Carol Ekinsmyth
Department of Geography
University of Portsmouth
What is mumpreneurship?
What is distinctive about
What is their role/impact in
neighbourhoods and
What might we learn from
the phenomenon?
Does she represent social
change or the cementing of
current gender inequality?
Oxford English Dictionary Online (2011) defines
it less specifically than I do
Key criteria: Mothers who configure business
around their motherhood role rather than
juggling the two (Ekinsmyth 2011, 2013).
◦ Motherhood comes first, business second
◦ Businesses can grow out of mothering experiences
◦ Businesses can be positioned in the parenting sector or
even mumpreneur sector – but this isn’t necessary. The
definition is about motivation and practice, not sector.
This definition:
1. Does not exclude dads who have
done similar (where they are the
2. Does not limit business location to
3. Does not include mothers who run
businesses where these businesses
are not configured to work around the
work of motherhood
4. Is not limited to parent and
children-related products
“… I mean I get to structure my days as I
want to … and the child care I want to and
I think I am in a unique position in that all
my clients are mums they all understand
the way that I have to work…
… I think in general, I think it just allows
me to earn some money, I mean not
masses, but enough to help pay the bills
and that kind of thing.”
“I want to make a difference and how can
I do it given my circumstances called, I
have a child and I’m about to have
another one, less time, how can I be
more effective? Um, how can I make
(Liz, Dance and Music Therapy)
“…a form of entrepreneurship
driven largely by the desire to
achieve ‘work-life harmony’
through an identity orientation
that blurs the boundary
between the roles of ‘mother’
and ‘businesswomen’”
(Ekinsmyth, 2011,104)
Ways of doing business
Combining business and motherhood as a business
Rejection of ‘entrepreneur’ label
Rejection of ‘textbook’ business practice
Rejection of traditional ‘entrepreneurial values’ of profit
and slickness
Giving something back
Keeping it personal
Helping people
Professional background
Entrepreneurship from the
mundane spaces and places of
motherhood (Ekinsmyth 2011) –
extracting value from everyday life
Narrative from a Mumpreneur business
“Sara has 3 children and is working on
keeping all her balls in the air! On any given
day she can be found juggling school runs
and business meetings, swimming lessons
and networking, parents evenings and nights
out! She is making progress in serving up
edible dinners and always enjoys her
Research shows that for professional women,
their lives diverge from those of men at the
point at which they become mothers
Mothers’ working biographies commonly
differ from those of women without children
and men (Leahy and Doughney, 2006)
Some mothers start up businesses as a way
to manage/blur the boundaries between
motherhood and re-numerated work.
Mumpreneurs, in common with the middle classes,
have a role-orientation towards ‘intensive
motherhood’ (Hays 1996, Ekinsmyth 2011, Duberly
and Carrigan 2012)
Long hours culture: professional work incompatible
with intensive parenting.
Mumpreneurs creatively seek ways of building viable
businesses under these circumstances
Appears to have emerged simultaneously in the
USA and the UK (mid 2000’s) – media promoted
Major players – a handful of innovative women who
saw the potential to build support/networking
businesses around the phenomenon
A bottom-up movement – fills gap left by
policy/funding shortfalls
“I see it as a movement – it’s
gathering pace – lots of women
looking for different ways to
make their lives work. We are a
group and there is a hierarchy.”
(Winona, Founder of a UK-Internetbased, family-orientated gite-booking
agency, Interviewee, 2010).
Much confusion over what term means
My analysis of 4 internet discussion forums
revealed heated debate and diametrically
opposed views including a feminized
entrepreneurial identity, a feminist statement, a
potential ghetto, smug, patronising and sexist
(Ekinsmyth 2013).
There is agreement that we need to dismantle the
stereotypes of who can be an entrepreneur.
There is disagreement over how this can be
Is at a specific stage in her life-cycle and has
made a specific choice/or is positioned in a
particular place with respect to motherhood and
This means that she does business under certain
(common) conditions
These conditions mark her as someone who is
doing business differently and they are key to
understanding the kind of business she builds.
