Whether it’s working as a freelance designer, running a cafe, or trying to take on the world with a new app, working for yourself is not for the faint hearted. Now add raising a child into the mix.
Having experienced the difficulties of motherhood and running a business first hand, entrepreneur Carrie Kwan decided to link up with IAG to bring to life an online hub that provides mothers with tips and tools to make it all a little easier.
As well as the community of likeminded women, Mums & Co offers access to tailored events, discounts on perks ranging from the likes of postage to restaurant vouchers, and a ‘Concierge’ connecting them to business services such as legal, insurance packages, and HR help and toolkits.
The partnership with IAG came after Kwan was approached by Phuong Ly, IAG’s Executive General Manager Agencies, about forming an online business and hub to help mothers succeed. The Agencies business was looking for opportunities to leverage the company’s size, scale, and strategic partnerships to better support the small business owners in its customer base.
Over several months, Kwan and Ly worked to refine the idea for a business that offered something beyond just insurance to a growing niche of customers: mums in business.
The idea came from Kwan’s own experiences running a business while juggling motherhood. In 2008 she founded media platform DailyAddict, a difficult experience in itself, but when she had her first child, the challenges doubled.
“As a mother running a business, I had new hurdles to overcome. The biggest for me was isolation – I could not attend as many meetings and functions, and despite a ‘virtual team’, did not have the simple daily interaction of co-workers at an office. I had to be more efficient with money and time; I had to find ways to make money stretch and I had to learn to be even better at time management,” Kwan explained.
“They say it takes a village to bring up a child, and I found that out first hand – I relied on my partner and family to help to give me time to run the business, attend meetings, source new business and so on. With a family, I also became more aware of the risks I exposed myself to, including business risks.”
Ly and Kwan began discussing the partnership opportunity when Kwan was halfway through her second pregnancy, negotiating terms when she was four months pregnant.
“When I raised my pregnancy with my now co-founding partner Phuong he said, ‘Congratulations; you shouldn’t have to choose between your family and your career’. This is the DNA of Mums & Co,” Kwan said.
“Starting a business is daunting, starting one with babes in arm brings the difficulty to a whole new level and I’m determined to help Australia’s growing tribe of business mothers flourish and grow. I want to say to all mums who are running a business, or thinking of starting one, you can do this.”
While they knew what their end goals or aims were in terms of how they wanted the business to help people, Kwan and Ly began their journey without knowing exactly what kind of platform they were going to build. They undertook a cycle of discussions and workshops followed by development sprints, gaining feedback and then adapting based on the insights gained from discussion groups.
One key insight gained early on, for example, was that content had to be a core offering of the platform, with members eager to gain advice and read how tos from other business owners.
Mums & Co provides members with access to services and products from partner providers at a discounted rate, from insurance cover, HR, legal, and event planning services to white goods from IAG suppliers at rates offered to IAG. As part of the Concierge service, Mums & Co also offers emergency childcare, usually reserved for corporates.
“Mums & Co has got the financial security, strength, and scale that comes from being part of IAG. An example is tapping into the immense value chain of strategic partnerships they hold,” Kwan said.
After signing up for $12 a month, members can also suggest a perk, such as an offer to generate leads for themselves, or back a perk, showing demand for a product or service that will allow the startup to negotiate a deal for its members.
There has seemingly never been a better time to be a woman in business, with dozens of networking, mentoring, and support groups popping up over the last few years. The ease of the internet means there are also more parenting groups than ever before, but Kwan believes Mums & Co has a foot in both camps and, as such, views other groups as collaborators.
As well as established business owners, the startup’s target market is largely mothers currently starting out, or thinking of starting a small business; Kwan explained the insurance cover offered by Mums & Co – an optional inclusion for members signing up – is tailored to mums starting a business at home.
“We bring a supportive and high level of ambition to mums in business and our branding and identity reflects that. Importantly, while we ourselves are a small business startup, there’s a high level of assurance being backed by Australia’s largest insurer. Our members take comfort in that,” Kwan said.
The potential for Mums & Co is significant, with over 300,000 mothers in business across Australia; there are currently over 1,000 signed on to the platform (though membership was free for the first 1,000 to sign up). In the months ahead, Kwan said Mums & Co is focused on seeking further strategic partnerships to expand its offering.
Image: Carrie Kwan. Source: Supplied.