Business Ideas for Mums: Running a pre-school group

Tell me more… Pre-school groups are for children under five and usually held in village halls or community centres. They help children play, learn, have fun and interact with other children and include:

  • Messy play
  • Arts and crafts
  • Music and dance/movement
  • Speech and communication
  • Cooking
  • Baby yoga and massage
  • Languages, including sign language

You might also like to consider becoming a tutor.

What are the benefits?

  • You may be able to take your own children with you, although it will depend on the group and the age of your children. Caring for your own toddler while setting up and clearing away could be hard work!
  • You can run as many or as few sessions as you want.
  • You might be able to start your own franchise.
  • You could diversify e.g. you could also run children’s parties or produce a CD.
  • If you don’t want to start from scratch, there are several franchises you could buy.
  • If you have a background in childcare or education but fancy a change from school or nursery, this could be a rewarding new career.

Things to consider…

  • Parents may encourage you to charge on a per-session basis as it’s more convenient for them. But you’ll have costs to cover such as the hire of a hall, so you may need to charge on a termly basis. You could make this more appealing by offering a the first session for free or the first three sessions to be paid on a per-session basis.
  • Demand is likely to be term-time only, so will you need to find other ways of earning an income for the other 12 weeks in the year? Or does term time working suit you?
  • Many Sure Start centres have opened up over the last few years offering free pre-school sessions. You can compete with this, but you will need to think about what you have to offer that the Sure Start centres don’t have. Alternatively, you could ask them if you could run sessions for them. If you can’t beat them, join them!
  • When working out how much you could earn from running a pre-school group, don’t forget to include the time you won’t be paid directly for, e.g. setting up and clearing away, administration, lesson planning and preparation.
  • Check out the legal requirements, which will be different depending on the group you run. For example – do you need a Criminal Records Bureau check? What are the health and safety requirements, do you need to be inspected by Ofsted? The Pre-School Alliance leaflet (see below) is a good place to start.
  • If you’re looking at buying a franchise, how long will it take you to earn back the franchise fee? What do you get with the franchise? Is this good value for money?
  • It may take you a couple of years to get a full group of children.

Further information

Not convinced that running a pre-school group is for you? Take a look at other business ideas for mums.

Business Ideas For Mums – Pain and Problems

bumpIf you want to find a business opportunity, look for where people are in pain or having problems. Here’s a good one for you – maternity clothing. You’d think that someone would have sorted out all fashion problems for pregnant women years ago. After all, women have been getting pregnant since, well, forever. And it’s not exactly a niche market.

Maternity wear has improved since the days of smocks and dungarees but women still can’t get the clothes they want. Pregnancy doesn’t last long, so we don’t want to spend a fortune on an entire new wardrobe, but at the same time we want just a few really good items that make us feel fabulous. Affordable basics such as T-shirts are hard to find (I ended up buying a size 22 non-maternity t-shirt the other week because I’m now too big for New Look’s maternity range!), skirts are hard to find (trust me, a skirt would be a great alternative to maternity jeans in July) and the strappy swimwear and nightwear on sale doesn’t control those enormous pregnant boobs.  And I’m not alone – check out this thread on the Mumsnet forum.

Shops stocking maternity wear are few and far between, with the vast majority being online or in catalogues. At the one time in your life when your size changes weekly, you can’t go into a changing room and try on clothes. Crazy.

The wardrobe problems don’t end when the baby appears.  If you’re breastfeeding and you’re invited to a wedding you might fancy a nice dress as a change from your usual jeans and t-shirt. Your choices are either black, black or black.

I reckon the market is wide-open for affordable maternity and breastfeeding clothing that women actually want to buy. I’d do this myself, but I’m rubbish at fashion. Could this be your big business break?

More thoughts on direct selling and party plans

Kate Godfrey’s comment yesterday got me thinking about party plans and direct selling, which is interesting because I doubt I’ll ever actually do it again. Never say never and all that, but I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. And that’s fine because I’m on a mission to find what is my cup of tea.

Kate was my team leader during my brief stint as a rep for Usborne Books At Home, and she was a great team leader – and no, she’s not paying me to say this! She was always available for advice, she was upbeat, positive and had a sales background too. This made her knowledgeable about how to sell and a mine of creative ideas for selling books that went way beyond simply parties. Best of all, she knew when to pick you up and dust you down after an underwhelming party without making you feel remotely under pressure.

Kate’s comment got me thinking about why I wanted to write about direct selling. Firstly, if you’re thinking about giving it a try it’s very difficult to get balanced information. You’re either given a glowing review by someone who is trying to recruit you to their team or you get the cynical view of someone who has tried it and not succeeded. You’ll also hear from people who are sick of being hassled by friends who are trying to sell to them. Which is a shame because you need to go into any business with your eyes wide open and the facts in front of you.