Time-space constraints
(Normally) needs to make business work in a
domestic environment (home,
Local neighbourhood thus can be an enabler
or disabler
Heavy use of Internet
Time-space shifting
Dual or blurred identity
Studies have demonstrated
time and again that women’s
and men’s time-space vary
Mothers report that the co-location
of work in the spatial realm of
family life is the most common
motivation for building businesses
around the work of motherhood
“I want to be present for
my children.”
… a business owner who has configured a
business around the time-space routines of
motherhood, where “motherhood” is
understood to be the primary carer role in
social reproduction
(Ekinsmyth 2013, IJEBR).
Use of local,
od social
routines of
od spaces
Limited daily
spatial range
“…despite ICT saturation…, most of us spend
much of each day orchestrating continual
movement in relation to others” (Jarvis,2005)
Daily life is enabled and constrained in
space-time by the availability of jobs,
services, utilities, institutions, housing,
transport and members of our social
Places vary
New motherhood, new ways of
experiencing spaces and places.
How to make this new spatial
boundedness work for business?
New parents are especially positioned
for innovation (Stayeart and Katz, 2004)
– they are experiencing new problems
for the first time. They are a resource
worth supporting.
“I can run a global company
but I can’t get to Kent”
Community spaces
Family homes
Virtual spaces
Business spaces
How can we make neighbourhoods more
Mumpreneurs frequently draw on their local
social contacts for stimulation, networking,
recruitment and ideas. This can be both an
opportunity and a constraint.
A mumpreneur’s local social networks are the
most significant and/or universal aspects of
neighbourhood that root a business in place.
“I don’t know what I’d do without those
mums at the school gates because if I am
ever late from work or if I’ve got a meeting I
just ring them and say look can anyone help
– and they help. They keep me sane as
“I’ve worked really hard at making that
Natalie, mumpreneur networking franchise,
2 kids, 8 and 5.
Domestic neighbourhoods abound with (nonbusiness) activities and offer a rich and
diverse complement of human capital –
indeed a more diverse mix than any
workplace offers
Significant business ties coming from the
non-business realm.
Mumpreneurs frequently draw on their local
social contacts for stimulation, networking,
recruitment and ideas. This can be both an
opportunity and a constraint (overembeddedness – “lock-in”?)
networks can be vital
for the recruitment of
As employees
As outsourcees
As clients
“First I had Kath, she set up a group in
Bafton, [How did you meet her?] She was a
Mum, she’s got Isobel, the same age as
Emily, they were at nursery together, she
had been a teacher, and there was the two
of us for 18 months, then Sian got
involved [another personal friend], then
Kath moved, Sian went back to work and
then I got Emma [a friend through
respondent’s choir] who is fantastic, she
was a nurse but had 4 children and she
has been with me for 3 years now….”
(Sharon, children’s education sector).
Community space is vital as a creative space – a
space where business is born
This networking is social, not business-oriented
Uses latent human capital for business
“We were three mums with a lot of children between us and we
constantly had a problem with nits. We had nothing to do with
nits, one of us was a manager of a body shop branch, my
daughter’s best friend’s mother did aroma-therapy and
massage and she came up with a couple of concoctions …. And
one day she came up something that really did get on top of
them … and my daughter said, I think this has worked, you
should think about making this and selling this to the other
mums. We had a laugh and then thought about it and ………….
We started the business, it literally was kitchen sink stuff …..
we all put in a tiny bit of money for some bottles and we
thought we would market it through word-of-mouth….”
