Business

'Being called a mumpreneur is patronising'

Sally Bunkham Image copyright Sally Bunkham
Image caption Mum's Back founder Sally Bunkham says mumpreneur implies "someone with a little hobby"

Sally Bunkham founded her online retail business nearly two years ago after the birth of her second child.

To begin with, she says, she didn't mind being labelled a mumpreneur.

"But as I've gone through my business journey I've realised that it's a bit patronising," because it implies it's "someone with a little hobby".

She's not alone: A survey of 500 female business founders showed that nearly two thirds of them regarded mumpreneur as a "negative" term.

Nearly half said they found it "patronising", while one third said it had prevented them from being taken seriously.

"You'd never hear the term 'Dadpreneur'," they pointed out, in the survey which was conducted for currency exchange company, Moneycorp.

The term "mumpreneur" was coined in the late Nineties.

The dictionary definition is "a woman who combines running a business enterprise with looking after her children".

'Backlash'

Twenty years on and the word has spawned acres of newsprint, and divided opinion among female entrepreneurs.

Ms Bunkham says although there are plenty of women who don't mind being called mumpreneurs, there is a growing backlash online and on social media sites.

Her website Mum's Back, has been selling treats for new mothers since March 2017 - things like wine and cheese that they've had to abstain from during pregnancy.

Initially, she felt the word mumpreneur was fine because it "encompassed my two roles as someone running a business and being a mum. Mumpreneur sums it up".

Now, though, Ms Bunkham says it bothers her because it implies "someone with a little hobby, a sideline to do when the baby's asleep."

The worst occasion was in the early days of her business when she was asked to speak at an event and she was referred to as a mumpreneur on the promotional literature.

"I didn't say anything about it - I brushed it under the carpet."

"I feel like it is a bit sexist and I feel that it is undermining my business because it gives out the assumption that it's just a hobby, it's not a serious thing."

These days she says she would definitely ask for the word to be removed.

"I'd definitely feel comfortable saying I'm not comfortable with it. I've got more confidence over the last couple of years."

Why do people use it?

"I think because as a woman today you are still expected to work like you don't have kids and parent your kids like you don't work".

Image copyright thewomansroom blog
Image caption Jo Fairley prefers the term flexi-preneur

Jo Fairley co-founded the organic chocolate brand Green & Black's in 1991, before the term mumpreneur was popularised.

Her family is now grown up and she admits she has never been called a mumpreneur, but she's thrown her weight behind criticism of the stereotype.

She says: "Every time I hear the word I... hear it being prefaced with 'just a [mumpreneur]'.

"You don't get people calling them dadpreneurs. I literally wouldn't be doing this if there was a word called dadpreneur, that's not a level playing field."

'Flexi-preneur?'

So are there any alternatives to mumpreneur?

Ms Fairley goes for flexi-preneur: "You're running your business round some kind of other commitment" and "because it sounds as if you're much more in control of the situation".

On Sally Bunkham's business card it says "founder".

Entrepreneur is "a bit masculine, fast cars, suits", she says. "The words entrepreneur and mumpreneur seem poles apart."

And Vicki Psarias founder of the Honest Mum blog has written a book called Mumboss, billed as a "guide to surviving and thriving at work and at home".

But whatever you pick - pick carefully. You never know whether 20 years from now, these terms could have fallen out of favour, too.

More on this story