Dear President Trump,
I have something positive to say.
There aren’t many things our country can agree about nowadays, but here are a few:
So, let me introduce you to a few business owners. These aren’t “founders” or “entrepreneurs” – or at least they wouldn’t call themselves that. Rather, they are women who didn’t have childcare and they needed to pay bills – so they got it done. They embody the determination and perseverance that makes our country great – and will make it great again.
Tiffani left her role at a California property management company after she had her first child – as a 1099 contractor, she lacked access to paid maternity leave or job protection. She also couldn’t justify returning to the traditional workforce as her potential salary wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of daycare. Instead, she launched her own property management business, ANTR Management, and strapped her son in the carrier for site visits for the first eighteen months. She and her husband dipped into their savings to market the business, and she now manages six buildings with over seventy units and employs a wide range of outside vendors from roofers to plumbers to gutter repair specialists.
Jessica, a mom of three living outside Des Moines, had a small Etsy shop featuring women’s and children’s handmade goods, but it was just a hobby – until her husband was laid off from his job and wasn’t able to find another that that paid as well. Jessica started to focus on ways to grow her hobby into reliable income source. It was slow going at first as she was working only at nap time and at night and was constantly reinvesting her earnings; almost every cent went back into the business as she saved for better machines and increased inventory. Three years later, however, she has grown enough to not only grow her own family’s income – but to employ two other mothers as well.
Beth was a music therapist who left her career to stay at home after her first child was born. Once baby No. 2 came along, the family budget was tight and she needed to find a way to contribute. So she opened a local Kindermusik program, using a loan from a family member and credit card debt to cover the start-up costs. With limited funds, her business grew slowly – she couldn’t afford to hire additional teachers because of the extra costs that would entail (worker’s comp insurance, payroll fees, etc.). As her children grew up, she has gained flexibility, and her business growth has accelerated. Beth now runs trainings for daycares and preschools to include Kindermusik in their curriculum – and this year she added her first employee!
And then there’s Liz, a pharmaceutical sales rep who loved to exercise. After her second son was born, watching colleagues get laid off constantly in the big pharma world and a desire not to be an absent mother made her realize that she had to make a change. She needed to be able to provide for her family if something happened to her husband (who worked as a state trooper), and she couldn’t do it in a job that had her on the road constantly. She found the right space for a fitness studio in an old factory building, but a local bank wouldn’t give her a loan. Not one to take no for answer, Liz pulled money out of her 401K and put $20,000 on a 0 percent APR credit card. She left her pharma job, taught outdoor mommy and baby bootcamp classes to pay the bills, and she and her husband worked on the studio space between his shifts. Fitness Fusion opened its doors in 2012, and now has five trainers (all of whom are other moms). But it doesn’t stop there – Liz realized that there were women who couldn’t make it into her gym but wanted to work out, so she launched Team Fit, which uses a team of Fitness Fusion trainers and others to train clients virtually. With more than $250,000 in revenue, Team Fit has created jobs for over thirty mothers nationwide. And then there’s LizCort.com, the most recent extension of her business – which helps other mothers learn how to monetize their fitness passion while being at home for their children.
Not one of these women knew to look to Small Business Administration (SBA) for loan funding, despite the fact that they would have been ideal candidates for the Micro-loan program. Why not? It literally never occurred to any of them that the government would have support for a business of their size.
What can we do? To start, we can:
For each of these women who scraped together the money to make it work and are now each running a successful business and employing others, there are a thousand more. The scrappy mother is an unrecognized force in our economy, and has the potential to be an engine of growth. And your administration can empower them. Let’s do it.
Jamie Flaherty Cheney
Jamie Cheney is the founder of Prokanga, a pioneer in the flexible work space. Prior to Prokanga, she was a strategic leader in the digital marketing space. She is a graduate of Yale and received her MBA from Harvard. She lives in Harlem with her husband and three boys.