My team has asked me to write a blog post about being a working mum. Argh! I feel like this topic could totally polarise people. I usually avoid writing about personal, more provocative topics at The Grants Hub. So bare with me, and if you have got something to say in response, I’ll ask that you respond with kindness and an attitude of ‘seek to understand, not to be understood’ mentality.
I launched The Grants Hub when I was 39 weeks pregnant with my second child. Was that an ideal way to start a business? No. Was it how I planned it? No. Has it impacted our business growth? Yes. Do I mind about that? No. Has it made for a fun ride? Heck yes!
You see, in life we are faced with opportunities (or in my case ideas) at certain points in our lives. They might be small ideas or big ideas. Opportunities that could change your next week, or your next 5 years. We can’t always plan when these ideas and opportunities arise. What we can control, is whether we take them or not.
So after leaving local government to have my first child, I had this idea brewing in the back of my mind. There was a clear need: an easier way to find grants in Australia. There was my own drive to create a job that allowed me to work anywhere. There was my desire to work part-time hours while raising our young and growing family. There was a team that came together at the right time to make it happen. And there was my husband who was on the same page as me, so we sold our house to fund the startup costs. I should say, one of the ground rules of entrepreneurship is ‘don’t sell your house’, but I figure if you have a great idea, are willing to work hard, and believe enough in what you’re doing, you do what you’ve got to do to make it happen.
Founding a business and being a mum of young children typically do not go together. It breaks social expectations and starts conversations. It provokes judgement, and also encouragement. It leaves people thinking I’m crazy, or asking how I do it.
At times, to be honest, it’s tough. Really tough. Work issues arise at all times of day and night (tech businesses don’t follow standard working hours), and as the Founder, the buck stops with me. There are times when I’ve had to work into the early hours of the morning, and still get up to my kids in the morning. There are times of pure disappointment and overwhelm, yet other moments of joy when I can see that The Grants Hub is making a difference in people’s lives around Australia.
So how does being a Business Founder and mum come together for me?
Firstly, as the Founder, I set the culture. Our culture is summarised through our values (Excellence, Flexibility, Generosity, Fun, Honesty, Innovation, Reliability), which are intrinsic in everything we do. Would Flexibility have made the cut if I wasn’t a mum? Probably not. But when you’re a parent of young children you soon realise that kids don’t follow a cut and paste rule book. Kids are all different, and don’t all get sick when it’s convenient with my work schedule, for example. Would Fun have been included if I wasn’t a mum? I don’t think so. But having young kids helps you to keep seeing the fun in life and reminds you that you can’t take life too seriously. Some of the happiest moments I can remember are when I’m having fun with my kids (like having a shaving cream fight in the middle of our dining room). Why wouldn’t we want fun to translate into business?
Secondly, The Grants Hub’s value of Generosity has imprinted itself on our children more than I ever anticipated. Our kids want to give, and seeing their mum as a Business Founder sparks their entrepreneurial minds. They are continually coming up with new ventures to raise money for the homeless, or children with heart conditions. They are little social entrepreneurs, and I’m convinced that wouldn’t be the case if I wasn’t a Founder.
Thirdly, as the Founder, I can essentially work the hours that work for me. Now, this is a tricky one to get the balance right on at times, and I’m not saying that Founders should do whatever they want, especially if it’s going to put their team and business at risk. I’m learning that the bigger we grow, the more I need to work more regular hours. However, if my daughter has a sports day at school, I can go. If my son needs to attend an appointment, I can take him. If I want to get a hair cut and colour during work hours, I can do that and make the hours up later at night. If my husband and I happen to have an hour free, we can grab a coffee together. These are the perks of being a Founder, and help make the sometimes relentless hours and years of no pay worth it.
I wish, oh how I wish, that more businesses and organisations were founded by mums. Including mums of young children. There is so much scope for businesses and organisations to change the way they operate, to not just support mums in the workplace, but to intentionally open doors for mums to thrive and grow, along with their colleagues. We have an opportunity as mums in Australia to found businesses that are different. To take a chance and give business a crack. To create a place where people want to work. To grow businesses that give, to our communities and back to our children, both financially and through leading by example. To be both great mums and great business founders. Is now your time?
Written by Jessie Ballantyne
Founder of The Grants Hub
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