Mumpreneur: Positive or Negative?

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Having written last week about being a Mum and working flexibly around your family, I have been thinking about the term “Mumpreneur”.  I know that the term made it into the OED at the end of last year and that this caused a bit of a debate to arise.  There are many who seem to find the term derogatory, and yet since becoming a Mum and considering my options with regard to working around my family, I have also seen the term used positively by many individuals, communities and companies.

So, what’s the debate all about?

The first post I read, the one that made me think about this at all in fact, was a post by Lynn Harris.  Her perspective is that the term Mompreneur (she is writing for the American audience, hence “Mom”) is often used to patronise and belittle the achievements of women in business. “let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different and diminutive connotation.” I’ll be honest; I hadn’t really considered this.  I am in awe of women who successfully have a family and run a business.  I find the idea of working for myself and doing it around my commitments to my family a really beguiling one.  But then I am one of the “other mothers who are prepared to salute and support”. I hadn’t thought about those who might not.  Those who might use the term to suggest that you were somehow not as serious about your job as a proper entrepreneur, after all you don’t hear of many men being called Dadpreneurs; men are entrepreneurs with a family.

So I searched about a bit and it seems that there are many people who subscribe to the same thoughts as Lynn Harris. Jen Walshaw of Mum in the Madhouse says that the term suggests that “not only do we often run a home, but in between it all we manage to do a little work” Rebecca Jones of Business in Red Shoes says that she has “asked men and women in business what they think and the majority worry that it implies they are a mum first and business comes second”, suggesting that the term may be “hindering their business appeal for those who worry their role as a mum will interfere with their abilities as a business woman.”  If this is the perception, then how come so many women in business do use and associate with the term?

I emailed Erica Douglas of littlemummy.com.  She is one half of Become a Mumpreneur, so I assumed that she must be able to tell me something positive about the term!  I saw Erica and her partner Antonia Chitty speak at the Business and Baby Show 2011 and have taken e-courses both via littlemummy and BAM, they are certainly using the term Mumpreneur to connect with their target market and seem to be encouraging women to embrace the term and use it to move themselves forward as both Mums and business women.

Erica’s response was very interesting.  She said that “a Mumpreneur is someone who has gone into business because they are a mum.” She also highlighted the sense of community that there can be with the term Mumpreneur “I think there are many mums in business who do identify with the term, and for them it gives them a group or ‘tribe’ to feel a part of and gain support from.”  Interestingly, Erica says that she feels that the term Mumpreneur only describes one stage of business and that there comes a time when your business and lifestyle move past this title; where children become less dependent.  This ties in with Rebecca Jones’ point.  Perhaps women who identify with the term are women who do put their family first and their business second?  I personally would see this as a strength in many ways, although I can see Rebecca’s point that as a client I may be less forgiving.

I suppose overall the key thing is that the term Mumpreneur can be useful if you identify with it, if your clientele identify with it in a positive manner and if it says the right things about you and your business.  It is not a useful term if it is applied to you in a pejorative way as a means of suggesting that you are not as good at your job as others who are not ‘distracted’ by family.  For me, one sentence stood out in Erica Douglas’ email and it was this “If I decide I’m going to do something then no terminology in the world will stop me aspiring to that.”

So, women who work for yourselves and have a family, keep aspiring to be the best you possibly can; refer to yourselves in whatever way you wish and do not be limited by language.

R

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24 thoughts on “Mumpreneur: Positive or Negative?

    Sarah said:
    January 16, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Seems to me that any word can be used as an insult, it just depends on the view of the speaker and the context of the words.

    What is important is how a mum sees herself. If ‘mumpreneur’ empowers her then that’s all to the good, but if she feels it belittles what she does then she won’t recognise it as a label.

    DaddyNatal said:
    January 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I know this will end up being long comment so bear with me 🙂 I have seen this arguement go on for months now and I always come back to same thing.

    I won Dadpreneur of year at Mumpreneur awards last year and was extremely proud, I regard both myself as a Dadpreneur and Steph who runs Bump Birth and Beyond as a Mumpreneur.

    Why? Simple we started our businesses because of the birth of our children, as it happens our businesses are about support expectant and new parents, but this I dont think is relevant to the term.

    If I am honest I dont care what other people think about terms we use or labels we apply to ourselves as they are for us. That is what labels are all about they are about identity, we all worry far to much about what other people think, what is important is how do you see yourself, do you feel Mumpreneur fits your ethos or beliefs, if it does brilliant wear that badge with pride. Doesnt feel right for you? Still great dont use it.

