Making the dream of working in your PJs a reality
MANY a woman has fantasised about running her own business from home in her pyjamas with no grumpy boss to answer to and the flexibility to visit the principal's office when her kid has been ordered into the naughty corner again.
But the reality of going into business for yourself can be very different.
Working alone you have few people to bounce ideas off, help you celebrate your successes and brainstorm challenges.
The office Christmas party can also be a bit of a fizzer.
It's something Kingscliff mum and businesswoman Melissa Groom knows only too well.
Three years ago, the 41-year-old launched a YouTube parenting TV show from home with few resources and little technical know-how.
Adding to the challenge was that some of the work had to be conducted from the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane while her then 11-year-old-son underwent a life-saving kidney transplant.
With her son on the mend after two years of rollercoaster emotions and her online business ticking over, Melissa was dying to get out of the house and enjoy some face-to-face companionship as opposed to cyberspace friends.
"I felt isolated," she recalls.
She investigated existing women's networking groups and could find nothing held at a convenient time or for an affordable price.
So she posted an invitation on Facebook for like-minded women to join her for coffee at Palm Beach and was stunned when 32 people showed up.
It was the start of what would eventually become another small-business success story for Melissa - the Mums In Business networking group.
For several months she ran the Palm Beach chapter for free weekly, eventually attracting nearly 100 members purely by word of mouth.
But given the amount of time she was investing in producing resources, organising guest speakers and mentoring members, in July last year she introduced an annual fee of $97, which has since risen to $297.
In February, a Tweed Heads chapter was launched, with 10 members so far meeting weekly at South Tweed Sports Club.
Melissa said it was important the meetings were held weekly rather than monthly as she believed otherwise you didn't develop the necessary depth of relationships
"We all share our challenges and successes we're having in a non-judgemental way," she says.
"It just builds a community of like-minded and supportive mums."
Melissa said she had noticed a lot of similar challenges faced by mum entrepreneurs.
"They've got the passion and the drive but little business acumen," she says.
"Unless you've got the right business structure, good bookkeeping and you're on top of the basics like how to read a profit and loss sheet, sooner or later it's going to come unstuck," she observed.
It is those knowledge gaps that Melissa seeks to plug via guest speakers addressing issues ranging from basic business skills through to marketing, social media and public relations.
She also encourages members to act as guest speakers to share their own knowledge and passion.
"One of the biggest mistakes I see mums make is they have too many hats, they spread themselves too thin," says Melissa.
"Another mistake is they are inspired to launch their own businesses for the flexibility but become slaves to the job.
"They end up burning out working 16-18 hours a week," she says.
Melissa publishes an online magazine every two months featuring inspiring mentors and columnists and members' stories and expertise.
Tweed members run the spectrum, from women with their own natural skincare lines, to consultants, children's party organisers and graphic designers.
The group meets every Thursday during school term from 10am-noon at South Tweed Sports Club.
For more information, visit mumsinbusinessaustralia.com.au.