(Alice, headlice treatments)
Neighbourhoods vary in their
potential as the spatial context for
ICTs are able to negate some of this
For some industries however
(creative), face-to-face networking,
group stimulation and buzz are vital
(and often lacking in domestic
“I think it’s just
a different
geographically I
am just in the
wrong place
and time-wise, I
suppose I still
require a level
of commitment
to networking
and socializing
that I just don’t
have at the
(Jane, Music
Therapy and
Loose, repetitive ties are comforting,
‘homely’, ‘sense of community’, not feeling
These contribute to the intangibles (– the
affective dimensions of ‘place’ (Tuan 1977)).
“I chose the room at the front of the house
so that I could watch the comings and
goings of my neighbours and not feel too
Anne, Son aged 7, artist & designer
Often spread out over a much wider
geographical field (can be global)
Often ICT enabled
Business networking (e.g. belonging to
‘mumpreneur’ business networking groups,
craft groups and associations etc)
We miss a good deal of significant networking
if we only concentrate on this form of
Importantly, we can miss the neighbourhoodbased networking.
Non-economic networking is vital to
mumpreneur businesses (networking embedded
in the social rather than the economic realm)
Business to business ties are far less dependent
on the local than business enhancing social ties
Neighbourhood capital can be vital
This capital can and does fuel business
It varies geographically
What are the effects of this activity on
If mumpreneurship is an incubation phase,
what happens to neighbourhood ties when
business practice becomes more
How is mumpreneurship a middle-class
phenomenon and what are its outcomes in
terms of social division?
Low-cost, lowrisk start-up.
Working in
family spaces
Use of ICT’s
and social
* Finance and
economic security
Appears to be a
* Space in the home
* Social and
educational capital
* Intensive
*Role models
“Several studies indicate that, during the
start-up process, family plays an important
role in the mobilization of financial
resources…, the provision of human resources…,
and physical resources in the form of space
in the family household.”
(Aldrich and Cliff 2003, 577).
Many others do business under constraints –
it is perhaps time for enterprise policy to
recognize (better) key groups who might be
identified through shared constraints.
Mumpreneurs have sought
recognition/visibility and built a support
infrastructure for themselves.
The domestic neighbourhood and its social networks
can be an important source of and resource for
We should consider forms of spatial policy that might
be instigated (for example, investing in neighbourhood
working hubs with integrated ‘drop off’ crèche
Spaces for networking and unintended learning are
vital. The current fashion for co-working spaces bears
this wisdom out.
Positive interventions might help to build local cultures
of (female) entrepreneurship.
Does it benefit the women and their families?
Does mumpreneurship benefit communities
How can mumpreneurship spread its benefits
further – beyond the (white?) middle classes?
What do we need in communities to
encourage these processes?
What policy interventions are needed? What
form should they take?
Mumpreneurship is time-limited, just as children are
As a practice, it is probably best thought of as a
transition stage – (though I met someone this year
who said she had been a mumpreneur for 25 years)
It is useful for encouraging talent and creativity,
building business and building vibrant communities
It could also be useful in building resilient
communities, especially if infrastructure can be
encouraged to make visible, share and spread the
1. Should we be focussing policy intervention
on individuals or
◦ How might we build resilient
2. Are other women disadvantaged by the
mumpreneur term? How can this be changed?
Dr. Carol Ekinsmyth,
ESRC Festival of Science,
Manchester Metropolitan University,
November 4th, 2014
Ekinsmyth, C., (2013), “Mothers’ business, work/life and the politics of ‘mumpreneurship’”, Gender,
Place and Culture, (ahead of print), 1-19.
Ekinsmyth, Carol, (2013), “Managing the business of everyday life: The roles of space and place in
‘mumpreneurship’”, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research, 19, 5, 5-5.
Ekinsmyth, C., (2012), "Family friendly entrepreneurship: New business formation in family spaces”,
Urbani Izziv 23 (s1): S115-S125. DOI: 10.5379/urbani-izziv-en-2012-23-supplement-1-011.
Ekinsmyth, C., (2011), "Challenging the boundaries of entrepreneurship: The spatialities and practices
of UK ‘mumpreneurs’”, Geoforum, Vol. 42, pp.104-114.

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