20 October 2023

Being your own boss and balancing a family - the Mums & Co Be MPowered conference breaking down barriers

| Keeli Royle
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Erin Huckle from Chuckle Communications and one of her sons looking at a computer.

Being her own boss gives Erin Huckle the freedom to determine her hours and balance family life. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Balancing owning a business with being a full-time parent is a struggle many busy mums face, especially if they decide to go solo in their career pursuits.

Now a strong community of like-minded women is helping support those along the way, with an upcoming conference helping business owners network and develop new skills while still taking care of their families.

Erin Huckle decided to take the leap and start her own communications business in 2019 when she was pregnant with her third child and had just moved to Wollongong from overseas.

“When I did start to look at jobs, everything was office-based and most was full-time and I just needed a bit more flexibility than that,” Erin said.

And she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s actually been such an amazing experience and I really can’t imagine working for anyone else now. I just love being my own boss and being able to work with clients I really care about and do work I really enjoy while still being really present for my kids and having that independence.”

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Despite the benefits and improved work-life balance, managing a business and busy family lifestyle continues to be a challenge.

“It’s always a juggle and I think it’s really common to feel like you’re not doing anything a hundred per cent and everything is a bit stretched,” she said.

“You’ve got to get quite firm on your boundaries about work time and family time but often they blur, especially when it’s your own business and you really love what you do.”

Erin said she was initially deterred by the fear of isolation, and with no one-size fits all guide to starting your own business, the prospect of going out on your own can be daunting.

Women attending a previous Mums and Co Be MPowered conference.

This year’s Be MPowered conference is moving online to improve accessibility for those in regional areas and with families. Photo: Supplied.

But Erin was surprised by the supportive business community, who were more than willing to answer questions and help build her up.

“You quickly realise that even people doing the same thing as you aren’t your competitors, they’re your colleagues, and they’re your cheerleaders and there’s actually plenty of work for everyone, so it’s a great way of meeting new people.”

Many of those connections are fostered through networking at conferences, which can be another barrier for some working parents who have to navigate travel and childcare.

But this year Mums & Co’s annual Be MPowered conference has moved online to make it even more accessible.

“We know that around 30 per cent of our community are based in regional and rural areas but beyond that we know that more than 50 per cent are micro business owners, so that means that they’re working from home. Just over 30 per cent have children under 12,” Mums & Co community manager Lucy Kippist said.

“We hear time and time again that women have had to make a choice, so what we wanted to do is eradicate any of those variables that would make it a choice that she couldn’t have, so it’s 100 per cent free, it’s 100 per cent digital.”

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And it’s not just the format that helps with flexibility. The conference will start and finish between school drop off times and is designed so that participants can join for as long or as little as they are able.

“It also means that she can dip in and out throughout the day,” Lucy said.

“The keynote speakers are really quick, they’re between 15 and 20 minutes each and so she can join on her laptop when she gets home, she might need to duck out or take the kids outside and can still watch it on her phone.”

This year’s speakers include kikki.K and Dream Life founder Kristina Karlsson, business experts like Kate Toon, Jade Warne and Michelle Klein, and, although it’s all online, there will still be an important focus on networking with staff dedicated to facilitating connections in chat boxes throughout the event.

Whether you’re an established business or just thinking of starting out, it could help give the confidence you need to make a positive change in your career.

“To any mums out there that are on the fence about starting their own business, I’d highly recommend it, it’s the best thing I’ve done,” Erin said.

“I couldn’t have imagined the way it’s changed my life, the people that I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve had and the network I’ve built, it’s been really really amazing.”

“And I think as mums it’s great to role model to our kids that you can do all of these things from home or be your own boss and create something from scratch that’s just your own.”

The Be MPowered conference kicks off at 9:30 am on Thursday 26 October.

To get your free ticket or to find out more visit the Mums & Co website.

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