It was just over 10 years ago, in September of 1996, that authors Ellen Parlapiano and Patricia Cobe released their first MompreneursÂ® bookâ€”catapulting work-at-home mothers into the spotlight, and coining and trademarking the catchy word â€œmompreneursâ€� to describe entrepreneurial moms. As work-at-home moms themselves (both were home-based writers/consultants raising young children), Parlapiano and Cobe decided to pen the book when they couldnâ€™t find anything on the market addressing the special needs of mothers running businesses from home. â€œWherever we wentâ€”whether to the playground or the supermarketâ€”other moms would ask how we did it,â€� says Parlapiano. â€œSo we decided to write our own how-to book about starting and running a business from a motherâ€™s perspective.â€�
That first book, MompreneursÂ®: A Motherâ€™s Practical, Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-Home Success (Perigee, 1996), caught the attention of the media, landing the authors on Oprah, Good Morning America and several other national shows. It also led to follow-up books and a five-year stint as featured MompreneursÂ® experts on iVillage.com, where the authors dispensed home business advice.
Today, Cobe and Parlapiano offer support and advice at their own website, MompreneursOnline.com ( www.mompreneursonline.com ), which features message boards, articles, and a unique MompreneursÂ® Marketplace showcasing mom-owned businesses. They are recognized by the media as the go-to experts when the topic is work-from-home moms. Last month, Parlapiano offered tips on The CBS Early Showâ€™s three-part series about women entrepreneurs, which also highlighted two MompreneursOnline community members, Ester LaPollo of MamaAfrika (www.mamaafrika.com) and Kathie Papera of Lilypad Baby (www.lilypadbaby.com).
MompreneurÂ® Trends 2007
With their fingers on the pulse of the mompreneurÂ® movement, the authors have noticed many exciting trends that will make it easier for todayâ€™s mothers to launch their own enterprises:
â—�Technology makes working from home easier than ever! â€œThe Web provides a gateway to careers that were practically unheard of when we wrote our first book,â€� says Cobe, citing examples like e-tailing, personal coaching, online tutoring and virtual assistants (who provide office support services via the Web). Even lawyers, bankers, nurses, teachers and other professionalsâ€”who would have been hard-pressed to find work-at-home jobs in their specialties 10 years agoâ€”are carving out all kinds of interesting career niches, without having to switch professions. Attorneys are running advocacy websites for special-ed students, travel specialists launch online agencies, former Spanish teachers help preschoolers become bilingual, and public policy experts run thriving consulting businesses. With high-tech tools like blogs and podcasts, mompreneurs are able to reach a wider audience without leaving the comfort of their homes.
â—�Mothers of invention are creating new niches. Todayâ€™s creative moms are inventing gadgets and safety products that solve problems theyâ€™ve discovered in their own family lives. For example, after running out of space to display her childrenâ€™s artwork, Suzy Fanning, of Plymouth, Michigan, created MacKenzie Kids Art Files (www.mackenziekids.net), a smart storage and display system. The designer of the Stowers Swaddler swaddling blanket (www.stowersswaddler.com), was inspired by her own experience as a mom and a labor-delivery nurse to create a swaddling blanket with a pocket and Velcro closures. The Web makes it easy for enterprising moms to research patents, trademarks and other legalities with the click of a mouse.
â—�Moms want to make a difference. â€œWe are seeing a big increase in cause-related companiesâ€”businesses with a social conscience,â€� says Parlapiano. For example, Mama Afrika (www.mamaafrika.com) is an online business that benefits African women and children. It was founded by Ester LaPollo, a Lompac, California mom who sells African crafts and specialties on her site, and donates a portion of her proceeds back to the African countries.
â—�Funding is easier to find. Though mompreneursÂ® still tend to rely on savings accounts and credit cards for start-up expenses, grants and low-interest loans are more accessible, if you know where to look. Great resources include: Count Me In (www.count-me-in.org) and Accion USA (www.accionusa.com). Also check local small business development centers and womenâ€™s networking groups to see if they can recommend potential lenders. The Make Mine a $Million BusinessÂ® contest, sponsored by Count-Me-In and American Express Open helps moms grow their businesses through monetary support, mentoring, marketing and technology tools. (Enter at www.makemineamillion.org). One of the 2006 winners was Renee Wood, founder of The Comfort Company ( www.thecomfortcompany.net ), an online retailer of condolence gifts, and a charter member of MompreneursOnline.com. â€œIt was so gratifying to watch Renee get the opportunity to take her business to that million dollar level,â€� says Cobe, who was in the audience cheering when Renee won.
â—�Work-from-home moms are now getting the respect they deserve! With about half a million moms running their own businesses, entrepreneurial mothers are finally being taken seriously by the â€œtraditionalâ€� work world. Corporations often hire work-from-home moms as consultants, and mompreneursÂ® find they no longer have to keep motherhood a secret. Moms are on a mission to attain more family flexibility and have proven that they can successfully run a business and family under the same roof. They are confident and capable. â€œItâ€™s not about opting out, itâ€™s about creating new options,â€� says Parlapiano.