When Tina Koral had a health scare in 2003, she swore that if
she ever had kids, she would not leave them in someone else's care
to go to a job she hated. Fast-forward nine years, and she doesn't
have to. Now mom to a 2- and 4-year-old, she owns Tina Koral
Gardens, a landscape design business out of her Glen Ellyn
She hopes she never has to go back to the 9-to-5 grind.
Koral is just one example of how moms are leaving jobs to start
a business so they can stay home with their children and earn an
income at the same time.
"Even in this economy, entrepreneurship is on the rise," says
Alexandra Levit, an Oak Park mom, bestselling author and workplace
expert. "People don't see job security in a regular job, as they
are often doing the work of three laid-off co-workers. They want to
make their own destiny."
Even as the economy improves, Levit doesn't expect to see
"It's the American dream to be your own boss," she says. "It's
an extremely appealing concept."
Moms often make good businesswomen because they have big
networks, can prioritize and are good at multitasking. Ironically,
sometimes all you need to do to run a successful business is follow
the same rules you set for your children:
Play nice in the sandbox
Henna Raza is a party planner and mom of two in West Chicago.
What started out as arranging flowers for friends has blossomed
into Professional Party Planners, a business with a showroom in
Carol Stream and nearly 4,000 fans on Facebook. In five years, Raza
and her partner, Lala Enver, have established great relationships
with scores of vendors so that everyone plays nice in the
"With experience, you get to know people in the industry, so if
something goes wrong, you have backup," Raza says. "If a
photographer falls sick on the day of a wedding, I can call four
others who are equally good. It is crucial to work with other
vendors and not work against them."
Do your homework
After a career in the art museum world, Sarah Nelson was ready
for a career swap when her children came into the picture. The
Chicago mom had her aha! moment when a friend asked her to organize
a laundry room. Nelson spent the next year training and researching
the organizing business, establishing Less is More Organizers in
February 2011. More than a year and scores of satisfied clients
later, she feels her grand experiment is working for her and her
children, 5 and 2.
"Before you begin, interview someone in a similar business,"
Nelson suggests. "Take them out for coffee. People love talking
about themselves and can give you a lot of advice."
Levit says many people don't understand what it takes to start
and run a successful business.
"You need to be self-disciplined and risk-tolerant," she says.
"Initially it may be many more hours than a regular office job.
Only once you grow will the balance eventually come."
Levit suggests conducting surveys or giving out samples to
neutral people to figure out if an idea is a good one.
Try new things
Just as moms encourage their kids to try a new sport or a new
food, sometimes they need to try something new, too. After more
than a decade as a respiratory therapist, Gilberts mom Habiba Hanif
was happy to stay home with her three kids-but she also wanted some
me-time away from diapers and bottles.
"While some people go to the spa to relax, I started baking and
decorating cakes," Hanif says. "That's my special time."
Without any formal instruction, she began making cakes for her
own children and soon started getting orders. Suddenly Cakes N More
by Beebz was open for business.
"To all mompreneurs on the fence, I would like to say, just go
for it," Hanif says. "Even if you don't succeed, you won't regret
However, Levit cautions that sometimes a hobby needs to remain
just that; it doesn't need to replace your day job immediately.
In her book Blind Spots, Levit says holding down a job that
provides a consistent paycheck, health and retirement benefits and
pursuing a passion in their free time can make better sense for
Be a good listener
Before a bride transforms into Bridezilla, Raza makes sure she
is comfortable letting the professionals do the job.
"Once they trust you, they will start letting go and not
micromanage," Raza says.
Nelson agrees that listening is crucial. Even the most organized
space can be useless if it is not intuitive to the client.
"They need to know where to find their stuff," Nelson says.
Put your things away
Koral loves her cheery home office, formerly known as the spare
"I love not having to commute," she says. "There is a
disadvantage, though. I usually have my designs and lots of art
supplies lying around. Once my daughter 'colored' a design that I
... had to present the next day. I pulled an all-nighter to redo it
and now put away anything that looks too tempting to toddlers."
Hanif has had to bake another cake on more than one occasion
when her kids, 5, 3, and 2, take a bite from an order their mom has
been working on for close to 10 hours.
Hanif dreams of having her own bakery in three years when her
kids go to school full time. Raza wants to open another showroom
for her business and branch out to corporate clientele. In five
years, Nelson wants to have employees to share the workload so she
can focus on other revenue streams like webinars and e-books. Koral
wants to use her experience to help combat hunger in Chicagoland.
She dreams of starting a nonprofit that helps needy families grow
their own food.
Avoid the 'All work, no play' pitfall
Working your business around the clock can make even the most
focused mom irritable. While the flexibility of not having someone
look over your shoulder can be liberating, it also can mean working
more hours than a regular job if you don't draw the line.
Koral and Raza plan vacations during the winter months when
there are fewer gardens to design and fewer weddings to plan.
Nelson believes she can find more clients for her organizing
business, but says she deliberately has kept part-time hours.
"If my business takes over my life, it will defeat the purpose
of starting it," she says. "I make it a point not to check email
when I'm having a tea party with my daughter, and I plan on keeping
it that way."
Kiran Ansari is a freelance writer and mom. She lives with her husband and kids, Yusuf, 10, and Hana, 7, in Elgin.
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