Eight years ago, Noelle Abarelli quit her job in international business and started her own marketing firm. Then she had a baby. And then another.
Maybe it was stellar foresight or just luck, but Abarelli soon found her freelance marketing gig gave her more flexibility to balance being a mom and having a career. Along the way, she was continually approached by women who told her they wanted to do the same: leave big business and start their own small business.
“I was contacted by moms who said, ‘I want to do what you do,’” Abarelli said. “The corporate world has too many restrictions for mothers and it becomes too difficult of a schedule. So many of them are concerned that they cannot be a mom and keep their 9-to-5 job. And at the same time, they didn’t want to leave the work place.”
As Abarelli and many other women have learned, having a thriving career and having kids are not mutually exclusive. But Abarelli’s philosophy is: By thinking entrepreneurially, a mom can have the freedom to balance work, play and family.
“It’s not that I have more time. I have more flexibility,” she said.
According to a 2007 US News & World Report article, “Mothers today are more likely to negotiate flexible schedules at work and demand fuller participation of fathers in child raising than previous generations did, giving them more time to pursue their own careers and interests.”
And starting a business can offer that flexible schedule.
Although she still has her marketing agency, Soleado Marketing, Abarelli had so many women coming to her that she wrote a book—The Smart Mompreneur: A Step-By-Step Guide to Converting A Skill into a Lucrative and Flexible Business. She also started a website, smartmompreneur.com, and developed programs for women who want to pursue service-based freelance careers.
“All of my clients are moms,” she said proudly.
Colorado Babies: How did you become a momprenuer?
Noelle Abarelli: I actually started my business before I had kids, because I could see that it would be an issue. I worked in corporate marketing, and there was a woman who was pregnant. She couldn’t do all the traveling and all the hours that the work demanded and be a mom. I was thinking about starting a family at that time. If I wanted to have a career and have kids, I needed a more flexible job.
CB: What’s the first step to finding a freelance career?
NA: Everyone has a marketable skill that they can turn into a business. You take time to explore what you are doing now and how you can turn that into a business. Is it a hobby? Is it something you did in a past job? Is it something you are good at, like party planning? If you like what you are doing now, take those credentials and build them into a business.
CB: What kind of businesses do you recommend?
NA: I promote service-based businesses because it’s low cost and low inventory. A lot of times, especially if you are looking to replace income, there is a longer window with product-based business. With service based businesses you can get on the road quickly. And in the transition (of starting up a business), you need to figure out what income you need to replace. Do you need to moonlight or take part-time jobs? There will be a transition phase. Especially if you need the income, you have to be careful.
CB: What are tips you give momprenuers?
NA: I think the most important thing is surrounding yourself with like-minded business women. I started a networking group of women in business. …It’s great to be in networking groups because people will help and share ideas and experiences.
CB: What’s the importance of having flexibility?
NA: I just think it’s been great for me to spend time with my family but I still have time to use my brain. I work part-time, three days a week, and then I spend the rest with my kids. Use both sides of my brain. I’ve had a lot of flexibility. I can work from almost anywhere. I can plug in my laptop and work for a few hours.
CB: How do you balance between having your own business and having a family?
NA: You know, it’s a touchy subject. You need time to focus on your business. And you need time to focus on your kids. I have day care for a certain amount of hours, when I can focus on business. And then I have time to focus on kids. I often suggest that you connect with another momprenuer to trade off watching the kids. Carve out a time and space to get work done. You don’t want kids running around your house when you are on a business call. Set a schedule and have dedicated time to your business. It can be one of the biggest struggles: finding time to work. You have to prioritize your own business or you won’t have a business.