.
Know your budget
Ask yourself: “How much money can I spend on this business?”
Proper budgeting is crucial in your personal life, but possibly even more so in business. It is tempting to spend money on every little detail in the excitement of launching your new company – after all, you want it to be perfect. Consider, however, if it wouldn’t be wiser to set some funds aside for future growth and forgo the expensive office furniture and state-of-the-art computers for the time being, until you’re on more solid ground. Carefully weigh all expenses and be meticulous about recording them. Regularly review outs vs. ins to ensure you’re not overspending on unnecessary equipment or subscriptions.
Also be careful on how you spend your marketing dollars. There are a gazillion platforms and options available, but not all of them are right for every business. Clever, unscrupulous marketing agencies can rope you into major ad spends that turn out to be ineffective – do your homework! If you need expert advice with your marketing strategy, ask around for a trusted marketing agency that has built a good rapport with its clients.
Keep your books
Ask yourself: “How do I go about recording my profits and expenses?”
Know your numbers. Single mom entrepreneurs, like all entrepreneurs, need a basic understanding of bookkeeping to document your business transactions. Use ledgers and journals. Research how to make balance sheets, write down your income statements, and don’t forget to plan for taxes. Be your own accountant, learn how to audit, and understand taxation while your business is still in the start-up phase. It will be more difficult to keep track of it once it grows— your knowledge will protect your business and investors from cases like theft and fraud.
Build your business to sell it
Ask yourself: “How can I ensure my business becomes as profitable as possible?”
Wait…I’m barely starting my business and you’re telling me I should consider selling it?
Not at all. You may wish to keep and grow your business for decades without dreaming of ever giving it up. You may even hope that your kids could take it over someday.
What I mean here is that you should build your business as if you will sell it someday (even if you don’t). Meaning you should always keep the following in the back of your mind:
- How would an outsider who is interested in buying my company view my business?
- How would my company perform in a valuation?
- Are the books in order?
- What is the debt-to-revenue ratio?
- Is my business trusted by clients/customers?
- What is my business reputation?
- Would another owner keep my employees because they are good producers?
- Would I take a loss on my inventory if I were to sell today?
- Do I have a competitive pricing-model?
- Do I have an effective marketing plan?
- Can I explain what my business does with ease?
These and many other questions, from the perspective of a potential buyer, will help keep you on track to make the most of your company. Then, if or when the day should come that you do want to sell, you’ll be well-positioned to obtain the best price for the business you worked so hard to build.
Single mom entrepreneurs are warriors
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication, time, resources, and not just a little amount of grit. It also offers great opportunities to moms in general, and single moms in particular, with financial independence, personal fulfillment, and a somewhat flexible lifestyle topping the list.
Make 2023 your year! Here’s to business success!
Neferteri Plessy is a trailblazer for mom entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders. A sought-after motivational speaker, Neferteri has coached over 5,000 women into living their best life now. As the founder and CEO of Single Moms Planet, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit, she has developed programming, events and resources which have not only uplifted and inspired thousands of mothers, but also celebrated their amazing achievements. She is the creator of the “Smart Mommy” brand, a global movement that educates mothers in business. Neferteri has been featured in The Huffington Post, BBC News, MSN Lifestyle, KIIS FM, and the cover of LA Weekly.
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