Starting a business is not easy. It’s even harder if someone has invested in your idea because you’ve got a lot to prove. The pressure is on, and the world is watching. Often businesses take longer than anyone would hope to turn a profit, they take up all of your waking hours (and even dream time), you become obsessed, driven, impossible, and certainly not laid back. What if you are a mother too? Is it possible for women to do both, or do they still have to choose?
Be! Fund commits to make 50% of its investments in women. While that may be easy to say, it’s not so easy to achieve. Women are far less likely to self-elect, come forward, have an idea, think they can be entrepreneurs – than men – when it comes to deciding if a husband or a wife should work, well you know the answer. In the chance that women do come forward and decide to work, to set up a new business, they will always be pulled by other pressures, family, society, pressures that expect them to defer their business operations to another level of value.
We travelled to meet and catch up with our women entrepreneurs to try to understand it better. Are our ‘good’ businesses good or bad for kids?
Jaynathi’s candle business uses recycled wax from churches to make candles to light her slum with no electricity – she has created three jobs for women. For her eldest daughter, Nadhini 20, she’s an inspiration. Nadhini says “After seeing mother run her own business and improve the lives of people where we live, I too started a Saree business to help pay for my son’s medical treatments – because I could see we could do both, look after our families and work.”
But it is not just the older ‘of working age’ kids who are inspired. Jayanthi’s eight year old daughter Shalini loves her mother’s candle business. When she noticed that people were throwing away used clay pots, she collected 50 of them and gave it to her mother. And in no time, broken clay pots were transformed into candles that could light a room for eight hours!
Archana, who makes eco-friendly Areca leaf plates, has excited Rakshita, her eight year old daughter. So much so that Rakshita follows Archana everywhere she goes: “I want to be like Mom when I grow up”. And in turn, Archana says she works because she wants to show Rakshita that women can do both – run a business and take care of the family.
Gowramma’s company makes immunity boosting nutrition supplements for people living with health challenges. Her 14 year old son, Mithun has already become a part of the business by managing her accounts, so he knows she’s doing well. “I am very happy to see mother running her own business. I am very proud that other women in the community look up to her. When I grow up, I want to be become a scientist and do something good for the world.”
Our women entrepreneurs admit that they are pulled by raising their children, managing their homes and being entrepreneurs. They struggle, there is no such thing as either or, or a balance. When their mothers-in-law are put in hospital, they have to go. When their husbands are sick, they have to look after them. When there is not enough money for their children’s education, shoes, food, they are the ones who know. But there is something to be said for entrepreneurial smiles that each woman entrepreneur answered to each of our challenging questions: you always need a reason to run a business, perhaps for our mum entrepreneurs, there is no better reason than making the world a better place for their children…