Secondly, direct selling has such potential – where else would you get a chance to start your own business with minimum risk, a low initial investment (usually), needing no business experience and with a team leader to mentor you?

What intrigued me was this: why do people who try direct selling often fail make any more than pocket money?  The flip side of the easy entry means that direct selling attracts people without business, sales or marketing experience, leading to a steep learning curve and therefore probably a high drop-out rate. Although it’s easy to get in the door, success depends on the same factors as for any other business – hard work, consistent, regular marketing, a good quality product and great customer service. All this takes time, effort and experience to learn. I would also argue that, compared to setting up your own business, the scales are weighted slightly against new starters because part of the price of the product you’re selling will effectively be commission for people higher up the network, so making the product more expensive.

I’ve heard people say that anyone with an outgoing personality and a love of the product will do well at party plans. I disagree. That’s like saying anyone introverted will automatically make a good computer programmer. Selling is a skill that is undervalued – true, some of us are naturally better at it than others, but like any other skill it needs to be learned however fabulous your product is.

So when the end of your maternity leave is looming and you’re looking for a way to avoid going back to your old job, direct selling could be for you. But it certainly isn’t a quick or easy fix. To earn more than pin money will take the same  skills, hard work and determination that you’ll need in any business.

How to start a children’s party business

party hats(Last update: 22 April 2015)

What is it?

Many parents want to give their children a memorable birthday party but can’t face entertaining a crowd of excitable children themselves! But if you do love entertaining children, a children’s party business could be right up your street. Here are some ideas…

  • Being a clown
  • Running party games
  • Face painting
  • Art and craft parties/ Cooking parties
  • Music parties – you sing, play an instrument and maybe bring instruments for the children too.
  • Soft play parties  – you provide the equipment to the parents venue of choice such as their garden or a hired community centre.
  • Pampering/ beauty parties
  • Or the ultimate whole-party package where you provide food, plates, cups, party bags, entertainment and clear up afterwards.

You can tailor your service to fit your previous experience, interests or to enhance a business you already run, for example a beauty therapist could run pampering parties or someone already running a pre-school class might branch out into art and craft parties.

The benefits

  • If you love working with children this could be seriously good fun.
  • The work is likely to be at the weekend  so if you have a partner who works Monday to Friday, you could share the childcare between you and not have to pay for a childminder or nursery.
  • By putting your website and contact details on your party invitations and in party bags, you could cheaply and easily market your services to other children and parents.
  • Start up costs are usually low compared to some businesses. You can try a few parties to see if you enjoy it and to test the market without investing too much time or money.
  • You could branch out – a face painter or clown could be hired for weddings to keep children entertained during the speeches.

Things to consider

  • You must be reliable

If you take a booking and then don’t show up, you’re ruining a child’s birthday party. Obviously this is not only disappointing for the children, it’s spectacularly bad for your business. For this reason you need to be sure that you’re committed to running the parties you have booked – that you don’t give up the business after a couple of months and cancel parties at short notice. Also, what will you do if you (or your own children) are ill? It could be worth making contact with other mums in the same line of work so you can cover for each other if the worst happens.

  • Do you want to work weekends?

This is the flip side of not having to pay for childcare. Working weekends means that you will be missing time with your partner and your own children – how much does this bother you?

  • Be careful not to undercharge

When researching how much other entertainers charge for their services, it’s easy to conclude they are ripping people off.  Maybe this is true for a handful of people, but if you take into account travel costs, good quality equipment, party bags, any future training you might want to do, food (if you’re providing it), set up and clearing-away time and insurance (vital!) the fee doesn’t sound so steep. It’s easy to start off by saying “I’ll charge £2 per child because that’s reasonable” only to find that this doesn’t even cover your costs, let alone pay you a wage. Look carefully at how you charge. If you charge per child and only three show up, you’ll be out of pocket. If you charge per hour or per party then the onus is on the parent to get enough children to make it worthwhile. Or you charge a flat fee for the first (say) ten children then a price per child above that number. If you’re doing a job you love and that’s based around having fun, it’s easy to short-change yourself because it seems mean to ask for much money. Remember you have a talent, you’re providing a service that people want and you’re entitled to be paid what you’re worth. Finally, remember that parents are trusting you with their children – if you’re too cheap, that might suggest that you’re not properly qualified, experienced or reliable.

  • Don’t forget to get adequate insurance

Whether you’re painting faces or encouraging children to run around like wild things, the potential for mishaps is high! Make sure you’re well insured.

Further information

Not convinced that running children’s  parties is for you? Take a look at other business ideas for mums.