Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Erin Thomas Wong is a mentor, speaker, champion of mums in business and the founder of Making Mumpreneurs, an online community supporting & empowering mums running businesses around family life. The inner sanctum of Making Mumpreneurs is The Cocoon online business club, a safe place to learn, evolve & grow as a small business owner.
Erin, what is the idea behind Making Mumpreneurs and how did you come up with it?
The mission of Making Mumpreneurs is to create a supportive space online for mums in business all over the world. I set it up in 2016 whilst living in Abu Dhabi for a year. It was a challenging time and I very much missed the business community that I had actively created around myself whilst living in London. I realised that not everyone has access to in-person networking and meetings, so I wanted to bring it all online and create a digital business that I could run from anywhere in the world. I previously co-founded Ealing Mums in Business, so I knew that there were women out there like me who needed support, and I wanted to make it as accessible as possible.
After a year I launched The Cocoon online business club. It's the inner sanctum of Making Mumpreneurs and is a safe place to learn, evolve & grow. It can be so isolating running your own business, but in The Cocoon there is always someone online to chat to, and we have practical business training, challenges, daily conversations, goal setting and expert advice on hand when you need it. I think it’s so important to surround yourself with positive, entrepreneurial people, who understand the challenges you are facing because they face them too.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
The community is now 3 years old, and I have run it all single handedly. I have outsourced social media for a short time, and also my accounting - I know what my strengths are, and they certainly aren't finance ;o)
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I started my first business 10 years ago. That was a franchise of Smallprint Fingerprint Jewellery. It opened my eyes to a whole new world and since then I have become a bit addicted to starting businesses... I went on to create my own company, Pitter Patter – The Hubs For Bubs which were venues for baby & toddler classes in West London. I also co-founded Ealing Mums in Business with my business partner Shelley and together we held networking events and craft markets, supporting other mums running their own businesses. I also ran an online shop for a short time but that didn't work out. So Making Mumpreneurs is actually my 5th business! But you know what, I've learned so many lessons along the way and I've now been able to create a business doing all the things I love, that works around my family. That's the holy grail for me.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Me! And it still is....mindset is so so important, and I know I have often held myself back. It's something I work on constantly.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My business partner and I were recognised in the Houses of Parliament for our work supporting small businesses through Ealing Mums in Business, it was the most memorable evening. I've also been so fortunate to win several awards, and have been interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour about the term 'Mumpreneur'!
What are the challenges of being a female entrepreneur / founder? How about being a mum and an entrepreneur?
I think self doubt is a big issue for many women. Especially when you've had kids, and you're embarking on a completely new path by setting up your own business. I mentor women all the time who held professional careers before having children, and now have lost a bit of confidence and find it hard starting from scratch. Especially because as a small business owner you have to wear all the hats, and you have to be OK with not knowing everything!
What are your projects you are currently working on?
The Cocoon business club keeps me busy because I am always creating new content to help my members grow their businesses. I've also got my next Momentum Day event coming up in March. I'm actually also working on a collaboration at the moment too - an online course designed specifically for children's activity providers. This is an exciting partnership because it's a very niche area, and we are combining our expertise to put together invaluable training. We are currently in the beta testing phase.
Is #WomenInBusiness movement important to you and if yes, why?
Absolutely. I think it's important to spread the word that you can create a business that works for you. Especially for mothers. Having children doesn't necessarily mean the end of your career, you might just need to re-design it.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there, especially those who are mums at the same time?
Be kind to yourself. It's not an easy thing to do, but remember it's a marathon not a sprint. You're laying the foundations now for a solid business that will grow and evolve over time. Invest in the support you need, both with training and personal development. You don't have to do it all alone.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in business?
I couldn't choose only 3. In my community I speak to women every day who are inspirational. I absolutely immerse myself in all the positive energy created by these women. They energise me, inspire me and motivate me to keep doing what I'm doing.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.