Mixing motherhood and business

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Mixing motherhood and business

Quilt Fabric Delights owner Sarah Leak and her two children.

One of the biggest business shifts over the past decade has been the number of women starting up their own home-based businesses.

More women than ever are successfully setting up a business from home. For some, this means resurrecting a former career; for others, it is about tapping into something new. The overriding
benefit of this for most business
mums is having the flexibility to
work for themselves and spend
time with family.

This was the case for Sarah Leak
and Kathy Bellingham who both created successful businesses while raising children.

Adelaide mother of two, Leak, says that this shift took place when her younger daughter started school in 2006. The former paralegal secretary extended her love of sewing by starting an online business supplying difficult-to-find designer quilt fabrics.

“I found myself with more time on my hands and I also discovered a gap in the market when looking for fabric,” explains Leak.

Her Quilt Fabric Delights business has grown to such an extent that she is now contemplating moving into an office. “Working from home is great because it reduces your overheads but there comes a time when you just want the space back,” she says.

Bellingham, a mother of three, stumbled across the idea for her baby gift business, babycupcakes, while watching an episode of Sex in the City.

“There was a scene where a flower arrangement made from nappies was given to one of the characters,” she says. Inspired by the idea, Bellingham enlisted the support of long-time friend and retailer Marianne Camper.

In 2003, the two women launched their online concept, selling a range of bouquets or gift packages made from essential newborn items. The business has gone on to record amazing growth, exporting to more than 16 countries and turning over $1 million a year. Babycupcakes currently employs five full-time staff and 12 part-timers.

“We both invested about $231 each and had no idea that the business would grow to where it is today,” says Bellingham, who in March, 2011, managed to step outside of the business of which she is still a half owner.

Pros and cons

Bellingham, a former lawyer, estimates that she worked around 35 hours a week and the fact that she could juggle those hours around her family’s needs was very appealing.

Leak also loves the ability to determine her own daily schedule. She estimates that 50 to 60 hours go into the business each week, and her husband helps out when needed.

But while working from home offers these obvious benefits, it can also be challenging. Bellingham addressed time management issues by carefully considering her priorities, balancing overseas gift fairs and meetings with the demands of being a mum.

Leak and Bellingham both stress that it’s important to focus on dividing your time as best you can.

Charting new territory – often the foundation of a home-based business – can be another problematic area.

“We were pioneers in this industry so were carving out a niche for ourselves but didn’t have anyone to model ourselves on,” explains Bellingham. “The advantage is that we know the pitfalls and this has helped us keep ahead of the new competition that’s now around us.”


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.

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