Once upon a time, many had the mindset that raising children is such a busy job in and of itself that if you were a mother, you couldn’t possibly work steadily. And while busy parents will agree that there’s a sliver of truth to that thinking – kids are, after all, incredibly demanding and finding time for anything else can be an immense challenge – in recent years we’ve seen an unprecedented wave of entrepreneurs, many of whom are also busy mothers.

The number of mothers with babies and young children who run businesses has grown exponentially of late. Such women come from all walks of life, however they all share a determination to make a better life for themselves and their families. While the term ‘mumpreneur’ does get thrown around easily, there has been a recent backlash to the term – business success and parenting are no longer seen as mutually exclusive, but simply an homage to the determination and grit it takes to not only manage, but excel, in both.

From quite early on, Emma Gelling resolved to harness her determination and grit. After becoming a mother at 19, she chose to prove to society that age is nothing but a number. A hairdressing apprenticeship and the successful building of a client base led to the creation of a mini salon at home, (with thanks to her supportive husband Shane); a salon in the city followed shortly afterward, alongside a swag of accolades and awards. In 2017, Emma was awarded the Young Entrepreneurs Project Young Entrepreneur of the Year as well as collecting the coveted gong of Young Entrepreneur of the Year from the Cairns Business Women’s Club. Throw another small child into the mix and (of course) oodles of spare time up her business-savvy sleeves, Emma and Shane also managed to create a lucrative side-hustle in buying, renovating and selling houses.

“It’s been a ride so far, absolutely,” says Emma. “Many women are spurred on to start their own business because their employment circumstances aren’t sufficiently family-friendly. Self-employment gives mums the control they need over their working hours while enabling them to generate income. And many of them come up with business ideas after finding solutions to challenges they face as a parent.

“More often than not, it’s the network and community of other entrepreneurial mothers that are the greatest champions of each other. 2020 certainly raised a few hurdles for most business owners and operators, but that network has remained incredibly resilient.”

In the beginning of her business, Emma sought out support from other women in business. She discovered Mums On The Go (MOTG), a network of Cairns entrepreneurial mothers that prides itself on members being generous with sharing their experiences and advice. Emma is now the Vice President, and while hairdressing is her craft of choice, her deeper passion lies in her efforts to empower and encourage youth and to help build belief in others they can do the same, no matter the circumstance. “I would be lying if I said there weren’t days where I wanted to pack it all in. In the early days, I made plenty of sacrifices to enhance the success of my business. I used to save as much as I could by cutting back our living expenses. I declined a lot of invitations to catch up with
friends and saw my family less than I would have liked. I didn’t know much about business when I started, so along with my formal study, I had to read a lot of books.

“I enjoy little more than being able to give back, and mentor others both in this network and by taking up other volunteering opportunities when they arise. Where possible, I have hired young disengaged or emerging youth, and up until recently I worked with Project Booyah, the Queensland Police Mentoring Program for young people. I also provide motivational talks for job network providers. The feedback I’ve received is that my story is inspiring for some of the young people in the audience. If you truly want something, it’s entirely achievable.”

Emma looks back at those times fondly, as it shows how hard she has worked over the past six years to get to where she is now. “Planning is the key,” she says. “This is my advice to any mums who are thinking about going into business. We plan and schedule everything. I have a 10 year old who has school and extracurricular activities as well as a 2 year old, so I need to work out my available hours and prioritise what I need and want to do.

“Work-life balance is critical. Setting trading hours or work hours is important for everyone, but especially if you’re a working mother. Ultimately, I believe being an entrepreneur is the greatest privilege in the world, and I love being able to help people bring that into reality. I love colouring blondes and enhancing natural beauty. If I worked for someone, I might not get the flexibility to have such a detailed specialisation in an industry I’m passionate about.”



Written by Jules Steer

Jules Steer is the Publisher of Oasis Magazine. With a career in Business Development spanning three decades, she's stressed, #blessed, and coffee obsessed ☕

A solo mum of four "determined", "focussed" and "energetic" young kids, she is often found with her head in her hands, lamenting her latest parenting fail.

A cricket-loving hip-hop tragic, very ordinary triathlete and champion cheerleader of all things #Cairns, Jules is easily recharged with Shiraz and Vodka - sometimes in the same glass.

Warning: Most situations get sweary quickly.

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