In the old order of things, one commenced a career upon completion of higher education and relevant qualification. Not so in the new order. While qualifications and experience will indeed carry you far in your chosen career, the same may not apply for every profession and every field.
Today, the world is your market place. With technology and Internet, you don’t need structured approaches anymore. Anyone talented enough to write, sing or compose can do so to an instant audience online. In the same vein, those with capacity and capability can set up businesses and take them to the world successfully.
Enter momentrepreneurs. These are women who have been mothers and wives before they became successful businesswomen. They may not have MBAs under their belt but they sure have experience that sometimes can be more valuable than all the qualifications in the world. They are also often pragmatic and down to earth and don’t need power structures to thrive on. Most of them start a business to supplement income or in the case of increasingly realistic single parent households, to keep the children fed and clothed.
What they may lack in knowledge, they more than make up for in applying their talents and skills to a business they choose often from a felt need. The success of momentrepreneurs has been incredibly noteworthy in the businesses they have chosen to engage in. Clothing, beauty, ready-to-eat products and childcare products are often what momentrepreneurs choose as business models because those are needs expressed by other mothers.
In Sri Lanka, as anywhere else in the world, these courageous and talented women empower the economy in their own small way. Some of them who started their businesses have gone on to build business conglomerates while others have chosen to keep things small and manageable, while yet others have sold or handed over the business to the next generation.
Whether big or small, the businesses started by these women have a few traits in common that have served them and the business well. For starters, they enter a business with a very focused vision – that of making an income. From day one, they are driven by a practical goal that cuts out the frills. They do not need corner offices and business lunches or any other perks that maybe staple for some. They are content enough to operate from the kitchen table. Even when the business grows, they do not need the extras to make them feel happy and important. They will stay who they are and often, that will serve them well.
Life skills – A strength
They do not make presentations and conduct research on a grand scale yet they know their customers and their needs well. They prefer to cut through the noise to make a good product that will meet a specific need. They are also sometimes their own customer so they don’t need the research – they have it in their own kitchens and communities. They don’t need to convince a board or a management team to spend the next million rupees on a mass media campaign because they can be just as effective on word of mouth or social media campaigns. The world is their market place and their community is their customer. Even when the business grows, they know to keep things in perspective – often enough.
Their decision-making structures are manageable – often, it is the family. They do not spread out or take time to make strategic decisions. They can also turn things around faster if things do indeed go wrong. They also have the flexibility to increase production, enhance or cut down as and when needed with less fussy turnaround times.
They may not always have the best of financial advisors when it comes to the growth or expansion of a business but as women across the world have discovered and continue to discover, most women are prudent when it comes to the management of funds and money. They will often pump back into the business the income made, while keeping a portion of it to run the household.
One of the biggest strengths momentrepreneurs are equipped with is life skills. In the absence of a corporate monolith, structures that take time to make decisions, they can make decisions that can help the business grow in double quick time. They also work faster, many of them when the kids are in bed. They can also multi-task as all women can – while cooking, supervising homework or doing household chores, they can attend to business correspondence or engage in promoting the business on social media.
With more and more women opting to take a break from careers they once thought meant everything to them, in favour of being around to bring up the children, the army of momentrepreneurs seems to be growing. It is indeed exciting to watch them bring innovation, business growth and business school worthy case studies to the table. Their ideas and business concepts may rival the best ideas spurned in plush boardrooms. Their businesses are also more appealing and empowering to other women who as consumers, would always prefer to buy from women rather than big companies.
The era of momentrepreneurs, you may say, has truly arrived.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)