Maine Mompreneurs – Part 2
Running a business is adventure enough. But what about juggling it with the responsibilities of raising a family?That’s what mompreneurs do – mothers who are also entrepreneurs.It’s a challenge some Maine moms are willing to take on.The result is also a boost to the local economy.Amber Small and Kathryn Ravenscraft are more than just good friends sharing a laugh. They’re also partners sharing a business. Sweetest Thing Weddings in downtown Bangor was born seven years ago when Amber, then a mother of three, started to go a little stir crazy – and her husband stepped in. “He came home one day and said, congratulations. You’re the CEO of Sweetest Thing Weddings and you’re going to be in a wedding show Saturday. Now get out of the house!”As Amber’s family has grown to four children, so has her passion for wedding and event planning. Which is why she and Ravenscraft partnered in the business about two years ago and opened their own storefront.Ravenscraft says, “Kind of like Amber, I wasn’t completely satisfied with being a stay-at-home mom. Not that it can’t be fulfilling and not that it didn’t fulfill a part of me.”With six children between the two of them, their professional lives often require personal adjustments.”There are days when me and Kathryn are like, we can’t be in the studio today and we do what we need to do on our ipads, in our pj’s with the kids at the house running around,” says Small.Ravenscraft says, “We have play dates – for us it’s a meeting, for the kids, it’s a play date. So I think in general there is the flexibility that both of us need.”What’s working for Small and Ravenscraft is also working for the economy. “In a state like Maine, which is a small business state, I think they’re absolutely crucial to economic development,” says Jason Harkins, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at UMaine.”From an economic standpoint, they generate a lot of revenue, they offer lots of opportunity for people to make money and earn a living and ideally employ a couple of other people.”But Harkins say mom-made businesses are not all about money.”It allows them to be responsive to the needs of their family. That is indeed the single biggest selling point for a lot of mompreneurs, that they can put family first.”Harkins says it also keeps women, who could be strictly stay-at-home moms, in the workforce.”You can’t let those skills lapse for five years, six years in the modern economy. You would come back and you wouldn’t be employable at the same level you were when you left the workforce.”Harkins say the biggest challenge to the success of mompreneurs is time management. Small agrees. “Not answering the phone at dinner time and making the choice when it’s homework time to set the emails aside and that give and take.”But Small and Ravenscraft says its worth it for a job that gives them the fulfillment they want and the balance their families need. “I pick my kids up at 3 o’clock and I’m done,” says Ravenscraft. “I may pick up the laptop at eight when they’re in bed, but I get done at 3 pm, it’s mom time now.”"There’s no discussion about kids coming first, that’s all unspoken,” says Small, “because we’re in the same place so we know that our children are priority.”Small and Ravenscraft say the biggest lessons they’ve learned along the way is it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay not to be super mom.Professor Harkins says before anyone mom tries to step out in to the world of small business, it’s important to develop a solid business plan.Organizations like the Small Business Development Center, community colleges and universities can offer that kind of help.