    I think all we need to do is be true to ourselves dont use a term because its the in thing or seems to be popular, if you do that, what will you do when it goes out of vogue? Decide who you are and go with that, if your life changes then change your badge.

    It doesnt matter what others think, any description can be positive and negative depending on how someone chooses to use it, the inference they place on it.

    Even the word Good can be used as a positive or with right tone can be dripping in sarcasm and a negative. People are brilliant and being negative, and all you need to do is question their motivation for doing so.

    I made the mistake of questioning someones use of the term CEO, now I regret that, it had nothing to do with me and what right did I have to put doubt into their minds about using the term?

    Sorry for ramble hope make sense 🙂

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 16, 2012 at 9:56 am

      It makes a lot of sense. I can see how the terms Dadpreneur and Mumpreneur really fit with your business as a whole and therefore are very positive terms for you.

    Rebecca_Jones (@RedShoeBizWoman) said:
    January 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Hello all
    I just thought I would pop in and say hello and add some of my own points here, hope no one minds.

    If your business is selling to other mums and dads then possibly this is an acceptable term for you. However if you want to attract other customers, maybe corporate clients for example, then I believe the term Mumpreneur may not be such a good idea. That’s my view and may not be everyone’s view.

    I do still feel you should call yourself what you feel comfortable with but also consider what your client base would also feel comfortable with. I actually don’t like the way we are now using the word entrepreneur to describe a business owner. I have always felt an entrepreneur was someone who has several businesses and takes various risks (Richard Branson types) . I have several businesses of my own but still call myself a business owner as I don’t feel comfortable with the term entrepreneur. That’s my choice and my opinion and you all have your own, that’s what makes business and life great the fact we all have our own ideas and views.

    I do work with lots of women in business (as well as men) and many of them are mum’s (or dads) some start their business when they have the children young others the children come along after the business is established. I think the most important point is to build and grow a business which suits you, your family and lifestyle and your customers. It makes for a great business and happy business owner.

    Hope thats added some more thoughts to the discussion.

    Rebecca
    http://www.businessinredshoes.co.uk

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

      Thank you for your comments. I read your original post with interest. I think you are right that the most important thing is that you are entitled your own opinion and you have to create a business that works for you and your clients. If Mumpreneur adds something to your business than that’s brilliant, but it is also not something that will suit everyone.

    Mandy Garner said:
    January 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I agree with both the comments above. It is up to the individual what they want to be called and there are strengths, as you point out, to feeling part of a particular community and if you feel the term emphasises that family comes first. However, I can also see the point of view of people who think it belittles women’s business achievements as everyone gets lumped in together, whether they are just setting up a business on the side of family to get extra cash or are multi-millionaires employing many staff. We try to talk about women in business and use the term mumpreneur only if people feel happy describing themselves as such. I think it was also an easy term used by the media and others to denote a new phenomenon – the rise of women balancing children and business, which is very interesting in itself and raises lots of questions. Is it because they ca’t get the flexibility they need in regular jobs or do the jobs they can do flexibly not challenge them enough or are there a lot of people out there with entrepreneurial skills who don’t use them until they absolutely need to?

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

      A very good point. How many flexible working options are there? Thank you taking the time to comment.

    Littlesheep (@Littlesheep) said:
    January 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I have mixed feelings about the word (and blogged about it http://www.littlesheep-learning.co.uk/blog/2011/mumpreneur/ )… My products are aimed at parents and families so I don’t think it is a negative term from a customer perspective – I am a small family business and hopefully give that personal touch I’m not a big corporation or dealing with big corporations, my business fits around my life and not the other way round and I started it because I became a parent so that ticks the boxes that Erica suggests… but like Rebecca the bit I struggle with is the entrepeneur bit as my business doesn’t fit with my understanding of what it really means to be an entrepreneur… that said of course I engage with the mumpreneur community and marketing – I’d be daft not to as these groups are are easier to network with as they are aimed at women like me juggling my business and my children.

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      So perhaps it’s a marketing term that has become a catch-all term for Mums who work when in fact it only applies to certain sectors?

    DaddyNatal said:
    January 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I find this all interesting as I think part of the problem is what do we think entrepreneur means. The basic definition is as follows, 3 examples given

    A person starting a new company who takes on the risks associated with starting the enterprise, which may require venture capital to cover start-up cost

    Someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it

    An entrepreneur is an owner or manager of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative.

    Now if we talk about adding Mum or Dad to that surely we are only placing a gender on that description? What is negative in that?

