Donna McIntyre talks to two mum-entrepreneurs who started out small and have grown their businesses

Many small Kiwi businesses are started by parents of pre-schoolers and school-aged children. For some, these ventures are born out of necessity to bring in much-needed income. For others the inspiration comes from what they see as market opportunities in this new phase of their lives.

Franny McInnes started her business in 2004 with one product and a homemade website to earn some extra cash. It has grown into a maternity brand that reaches customers worldwide.

That first product was reusable woollen breast pads she named Breastmates, which is also now the name of her company.

"It was a lucky name that evolved into a whole brand. I still have my initial brainstorming page of scribble for the names I was thinking of," she says.


McInnes' business now employs three other people, part time, operating as ecommerce store from a new warehouse and HQ in Cambridge.

"My business has been going for nearly 12 years - but it was really just a hobby then. I was making and selling a few things on Trade Me when my first son was a new born. I was broke and just earning pocket money while on maternity leave.

"I would make breast pads and baby nursery items for him, photograph the items and list them on Trade Me. If the auction got a bid I'd make another (so that I didn't have to invest in materials until I had a confirmed order).

"I didn't have any money to invest in a start-up, so just plugged away reinvesting profits to grow a small business. After three and a half years of running a hobby-business on Trade Me, working part-time, and being a mum to one child, I had my second son. It was at that time that I resigned from my job, and started to grow my business into a maternity brand. My children are now aged 11 and 8."

Her ecommerce store specialises in maternity, breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

"I design my own range of maternity clothes, and then have select products from other suppliers, such as breast pumps, making my website a one-stop-shop."

Her customers are pregnant and new mothers. And a few grandparents.

"In addition to the e-store, we also have a huge community of mothers, and articles of shared tips and advice for different, and often unspoken, challenges of motherhood," she says.


But it has been challenging at times balancing work and family life.

"Initially I could do work while they were napping. But then as my children got older and dropped their day naps, and my business got busier, time management was an issue.

"Because I just grew slowly, I never really had the challenge of other business start-ups. I didn't know that I would become such a big business. I could never have jumped from zero to the level I'm at today. It was also tricky to know or risk when was the right time to quit my real job.

"In hindsight, I would have got a business mentor and I should have trusted my gut instincts more and been more confident in myself."

She says the rewards are "knowing that I did this myself, it came from my brain, and that no one else can take the credit for what I have achieved.

"The other rewards are hearing amazing feedback from mothers - knowing that we have brightened their day or made things a little bit easier for them."

Another mum-entrepreneur is Jessie Jarvie, founder of The Baby Bag, a same-day baby supplies delivery company...

"The Baby Bag started when I was already mum to my eldest boy George, and pregnant with my littlest boy, Franklin.

"The idea was born out of some consulting work I do to help mums transition back to work after they have been on maternity leave."

Those parents said My Food Bag and weekend markets made food shopping easier but after a long day in the office and the day-care rush, a supermarket stop for nappies was the last straw.

Jarvie and her husband Paul knew all too well first-hand what they were talking about.

"One evening I was stuck at the checkout with an unhappy baby and an older lady asked if she could rock my trolley to calm him. We got talking and she explained to me how in her day, the local grocer used to deliver all her baby supplies - she'd call him when she was down to her last few nappies, and typically he could get to her within a few hours."

That was the catalyst to Jarvie starting The Baby Bag.

"Our customers are busy mums. All orders are placed online through our website and delivered shortly after."

She says having the Mt Albert business close to her home has made working outside of regular business hours a lot more achievable. "Which is really important to me considering my young family.

"Lack of sleep has been one of my biggest challenges. Turning that on its head a little, my favourite orders are the ones we receive in the middle of the night. Sometimes I'm up and I hear them arrive in my inbox. It kind of leaves me feeling like we're all in this mum thing together. The other challenge is time with Paul."

The business has grown to the stage where she employs an operations manager, and is about to employ someone in accounts, too.

"It is a nice luxury to be able to farm out some of the things that I am no good at."