Single parents face significantly more challenges when starting their own business, juggling childcare while working every spare minute on their start-up.
According to a new Hitachi Capital Business Finance survey, single parents have one fifth less money to put into their fledgling business to get it going in the first two years – £8,785 versus £10,836.
Half of single parents start their new business with less than £5,000, compared with a national average of 44 per cent.
Single parents work for an hour and a half longer each week than the average business owner. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) work more than the average 35-hour week, with one in 10 putting in a 50-hour week and 4 per cent working a 60-hour week.
On the other hand, half of the 300 single parents surveyed say they are doing what they love, and 52 per cent saying they would never retire because they love their start-up businesses and nearly two thirds (65 per cent) see themselves working well past retirement age.
And single-parent business owners are among the most accommodating of bosses, with nearly one third offering both additional holidays for staff and flexible working arrangements.
Taking the bold step to go out on your own is hard. However, for single parents, the playing field is far from level and the challenges are that much greater.
Our research shows that, despite the odds being stacked against single-parent business owners, most have a genuine love for their businesses they run, driven by unrivalled passion for what they do, and plan to continue growing their businesses long into the future. The key for any entrepreneur thinking of starting a business is to learn from others who have been in the same situation who can help navigate the demands of running a small business.
Top 10 tips for single parents who want to start their own business
#1 – It is not a weakness to ask for help
You don’t know until you ask is what they often say, so take this on board, and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for their help and support. It makes strong business sense to ask for help, whether that is for childcare, help around the house or simply showing their support by posting and sharing on social media etc – if it gives you some breathing space to focus on the business, it will reap rewards in the longer term.
#2 – Be patient, it takes time to grow a business
The average small business takes at least two to three years to start being profitable and between seven and 10 years to grow significantly. Don’t be hard on yourself if it seems to be going slowly. Rely or lean on friends and contacts as much as you can and talk to people in your network. The concept of “selling”, may also be a difficult one to get your head around, but there are so many online resources to help you with this, tap into them an learn a new skill.
#3 – Put your children first
Forty per cent of single-mum business owners set up on their own in order to achieve a better balance between work and family. It is easy to forget that when you are trying to juggle business and children. Learn to accept that in order to get the right balance, you will have to work around their timetable, even if just for the short-term i.e. school hours, nap times etc.
#4 – Build a network of trusted advisers
Even if it is a little at a time, have a broad plan in place that includes an idea of how the business will grow and what expert advice may be needed at every point in that plan.
#5 – Use resources where available
Being a single-parent business owner can feel at times lonely and overwhelming. However, you are not alone. Join the Single Mum’s Business Network or Enterprise Nation to connect with other single parents. And then there’s Hitachi Capital’s own Business Resource Centre for more information. Most online resources are free, and they provide invaluable support via workshops and networking events around the country.
#6 – Have a few contingency plans in place
When plan A doesn’t work, have a plan B, C and D so that if one plan fails you have another. It is all too easy to put all your eggs in one basket, but to do so is to ignore the fact that all those eggs may fall one day, fall out of the basket and crack on the floor.
#7 – Listen to small business podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to kill two birds with one stone: listening to a podcast whilst doing daily chores can be a great use of time. Social media expert Janet Murray has an excellent free podcast, really useful for small businesses looking to start up.
#8 – Trust your gut instinct
Do the right thing. If anything feels wrong, it most probably is.
#9 – Don’t get caught up in the need to compete
There is always enough business for everybody, believe in yourself and set your own goals – that confidence will carry you through.
#10 – Stick to a work life balance
The average single mum business owner spends up to 44 hours a week working, compared with the national average of 35, with one in 10, saying they regularly find themselves working a 12-hour day.
Although single-mum business owners are adept at managing to work these hours around their children, in order to be happy and healthy, it is important to recognise when to switch off. Time management is key for productivity, as is a good night’s sleep.
Joanna Morris is head of marketing and Insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance