Pushing Past Roadblocks: The Inspiring Journey of a Mumpreneur

Starting a side-gig while balancing a full-time job and being a mum (to 2 highly spirited kids) can be insanely hectic, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. As working mum who has made plenty of assumptions, mistakes and learnings through the process of launching a side-gig, I’ve put together a list of things I wish I knew before launching my side-hustle: Hackerlily.

I’m on a mission to help more mums take that leap, start that side-gig or delve head first into a business or project they’ve been dreaming of. You don’t need to have everything worked out, you don’t need to know all the steps – just take the first step towards your goals and your feet will follow. I hope that some of these tips will help you avoid some common pitfalls and maximise your success, happiness and fulfilment.

Before you do anything – Get support. Find your people. Join communities

Starting a side gig can be a pretty lonely and isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. I worked remotely by myself for a few months and found that it wasn’t a very or enjoyable or sustainable enjoyable experience. I needed connection with more than just a computer screen.

There are so many communities for business owning women and mums across Australia. You can find inspiration, support, mentoring, advice, courses, training, feedback and human connection through these groups.

My favourites are: Ausmumpreneur, Mums & Co, One Roof, She-com and the facebook group: Likeminded Bitches Drinking wine.

Don’t be shy, reach out to other mums in your local area who are running businesses in your same niche. Having a support system and network will help you stay motivated and will help you troubleshoot everyday challenges that can cause bottlenecks. Sometimes you just need to validate your own ideas with another business mum that you respect.

Set realistic expectations and be kind to yourself

One of the most important things to keep in mind when launching a side gig is that you need to set realistic expectations on the actual time you can commit to. And you need to account for unexpected appointments, mishaps and sick kids. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a new business, but it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be so hard on yourself and be sure to celebrate all those mini wins along the way.

In the first 16 months leading up to launch of the Hipsurfer hipseat baby carrier, I punished myself for consistently missing my own made up deadlines for marketing, branding, website and prototyping. It was just so unnecessary and I wish I had gotten a little more sleep instead of staying up late and being less productive on deadlines that didn’t really exist. 

Learn by doing. Invest in knowledge

Sounds like a bit of a paradox right. It is and isn’t ;-P

When I experienced pain carrying my kids and came up with the idea of the HipSurfer, I had no idea where to start with finding a manufacturer, prototyping, designing and bringing my idea to life as an actual physical, real world product. 

While breastfeeding my son Lincoln and scrolling on my phone I came across the Foundr course called Start and Scale with Greta Van Riel. It was $1200. A big investment that I was umming and arring about. I thought, It’s now or never, so I bit the bullet and immediately enrolled while high on oxytocin.

The step-by-step modules walked me through all the stages of coming up with an idea, validating the idea, developing a business plan, brand and customer avatar through to how to find a manufacturer, what do you write to them, how do you qualify them and engage them. And of course marketing, community building and e-commerce fundamentals was a big part of this. 

Once I had these fundamentals in place I just got to work and started learning as I took each next step. There were a lot of fumbles along the way but many of those I believe I just had to learn by doing and I am so much better off for it now. If you are planning on selling your product or service online I highly recommend joining E-commerce communities like She-com

Supplier partnerships are everything – invest in building genuine relationships

Avoid headaches and heartaches by getting your suppliers, vendors and manufacturers on your side and aligned to your vision. As the washable and interchangeable covers of the HipSurfer are a world first (you can effectively change up your look without changing your carrier), it took me a while to find a manufacturer who was willing to invest time and resource into designing a new product with a very small and unknown business

I narrowed down about 10 possible manufacturers across 7 different countries, down to the 1 partner who was the most communicative, asked a lot of questions and was eager to learn more about my vision and goals. My manufacturer supplies products to well known international and local retailers, so I knew I was in good hands. 

I focussed on building a fantastic relationship with their sales department (asking about their family and how they spent their weekend, joking around a bit to build emotional connection). I managed to finalise the prototype after 8 rounds and a tonne of key learnings about sewing, tailoring, manufacturing and fabric printing. They were so helpful in questioning my decisions and suggesting better ways to approach a solution.

The HipSurfer now comes in 2 different colour variations on the base and 7 different cover patterns (I’ll be expanding on this through the year with local mum designers). I’m so happy with the final output which perhaps wouldn’t have been possible if I had have selected another manufacturer or if I didn’t build a close relationship with them 

Start small and build slowly

It can be tempting to try and do everything at once, but starting small and building slowly is a much more sustainable approach. Don’t try to launch your business with a full product line or a complicated website. Instead, start with one product or service and focus on getting it right. Once you have a solid foundation and a stack of key learnings and insights –  you can start to expand and grow.

Production of the HipSurfer stalled for a few months because of Covid and so (being the impatient person I am) I started producing other parenting products like nappy backpacks and change mats. In hindsight, these products aren’t exactly complementary to the HipSurfer. I didn’t think too seriously about how they aligned with the brand and business strategy. Even though they are gorgeous, so comfortable and practical – they are a little removed from the actual hero product. These separate products now require a lot more effort in planning, marketing, material creation and website updates. Urghh. In hindsight I should have focussed more on accessories specifically for the HipSurfer, and not products that are unrelated and highly competitive in the parenting market.

You’ve just gotta be organised. If being organised isn’t in your DNA – learn how to be.

Being organised is absolutely critical to maintaining your sanity, given everything you are juggling between the full-time job, parenting, and the evolving side gig (which tends to snowball to be bigger than you expected at the outset). Create recurring calendar invitations to yourself, blocking out windows for admin, sales, client serving, marketing, accounting, meditation, exercise, alone time etc. This acts as your to-do list each week so you don’t miss the important stuff that is important for your personal wellbeing and you know, staying alive.

Set specific goals and ideal deadlines for your side-gig and make sure you’re prioritising your tasks based on what’s most important. Do the most important in the morning before you get side tracked. Put your phone away – in another room. You can do it. 

Look after yourself mama!

Launching a side-gig takes up a lot more time than you initially planned. Because you are so passionate about it, it will take up your mind space even when you are not working on it.

It’s so important to just take some time each day to be away from your phone. To sit with yourself or to do some exercise or meditation (Just 5-10 minutes will make an impact, I promise you).  Remember that you can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re burnt out and exhausted.

If you are considering a side gig but you are worried about all the work or you don’t have all the answers. Just take the first step. Join all the women and mums in business groups and ask all the questions you may think are silly (I promise they are not). Set ambitious yet realistic expectations (especially if you have babies or toddlers), start small, focus on your strengths, be insanely well organised, ask for support and look after you!! You got this. I got your back – if you want to reach out to ask any questions, please go for it – I would love to help, support and cheer you on.