More mums set up home businesses

Factory suppliers and vendors meeting Dorothy Loh to discuss work often find themselves interrupted by her children crying or tugging at the hem of her blouse to get her attention.

“They understand and sometimes when they come over, they end up playing with the kids,” said the 39-year-old, who started a home business which sells nursing wear in 2008. Loh is one of a growing brigade of “mumpreneurs” – mothers who leave their jobs to set up home businesses.

The number of women running registered businesses from their HDB flats has gone up from 6,600 in 2008 to about 7,000 last year.

Social enterprise Mums@Work has also seen a jump in entrepreneurial mothers on its career portal, from 20 in 2010 to about 600 now.

“Increasingly, they are younger and better-educated women who are confident of running businesses so as to create the flexibility that they desire,” said Sher-li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work.

Mothers interviewed said they enjoy the flexibility. Instead of being shackled to a nine-to-five job, they work around their children’s schedules and can have “no work” periods. This allows them to enjoy the best of both worlds: the challenge and satisfaction that come with work, and time with their children in their formative years.

These businesses are not “cottage” ones helmed by the low-income housewives of yore, who baked or sewed to supplement the family income. Instead, they range from employment agencies and party-planning firms to those offering legal mediation or fitness classes. Some stay-at-home mothers have even gone on to set up thriving law or public relations businesses.

“Sometimes, the business grows very big but they still choose to work from home because their kids are very young,” said Torrey.

These enterprising mothers are part of a trend in home businesses here: Those run from HDB flats alone have risen from 19,000 in 2008 to 20,600 last year.

People who work from home also save on travelling time and expenses and get to spend more time with their families.

Vicki Heng, 38, took the plunge last year to run her law firm from home. She used to be a partner at another law firm but rued missing too many of her children’s school performances and celebrations because of work.

Loh said juggling her business and childcare duties has given her new skills. “We learn to not only multitask, but also to start and stop working at unexpected moments, such as when they wake up from their naps.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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