Starting Your Own Business after Being a Stay-at-home Parent

Published on: June 11, 2019

For stay-at-home parents, there may come a time when you consider going back to work. Some of you may even start your own business. Ema spoke to a range of mompreneurs who are doing that in Thailand. (This is an extended version of the original print article.) By Ema Naito-Bhakdi Many of you have put your career on hold to follow your spouse abroad. Partly due to a dependent-visa status, you may have decided to don your caregiver hat and become the primary stay-at-home parent. But then one day, like a small miracle, the little one starts school. All of a sudden you find some time and mental space all for yourself again. So what do you do?  Going back to work may be an option that crosses your mind. But in what form? Find a job in Thailand that’s similar to your past work or do something completely different? Join an established company or strike out on your own?  To get some inspiration, we talked with some moms who decided to go the path of starting their own businesses—moms like Uang Hotrakitya, owner of Theera Healthy Bake Room, who needed to “do something on my own, to have time for my son and be financially independent.”

Starting off | Support networks | Funding | Tips


 

STARTING OFF

Find your business idea

The first step is to hone in on your business idea. The moms we spoke with were unanimous about working with their passions. As Uang put it, “Passion is one of the most important factors to make what you do successful, as it brings dedication and endeavor. Being able to combine your passion, your skills, and your motherhood to create something could be even greater.” 
Define your specific niche so you can be the ‘big fish in a little pond’ rather than a ‘little fish in a big pond.’
You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. Previous experiences, interests, and skills can inform your new venture. Freelancer Parul Mather took the interest she always had in cooking and natural skincare and merged those to launch herself as a writer and blogger. Masha Geveling combined her background in psychology and biology to become a nutritionist and health coach, while fellow health coach Suzanne van de Venne took advantage of related certifications from her previous work and built on her passion for health. In all cases, they drew on their past experience but found a different way to express their interests. In identifying your passions, ask yourself: What have you done in the past—professionally, as a volunteer, or as a hobby? What gets you excited and energized? What are your core values? What are you good at (and what do people say you’re good at)?[1]

Do your market research

Passion is important, but you also need to see if there is a market for what you offer. “It is important to make sure that your idea or product is what people need,” says Uang. “I would talk with my classmates from the culinary school and reach out to my customers who I already had through my Facebook business to exchange ideas and learn about the need in the market. I visited a lot of bakeries and farmers markets, sometimes as a vendor myself, to see what was going on in Bangkok’s bakery scene.”  Talk to people, find out what your potential clients/customers need. The aim is to define your specific niche so you can be the ‘big fish in a little pond’ rather than a ‘little fish in a big pond’.[2]

Get the skills you need

You may find it necessary to get additional qualifications. Masha “had to take an online course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York” and is now enrolled in the school for Applied Functional Medicine, while Uang, who has a master’s degree in International Relations/Political Science, retrained at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. For online learning, serial entrepreneur Mia recommends Udemy and YouTube—although with a word of caution that you do need to determine which are reliable sources for the information you seek.
Start now with what you can and celebrate baby steps.
Learning doesn’t need to be only formal. Suzanne, “a personal development junkie,” read books, listened to podcasts, and applied her skills to her own family’s lives. Volunteering is another way to get experience in a new field or to reenter the workplace. For Mia, volunteering with BAMBI was “my first foot back to my roots in sales and marketing. The experience helped me regain my confidence and revealed some professional areas of growth, like public speaking.” In some cases, the best way may be to dive right in: “Being an amateur is the best part of the job!”, as Parul says.

Work for free if it gets you useful feedback and connections

Uang put it beautifully:
It does not matter if you have to give out something for free to get useful feedback to improve your idea or product. If you are planning to sell a product, giving out free samples to people who can provide useful feedback or selling to retailers is a good start with low risk. If you are a specialist or a consultant, free advice or knowledge sharing would help you connect with possible clients. Even after you have your business set up, providing free or discounted samples or advice/consultations could be useful to help expand your customer or client base.
 

TAPPING INTO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORKS

Starting up a business can be a bewildering and, at times, isolating process. Make sure to have a support system to sustain you over the longer term. Support can come from coaches, professional networks, online communities including Facebook groups, mentors, and accountability partners. And of course, don’t forget your partner and family. Masha tapped into an “online community for health coaches [which] helps to dive into the profession and have questions answered.” She also hired a coach to help with online marketing and building her brand. One may also find support from unexpected places, like Suzanne who “connected with my daughter’s school’s parent network, in which other parents helped me connect to other networks and people.” She also found encouragement among the people she met at her co-working space.  

FUNDING YOUR VENTURE

The big question: finances. How will you support the start-up phase of the venture? Do you know what kind of resources you will need for the first year and beyond?  Because of the small-scale nature of their ventures, the mompreneurs we talked with mainly relied on their savings to start off. It may not be ideal, but Uang notes the difficulty of getting a loan from a financial institution in Thailand:
…you must have a registered business or proof that you operated a successful and financially sustainable business for three years, together with a very good business plan and, in some cases, assets. In general, if you are not Thai, it is required by law for you to have a trusted Thai partner(s) that will hold more than 51% of the shares.

Develop your business plan

While many small-scale businesses start off without a formal business plan, experts in the field advise that you do develop one—even if it’s basic. Here again, Uang shares practical advice:
Have at least one year’s forecast of your business and financial activities. Add in the planned activities, with their expected cost and income. How much do you have to put in to start the business? How much cash flow do you need to make the business sustainable when you are not yet getting enough financial returns to cover monthly expenses? Is there a certain activity that you should focus on more during the first year? These things do not need to be complicated, I did mine handwritten! The idea is just for you to know what to expect financially and to help you consider business viability before you actually start.
In addition to a business plan, Mia recommends also developing “an action plan with measurable steps to track your progress.”  

