I used to say that it's better to think big before you start a business, because if you think small you will create something small. I was right to want to motivate the people I mentored, but I was also very wrong.
Let me tell you why: because there is an immense value in building a very small business. We use the term side hustle when referring to services sold on a flexible schedule on behalf of a tech giant like Uber or Airbnb or a multi-level-marketing company, but I say hyper-specific skills offered by individuals are the new face of micro-business. And I think there's a perfect pool of candidates to run these types of small businesses: mothers.
This isn't meant to be another stay-at-home vs. working mom debate, but to point out there is real monetary value to the skills that mothers exercise all day long, and we need to retrain our ourselves to think about how to monetize them. And to realize the businesses that can be built around those skills can be valuable, whether they have one customer or 100.
So mothers, here are a few simple steps for embracing your inner entrepreneur and beginning the types of small businesses we describe here. (Unsure of what skill you want to offer? That Salary.com list is a great place to start.)
1. Redefine success on your terms
Do you need a certain amount of income per week? Confidence that you can do it after years of staying home with your family in a society that doesn't necessarily value that? A few hours to invest a passion or something other than your family? A woman in our community named Jana created a custom quilting business for exactly that reason. Build your business around YOUR goals, not the tech-unicorn success stories that are always pushed on us. The perfect-sized business is the one that fits your life--trying to reach success on someone else's terms will only intimidate you from ever starting.
2. Streamline getting started
Now that you're not trying to build the next Uber, the list of requirements for launching your business is much shorter. Don't toil over a perfect customized website; focus on a simple destination where you can show your face, tell your story, and make it easy for customers to get in touch. We built Pepperlane to offer exactly that. Spring for good insurance rather than setting up an LLC or paying for more pricey legal services, (a great tip I learned from Mellinda, an accountant on Pepperlane whose firm focuses on helping small businesses). Don't spend more time and money than you have to before you have your first customer.
3. Put yourself out there
Many people are uncomfortable saying they have a "real business" (what does that even mean?!) until it accumulates a certain number of customers or revenue. I started telling people about Pepperlane when it was just an idea, but I got meaningful feedback from women who wanted a tool like that in their lives. I didn't worry about how many customers I had; in order to get to customers I had to embrace my status as a business owner, and you should too. It's the only way to get to your first customer, and that's really where the fun begins.
About the Author
Sharon Kan is the CEO and co-founder of Pepperlane, a company that empowers mothers to start and grow their businesses and cultivate their entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to her current role, she was Entrepreneur-in- Residence at Accomplice, Chairwoman of Luminoso Technologies and Chairwoman of Orora Global. She is a Co-founder of the WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab at Babson College. Sharon has spent 20 years growing successful businesses in high-potential markets and was instrumental in developing and leading companies from inception to successful acquisition including Tikatok (sold to Barnes & Noble), Zoomix (acquired by Microsoft), C-Ark (acquired by SSA Global, now Infor), and Demantra (acquired by Oracle).