I am a huge fan of Carrie Kwan, a working mother with a 9 month old baby and a growing toddler. Being a working mother is not always easy and Carrie launched her business, the wonderful networking group, Mums & Co, when she was 7 months pregnant with her second child. Mums & Co is a wonderful community of mothers who all run their own businesses and Carrie strives to connect all these mums to help them in their businesses. As a small business owner myself, I joined Mums & Co to help deal with the isolation that comes with being a small business owner and have made fantastic connections already. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to chat to Carrie about how she juggles motherhood and running a small business that inspires and helps women all across Australia.
Please tell us a bit about you - your family, your working background etc.
I am one of three girls (with second child tendencies), born in Singapore and raised in Australia by hard-working, devoted Chinese parents. I live in Sydney with my husband and two sons, a newborn (Coen) and toddler (Remy). Both of their personalities are forming more and more each day - Coen is Mr Smiley, as a 9m.o he’s very ‘chatty’ and affectionate, loves his big brother and animals, especially dogs (just like his dad). Remy seems confident, is super active (does not sit still!) and quite cheeky. He’s creative, loves playing with his bigger cousins and ‘garbology’ is his thing; endless fascination with the sounds and movements of garbage trucks. We can take him anywhere (kiddies concerts, Disneyland, other countries...and what he loves most is just spotting garbage trucks and recycling bins! I have a soft spot for pilates, figs, papaya smoothies and a robust cup of coffee. Life seems to be exceptionally full these days!
At a young age I fell in love with the power of the pen and story-telling. It made sense to begin my career in corporate marketing in the professional services sector. I spent five years in Sydney, and then in London, travelling extensively across Europe. As a PR, I was often asked for advice on where to go and what to do. I eventually gave up my well-paying job in an institutional bank to follow my passion and founded Daily Addict - a site that acts like an online lifestyle concierge, curating the city’s best experiences. Launching a digital start up at a time when the tech was so new was exciting, but I wished I had better support and business network to tap into!
How did the idea for Mums & Co come about?
After having my first baby I learned that as a mother running a business, I had new hurdles to overcome. The biggest for me was isolation - even with a virtual team it often felt like I was facing all the risks and decisions alone. I learned ways to be more efficient with money and time in order to make the business with babes in arms juggle a little easier. When you’re a small business it’s tough to succeed and finding the right resources quickly and easy makes a massive difference.
When I was pregnant with my second son I was approached by IAG’s Executive General Manager Agencies Phuong Ly about forming an online business to help mothers to succeed. I knew that I was ready for a new challenge, it seemed like such a great fit and the best way to make the biggest impact helping mums and small business owners. When I was seven months pregnant, Mums & Co launched!
Can you please tell us a bit more about Mums & Co - a brief description of what it is/what you do and how many members there are today?
Mums & Co aims to be Australia’s most connected and empowered network of business mums. We are a membership network that provides support to like-minded women and access to great resources to help them thrive. We’re not yet a year old and so proud to have more than 8000 members across our platforms.
There are thousands of remarkable women taking control of what’s important to them and running a business. Consider us the smarter way of to start and grow! Being backed by IAG we are able to offer our members access to fantastic perks which are usually reserved for corporates. This includes access to last minute police vetted childcare, access to free legal and accounting services, as well as access to business insurance made simple. Our efforts are focused on helping our members save time, save money and be more productive when they’re running households and working on their ambitions.
What type of members do you have? For example, what sectors are they in? Are they young or veterans? Are they full-time entrepreneurs or have businesses on the side? Do they have older or younger children? Etc
Our members are a really remarkable mix! About half are in the start-up phase. They come from a wide range of backgrounds from barristers, to business and wellness coaches, baby product retailers to cake decorators. We know that our mums are entrepreneurial, strong willed with a positive attitude and willingness to give it a go. They’re highly engaged in existing online communities and networks frequently on digital social media networks. Our members have a really broad spectrum of skill sets. We’ve found that for a lot of women, having a second child is often the trigger to start their own business.
One thing to note is that Mums and Co is here to help all women in business thrive. This includes entrepreneurs of any size, as well as women who work on a freelance basis, consultants, and even women who help their partners run a business - any woman running a business!
We absolutely love Mums & Co and what you’re about, what do you think is the main reason your members love it?
Thank you, coming from a biz mum like yourself that’s so fantastic to hear! We are hoping to create a really authentic and engaged community of supportive women. We make sure that what we offer is of high quality - well researched and insightful articles, great perks and good value business services, all tailored for the business mum in mind. We get that you need ‘flexibility’, ‘relevancy’, ‘useful’ and you need it ‘fast’. I think this shines through and our members get the benefits.
How do you juggle Mums & Co with family life?
Just like everyone else! Some days work better than others. I’m a big fan of productivity apps like Asana and CoSchedule. These help keep me and my team on track during the day, so I can make the most of my time with my family in the evenings and weekends. Mums & Co supports flexible working arrangements, so I try and work from home at least once a week to be closer to the little ones. I’m very lucky to have an amazing team, supportive partner, and family who make the juggle much easier. We’ve been debating this for a while...but recently took to outsourcing some of the household chores to free up precious time and spend it on family outings instead.
What does a regular day look like for you?
With so many unknowns in running a start-up, days are more often irregular! My approach to each day starts with a little gratitude, followed by purpose and focus during working hours, and finishes with family time, and even if momentarily, noting something I’ve achieved during the day.
Every day is sure to be filled with at least some learning (it might be via a conversation, podcast or article) and serving or getting to know our customers better - responding to social comments or calls and meetings. I tend to have a lot of meetings if it’s Monday-Wednesdays (love a good collab!) and spend time with the team working towards our purpose, this might include crafting rich content, product development, testing and other operational matters.
I manage to fit in a barre or pilates class twice a week and typically leave the office at 6pm. It’s then all about catching up with the family over dinner and getting the youngsters ready for bed time. They’re yet to crack the ‘go to bed by yourself’ routine, so if my husband and I don’t fall asleep getting both our boys to sleep, we manage to fit in some catch up time together.
What is your favourite thing about being a working mother?
The flexibility to control how I spend my time and work on something that I believe is purposeful. I can be there when and where my family most need me, and hopefully my kids will see their mum making a difference. I am so proud that Mums & Co is challenging ways of working, and that you shouldn’t have to choose between your family and your career.
What is the toughest thing about being a working mother?
It’s not simply one challenge but the tapestry of things that are part and parcel of being a business owner and parent. I do wish I didn’t feel rushed or pressed for time so often.
Do you have any advice for working mothers or new mothers in general?
Regardless of what the business is, simply starting one is daunting. I certainly know it is not easy to start a business. You don’t know who your market is, how people will respond to what you are selling – so much is unknown. And when you add children to the mix, it takes the challenge to a whole new level.
To all mums who are running a business, or thinking about running one, I have a simple message: You can do this. And Mums & Co is here to help you succeed! As a community, we can share our collective knowledge, celebrate our successes and support each other. When we work together we are stronger.