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING OUT

Finally, we close with some wise words and tips from our mompreneurs to those of you starting out.

Juggling home life and business is hard—but possible

No matter what, juggling work with family life will take effort. Suzanne reports now being able to decide to spend more time with her kids.
It takes a lot of discipline but I also have the freedom now to decide [how to use my time]. It is hard to give family, business, social and personal life all [top priority] so it requires me to make choices.

Create and stick to boundaries

To get your work done, you may need to create boundaries and enforce them, even with your children. “Say NO, as much as you need to. Your beloved children may seem like they cannot survive [without you]—they can!” advises Mia. “Create a regimen and stick to it.”

It’s better to look back and say “I can’t believe I did that!” than to say “I wish I had done that”

Those are Suzanne’s words, who found that learning she is the creator of her future empowering. Initially, not knowing how it will all turn out and not having guarantees of success kept her back. “I had to learn to trust myself and life. [Now,] I can’t wait for the morning to get started with my day.”

Look at “No” as “Not right now”

“Don’t be afraid of failure—fail forward,” says Mia. “Don’t get so frustrated by the hurdles that you lose momentum.” When you need a boost over mental hurdles, she recommends listening to a Brene Brown TED Talk or reading one of her books. Mia cheers us on:
When you’re the entrepreneur, you put your whole self forward and sometimes that’s super scary—but you got this! We the sisterhood of traveling moms and brotherhood of traveling dads have your back!

If you are empowered, energized, and fulfilled, your family will benefit

Says Masha: “Taking a different role other than just ‘mother’ benefits my family. My husband is very proud of me; I have more quality time with my kids because I don’t have too much time.” And, not least, it makes her happy. Mom guilt is bound to come in. But Uang counsels: “You have to make yourself happy first for you to be able to make people around you happy!”

Know why you are doing this, and for whom

It helps to know why you’re doing this, and for whom. Here again, Uang speaks:
Ask yourself: why are you doing this and who you are doing this for? Do not feel guilty if the answer is you are doing this for yourself. Being a single mom with a son who has autism, I felt so much guilt when I decided to start [my business]. So I asked myself: Is it very important to me? The answer was ‘yes’ because having a job means a secure income for myself and my son’s future.

Don’t wait, start somewhere! Baby steps are fine.

As Masha says, “I wish I had started sooner.” You don’t have to wait until your company or product or service is perfect before launching. Start now with what you can and celebrate baby steps. “I let myself be slow. Even slow actions are still steps forward”, says Masha.  Parul concurs: “It’s never too late. Never be scared of starting afresh. Keep learning and keep adding new chapters to your own book called…Life!”  

NOTES

[1] Michal Bohanes (2018), “‘Following Your Passion’ Is Dead – Here’s What To Replace It With,” www.Forbes.com, 5 July. [2] Melissa Chu (2018), “Why You Should Aim to Be a Big Fish in a Little Pond, According to Malcolm Gladwell,” www.INC.com, 9 January.  

RESOURCES

  • Tandem Nomads: This podcast and website by marketing coach Amel Derragui is an incredible resource for inspiration and practical advice. Web: tandemnomads.com, FB: @tandemnomads.
  • Bangkok Coaching Circle: Find a professional coach! This group of coaches aims to support growth, inspire change, and positively impact the community through coaching. Web: bkkcoaching.com
  • Business plan resources from SCORE and US Small Business Administration
 

The Mumpreneurs (alphabetically by first name)

Masha Geveling, health and wellness coach, helps women make changes in their diet, lifestyle, and habits to improve their health, look younger, lose weight, increase energy level, and enjoy life. She offers one-to-one and small group sessions. Contact: WhatsApp +66 617878558 or mgeveling@gmail.com. Mia McDonald is an international travel curator and yoga instructor. She has been a service-focused entrepreneur for over 8 years and during the final year of her stay in Bangkok began developing her travel business plans with a view to marketing her travel business in earnest, once she relocates. Parul Mathur trained as an electrical engineer and was a project manager for submarine design and production in India. After moving to Bangkok, she pursued her passion for writing, food, and natural products, and is currently a freelance writer. Parul loves experimenting with natural skin care products and exploring hidden food joints in the city. Web: itsallheartmade.com; Tel: 0971345297. Suzanne Van de Venne is a certified health coach. She has been living in Bangkok for 9 years with her husband and two daughters (3 and 5). Her passion is to empower women to build healthy habits—connecting nutrition, sleep, exercise, and mindset—that fit into their busy lives and create sustainable results. Find out more: www.suzannevandevenne.com or Suzanne@suzannevandevenne.com Theera (Uang) Hotrakitya retrained as a patisserie chef after a career as a diplomat, and finding out her son has autism. She opened Theera Healthy Bake Room, an allergen-free bakery, and Steps with Theera, a social-purpose organization that provides training for adults with learning differences. “Think of us next time you have an event!” For more info: www.stepswiththeera.com or info@stepswiththeera.com.   Photos by Jurien Huggins and Andrew Neel on Unsplash, rawpixel on Pixabay

About the Author

Ema is a freelance English editor (theclarityeditor.com), who worked in international development and has been on the BAMBI News team since 2014. She’s mom to three kids, sings in choirs and as a soloist, and blogs at crossculturalfamily.com (日本語ブログ: emanate28jpn.blogspot.com). 
The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects. BAMBI News welcomes volunteer contributors to our magazine. Please contact editor@bambiweb.org.

 

Tags: