Entrepreneurial mothers: a growing business subculture
For several years after her son was born, Phyllis Gillis worked in traditional corporate jobs that involved two-hour daily commutes. But the challenge of this demanding schedule ultimately forced her to take a hard look at her priorities.Skip to next paragraph
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''I finally decided I was compromising both my family life and my job,'' she says, ''so I decided to drop out of the 9-to-5 world and try other things.''
A period of free-lance journalism followed. Later, when she was about to become part-time chef as well as managing partner of a Bucks County, Pa., inn, she took courses in restaurant management and finance, professional food preparation, pastrymaking, and quantity food preparation. She also attended seminars sponsored by the United States Small Business Administration. The intensive preparation for this experience gave her courage and know-how to move on to other ventures.
After a divorce, and with a young son to raise, she turned her cooking talent into a dessert business she could run at home. She culled the best of her own, her mother's, and grandmother's recipes and began to produce carrot cakes, toffee pies, chocolate chip cheesecakes, double chocolate mousses, and other delectables for half a dozen fine restaurants in the Bucks County area.
As she developed her own business, Mrs. Gillis realized she was far from alone in her struggle to be an earning single parent. She decided that thousands of other women need help in finding ways to blend work and mothering without sacrificing either.
The result is a book, ''Entrepreneurial Mothers'' (Rawson Associates, New York, $9.95), which she hopes will encourage other mothers to go into business for themselves.
Entrepreneurial mothers, she notes, constitute a new subculture of working women. She describes them as ''women who plan for success, take pride in their work, maintain a flexible attitude and work schedule, deliver a high-quality product or service, develop a support team to help make business go, get involved in the community, consider the needs of customers, keep track of expenses, and above all, maintain an enthusiastic attitude.''
Money, says the author, is the biggest obstacle to beginning one's own small business (she prefers the word ''micro''). ''Most women are not used to being comfortable with money,'' she notes. ''But we have to learn how to be.''
The second-biggest obstacle, she has found, is fear of failure.
For the book, Mrs. Gillis interviewed more than 200 women throughout the country who had established successful small home or near-the-home businesses. In most cases, she found that success came from following through on a good idea , and that neither lack of money (some started with as little as $300) nor want of formal business training had stood in the way of eventual success. Drive and enthusiasm were the essential ingredients as women learned how to structure and plan their own businesses.
She describes a variety of ventures, among them ''Rent-a-Mom'' and ''Cart-a-Kid'' services, catering businesses, small print shops, nursery schools , tutoring services, weekend mini-camps, and home discount stores for selling children's clothing.