    I see many comments saying, yes but what about your clients? Your clients dont care what label you have, they care about Service, Value for money, expertise and other keying buying criteria.

    I have never seen someone saying sorry didn’t buy from you because you call yourself a mumpreneur, and this regardless of the market sector you are operating in. I will always support home grown business where possible choosing them over big business.

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      I hope that you are right, but fear that some do judge. I think it may matter what sector you’re in and whether you’re dealing with big business or individuals. Once you have been given a go, I agree it’s about service and quality, but some prejudice may mean you never get to prove these things. That said, there are people who judge all things…

    MotherWifeMe said:
    January 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Hello, great article and some really interesting comments to follow as well, glad I stopped by. I have to say I hadn’t ever considered ‘Mumpreneur’ to be a negative term, but having said that, I am now up and running with my own writing business – early, early days – and I have never described myself anywhere as a Mumpreneur. It is certainly not because I have avoided using the term. I am always first in queue to read up about anything on being a Mumpreneur and I think that women who make successful business whilst being around for their children are to be applauded. Maybe it says something about society as a whole that a term with ‘mum’ in it is seen as such a negative.

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      We’re glad you stopped by too! Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is interesting that a mother – someone we all have and all need – can be turned into a negative at all.

    Kelly Menzies said:
    January 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Mumpreneur and proud 🙂 Well at least I was until I started reading your blogs and comments!!! You have me thinking now and the Dan Kennedy book (No B.S Business Success – which I highly recommend) confirms that image is very important. At the end of the day we are in business to get results and make money so we need to think very carefully of the market we are serving.

    Thanks for a great blog.

    Kelly

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 20, 2012 at 9:56 am

      I think that if the term connects with what you do and why and how you do it, as well as with your target market, then it’s worth using. 🙂

    Maja Pawinska Sims (@pinchypants) said:
    January 23, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Great post. Really thought-provoking. I don’t have any problem with the term mumpreneur at all. I’ve been a freelance writer since before having children, so I’ve just modified my hours around naps, then nursery and pre-school and school, and to be honest I rarely think of myself as a professional running a business. But I have always thought that being your own boss is the only way to make being a working mum, well, work. I like the positive idea that you become a mum(or dad)preneur *because* you are a parent, not as a compromise.

    morethanamummy responded:
    January 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I think you’re right flexible working around children is often most successful if you work for yourself. Glad you’ve got things running well for you and your family. 🙂

    Actually Mummy... said:
    January 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    This is really interesting. I took a course recently with Erica and I must admit it hasn’t occurred to me before, but would I tell other people I’m a Mumpreneur – no, thinking about it I wouldn’t. And not because I don’t put my family first. What parent doesn’t? But then I wouldn’t call myself an entrepreneur either – I am just someone with a family and my own business, both are extrememly important 🙂 Thanks for linking this up to the Love Mummy Blogs showcase – it’s an interesting one.

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Glad you found it interesting. I hadn’t considered the negatives until I stumbled upon a few other posts. As with any terminology, there are ways of manipulating it for good and bad.

    Helen Neale said:
    January 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I am sure I shall weigh in on this one in my own time on my blog – but I started my business six months ago; it was started, as Erica says, because I am a mum. It fits around my life (ish!) and actually relates to parenting.

    I don’t have a problem with the term as, personally, it gives me a wonderful sense of belonging and support to know that there are other mums, and dads out there who are experiencing similar challenges to me. Just as any new small business owner joins their “tribe” as you put it of companies in their start-up phase, I joined mine of mums who have been in business for a while, or are, like me just starting out.

    The support from other “mumpreneurs” that I have received has been truly wonderful. And I would call myself one, but perhaps with a little glint in the eye. I would rather be know as a successful business woman in all honestly, but don’t feel that the two are mutually exclusive.

    The network support that “being a mumpreneur” brings, more than outways the negatively surrounding the term (or at least it does for me).

    P.S. Found you on the LoveAllBlogs showcase – hello!

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Thank you for your comments. Glad you found us – though we’re on the move, so keep your eyes peeled! I think that the support network of the Mumpreneur community seems to be such a wonderful thing for many people just starting out that it does indeed outweigh any negativity for the term – at least at the start. Perhaps as you grow, or in other circles, the term may be less useful, but who says we have to have just one label? 🙂

    Kathryn said:
    January 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I personally love the term and use it for myself and also market my services to working mums and mum-preneurs, I don’t see it as belittling but imagine some would. Let’s embrace our identity with mums and be amazed and proud at ourselves for being successful business women AND mums!

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