Christie Schultz operates the mother of all small businesses.
The 34-year-old is a "mompreneur," a stay-at-home mother who uses technology to broaden the reach of her Calgary business into the national and international markets.
"The term mompreneur was coined almost two decades ago so it's not a brand new idea, but what's happening is that there's growing recognition that there's more of us,' says Ms. Schultz, the mother of three young children and founder of Entrepreneurial Moms International ( www.entrepreneurialmoms.org), an online destination for other mothers running small businesses.
The unofficial catalyst for her firm was a gathering of seven Calgary mothers in April, 2008. Regular monthly meetings followed with more and more participants joining in.
"I decided that if I could make this networking of moms happen in Calgary, I could make this happen in Vancouver and Ottawa," Ms. Schultz says. "In fact, there are entrepreneurial moms across the globe looking for support, education and knowledge about promotion of their businesses. Individually they don't have all the skills they need to get their businesses launched but together we can all do it."
The Internet and other technology tools allowed her to realize her vision and to lay the groundwork to start up local chapters in Edmonton and Ottawa, as well as Austin, Tex., which is her home town.
"Without the Internet, no one way could I reach the numbers of people I'm able to reach," Ms. Schultz explains. "It's such a gift. It helps me maintain my lifestyle of being able to work from home on hours that fit me. Right now as I speak to you, I have two children asleep and another in a camp about five minutes away."
Membership fees drive most of the revenue for Entrepreneurial Moms International. The annual $99 charge allows members to receive discounts on local networking events, enables them to create public profiles for their companies, to post ads on the Entrepreneurial Moms website, and to gain access to the members-only online group. Memberships and corporate sponsorships are projected to reach more than $200,000 this year.
Kim Page Gluckie, founder of MPoweredMarketing ( www.mpoweredmarketing.com), is a 38-year-old mother who has built a business around training and marketing guidance for small businesses in the Calgary area. She also has a blog called The Marketing Mom.
"In my survey of about 70 women (who have taken her workshops) I'd say 90 per cent of them are moms who have more than one child," Ms. Page Gluckie says. "It's a whole lot more challenging picking the kids up after school and being involved in your kids' lives if you have more than one child. So the draw for women in their mid- to late-30s with more than one child is the flexibility to manage their family better by starting their own business."
Ms. Page Gluckie also says technology is a major contributor to her ability to manage her home life and work.
"In my own case, while sitting in the parking lot waiting for my oldest to get out of school I can look at my BlackBerry, see if I have an e-mail, open my Netbook and respond. Just that flexibility with good wireless technology is the way a lot of women operate their business."
One of her clients is Nyla Free, a 36-year-old mother of two girls, aged eight and three, who has broadened her traditional interior design business based in Calgary into a Web-based enterprise with national and international reach called Design in a Box ( www.designinabox.ca).
Through her website, clients can make use of her interior design skills by submitting specifications and photographs for any size room in a house. A few weeks later, Ms. Free will send back a floor plan, a complete source guide to where items can be purchased for the new look, and even fabric samples in a decorative box. The chief benefit for her online clients is cost savings: not having to pay an interior designer by the hour.
"I love my work, I love being a mom," Ms. Free says. "The Internet is huge for me. My iPhone is very important as well and with it the Internet is at my fingertips. I can be at my daughter's swim meet and I can still be on the Internet working on a project, sourcing out materials."
Gina Bell is a successful entrepreneur based in Regina who has started a group called International Association of Women in Business Online ( www.iawbo.com). She believes the trend of working mothers severing their corporate ties and starting up their own small businesses will continue to gather momentum.
"I network with a lot of women particularly out of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver," Ms. Bell says. "I have a strong network of mothers. And because of the flexibility (offered by technology), the ability to invent almost any kind of business online, there's really no limit to creativity and innovation. More women are starting to open their eyes to the possibilities."
For Ms. Schultz, it means there are no geographical limits as she develops the international membership component of her enterprise.
"One recent addition ... is an entrepreneurial mom located in Rome; her husband is a foreign diplomat … she takes clients by phone and Skype worldwide beginning at 5:30 a.m. her time. We aim to service her and legions of women like her across the world whose numbers are staggering."
Special to the Globe and Mail