Erica Allison is a mom, wife, and entrepreneur/owner of Allison Development Group: Strategic public relations and marketing firm in Western, N.C.

Many of you know by now that I’m a mom.

I also consider myself to be an entrepreneur.

I jumped into running my own business four years ago, with a brief interruption to have baby #2, then got back in the saddle this past June 2010.

I used to think being a mom and having your own business was “the life.” That was when I had the one. Add in #2 and it’s flipping hard. Really hard.

Please don’t misunderstand. I love being a mom. I also love having my own business and even if I tried, could not deny my entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, I am both.

What most people don’t know or understand, is how to interact with us, how to evaluate us and if we should be treated differently. I’ve read the usual articles over the years about women and glass ceilings, some edging close to saying that if that woman has a baby or two, the ceiling is pretty much lowered by a couple of floors and we’re out for the count. I’ve ignored them for the most part, not fully understanding what the ramifications of that thought process are for me until I began to ‘feel’ it on a real level.

Before now, when faced with that sort of perception I either walked around it or went in another direction. I was playing to my strong suits. Translation: I’ll go where the perception isn’t so black and white or my children are not viewed as handicaps holding me back from ‘true success.’ However, if I’m to move my business from where it is now (solo with a part-time contract employee) to where I want it to be, I have to challenge the perception that moms can’t be entrepreneurs. Squarely in the face. No walking around it, no going in another direction.

When I read a Gin and Topics post featuring a venture capitalist with doubts about funding a start-up run by a pregnant woman, I realized there’s no better time than the present.

What Paige Craig wants to know is not how we, as women in this role, should behave, but rather how men should treat this situation of moms as entrepreneurs. I would like to point out that he said ‘men’ instead of ‘investors’ in that sentence. Because women without children make assumptions about women with children who choose to start a business, my answers and perspective applies to both.

  1. Don’t count us out: For starters, don’t count us out. Just because we have kids doesn’t mean we don’t want to be successful or that we don’t know what it’s like to work hard. We do. And we will. Here’s the cold hard truth: We have something to prove and we’re going to work twice as hard to make darn sure we do.
  2. We’re in it for the long haul: Raising kids doesn’t happen in a five year period. Successful, SUSTAINABLE, businesses don’t either. They take time. We are committed. We have stamina. We have determination. Does that mean a quick ROI? There’s no guarantee with any start up with regards to your ROI. Working with a mom-owned start-up may mean a different sort of ROI for an investor. Just like the stock market and its many options, there are short-term and long-term benefits. Consider matching your risk level and rate of return to the investment.
  3. We assemble AWESOME teams: Most of us have help. There’s no way to do all of this without it. There’s someone really special taking care of our kids. You can bet on it. Make no mistake that it bothers us to our core. However, that is our problem and our issue to deal with. If you think the question you’re about to ask us about childcare or our children is the same one you would ask our male counterpart with kids, then ask it. If it’s not, consider keeping it to yourself. Better yet, start asking our male counterparts. They may be the ones handling childcare arrangements – you never know!
  4. We’re efficient with our time: Because we miss our kids and can’t wait to get back to them, we are VERY efficient with our time. Sure, we can multi-task, but we can also prioritize and make sure the MOST IMPORTANT tasks are addressed before we head out. That also applies when we have to go home to be with a sick child. We’ll figure out a way to make things happen and keep the wheels turning. Remember, we have a team.
  5. We all have extracurricular activities: Just like you, we have something we want to do after work. The difference is that our ‘something’ is usually our children and yours may be your workout. Careful there. That’s a BIG assumption. Our after work activity could also be a workout, you never know.
  6. Assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about our schedules or how our children affect them. We’ll make sure our clients’ needs are met and our schedule will be what works best for us and our family. That will very likely not be a typical 8-5 day. It may be an 8-3 day with a two hour break and then another few hours later in the day and into the evening.
  7. Being a mother enhances our experience as an entrepreneur: Having our very unique experience as a mom – whether it’s to one or four kids – is yet another life layer that enhances our business acumen and our problem solving abilities. We are given little opportunities daily to problem solve and inspire action. That translates well in the business world.

So, treat us as you would any other start-up, but know that we have an additional skill set and that we take our jobs very seriously. You can also be certain that before we made the decision to ‘do this’ we evaluated and addressed all the scenarios we could think of to make ‘it a go’. Just ask us. We’ll tell you.

Erica Allison is a mom, wife, and entrepreneur/owner of Allison Development Group: Strategic public relations and marketing firm in Western, N.C. Check out her blog.