Mother of invention

Are mums ready to spot gaps in the market?

Have you read a news story about a mother who developed an ingenious invention? Or perhaps you’ve spotted a parent on Dragon’s Den who solved a problem for themselves, then took it further. There are now 300,000 mum-run companies in the UK today, according to MumpreneurUK, which add £7.4bn a year to the UK economy*.  Twenty-first century mums seem to be a creative bunch who look on maternity leave as a chance to apply their brains to fresh challenges. If feeding, changing and settling sleep routines isn’t enough, this new breed of mumpreneur is coming up with creative solutions to the challenges that they face in everyday parenting. And these mums are not established businesswomen: they are parents with a passion.

What motivates these mums? Some have taken up the challenge of running a franchise like Avon or Pampered Chef, but an increasing number – balancing work and financial needs around a family schedule. It can be amazing what your brain comes up with while serving dinner or at bath time, when your hands are occupied but your brain is in overdrive. Many are driven by a personal challenge. Laura Park, for example, found that her son wouldn’t settle if he was put down. She designed the ‘Coorie’ sling, an easy to wear fleece baby carrier to solve her own problem. She says, “I started off selling one or two slings and have built up to selling over a hundred a month.”

Mums like Laura discover very rapidly that they are not alone in facing a particular challenge. A visit to a baby and toddler playgroup can turn into a business research project if you find other parents saying, ‘I need one of those,’ or ‘That happens in our house too’. This positive feedback can drive mums and dads to think that their own solution might have potential as a marketable product. The advent of social media has only made it easier to find out if people need your solution through online surveys and informal research on parenting forums and Facebook. A parent at home can now build a network to reach their target audience while the baby sleeps.

Going from prototype to manufactured product isn’t a straightforward process, and this is why many great ideas remain at that stage. However, with the increasing amount of media coverage of mumpreneurs, more and more mums are thinking ‘I can do it too’. Online mums’ business websites such as www.mumsclub.co.uk and the enormous number of business mums networking groups have also driven the feeling that being a mum doesn’t stop you also becoming an inventor or entrepreneur. Mums business networking is often as simple as taking part in a friendly coffee and chat with other mums, and their babies and toddlers. There may be a speaker and a crèche. Whatever the format of the meeting, getting together gives these mums the inspiration and network support that they need to start and grow a business.

If you would love to come up with an idea for your own product, this is one area where there is no straightforward solution. You just need inspiration to strike. Try looking at problems you encounter every day which need solving. It may be easiest if you start thinking about an issue you are familiar with. Talk to other people about how they solve the problem, read up about the subject, and look for your local mums in business networking groups. You might be inspired when you find out how other parents have got their businesses going. Once you have your idea, take some time to learn about business planning. Think about protecting your idea, how you might finance, manufacture and promote the product or service.

There are many steps on the path to business success, but mums are proving that they are well placed to spot gaps in the market and have the drive to succeed. Could you do it too?

There are a variety of sources to find out about networking for mums including www.mumsclub.co.uk  and www.familyfriendlyworking.co.uk

* http://news.sky.com/story/1065411/mumpreneurs-could-be-lifeline-to-recovery