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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

OTTAWA — Stay-at-home moms are more and more turning into work-at-home moms — using their education and pre-motherhood job experience to launch magazines, develop new products and otherwise remove the stigma of being absent from the 9-5 world by writing their own paycheques.
A survey done by Leger Marketing for eBay Canada ahead of Mother's Day found that 33 per cent of Canadians know a mother who has either started her own business or would like to — though only 14 per cent have done so.

"Deciding whether to put your career on hold after having children is probably one of the most difficult decisions a mother has to make," said Tiffany Lemay of Victoria, who started a home-based business selling items on eBay.

British Columbia-based Women's Enterprise Centre notes that one-third of self-employed Canadians are women, and half of them work from home.

But while home sales are certainly an attractive option for "mompreneurs," as they're called, that's certainly not the beginning and end of their business model.

"I find in my conversations that the general population and policy-makers think women only run micro-businesses and home-based ventures that don't have a major impact," Tracy Scarlett, CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, writes in a note to members on the group's website.

The Internet has played an important role in opening up the workplace to stay-at-home moms. MOMpreneur magazine was launched online in 2006 by a group of Calgary women who had started meeting to share information and network; the website savvymom.ca was launched in 2004 by two former university roommates who wanted to start a publication that dealt with "the ever-present challenges of modern-day motherhood."

Many mompreneur businesses stem from women's frustration at not being able to find existing suppliers of products they want: for example, Robeez baby shoe company, was established in 1994 by a new mom, recently laid off, who couldn't find shoes for her baby and started making her own. According to the company's website, Robeez now does $15 million in annual sales.

There is a wealth of resources online for work-at-home moms, including opportunities to network with other women doing the same thing, links to grants, information about writing business proposals — even advice about maintaining that all-important work-life balance, a problem many women thought they had solved by staying at home.

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