The rise of the 'mumpreneur'

The economic contribution of businesses owned by mums has risen 30% to £7.2bn. Is it the start of a trend?

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 03 Mar 2016

The ‘mum economy’ is growing. Businesses owned by women with children under 18 contributed £7.2bn to the UK economy in 2014, according to research conducted by Development Economics and commissioned by eBay. That’s 30% higher than it was in 2011.

The research, which was based on ONS labour force data, indicates that ‘mumpreneurs’ (better than entremums, I suppose) support over 200,000 jobs.  

This may all sound positive, but actually the productivity of those jobs is quite low - the output per job in the mum economy is approximately £35,000, compared to around £60,000 for the economy as a whole.

This reflects the fact that many of these are smaller businesses (or indeed reflect self-employed mothers), which are typically much less productive than big corporates. The largest sectors in the mum economy reflect this: health and care services, such as care homes (£1.4bn); professional, scientific and technical services (£1.1bn); arts, entertainment and recreation, such as museums or bingo halls (£900m); and retail (£650m).

Though many of the entrepreneurs behind these businesses would have set them up anyway, the substantial increase since 2011 is likely to be the result of the spike in unemployment that year – 2.7 million compared to 1.9 million now.

Many mothers who had lost their jobs, or who were unable to re-enter the workforce after time off, will have taken matters into their own hands out of necessity. Sadly, mothers and pregnant women still feel discriminated against at work, which makes them particularly vulnerable when the axe starts to swing.

Now that we’re out of the slump though, the trend seems to have run out of steam. Development Economics expects the mum economy to grow 30% by 2025, which is more or less in line with expected economic growth.

It will be interesting to see what effect more enlightened attitudes to flexible working will have on mothers’ propensity to start their own businesses, if indeed the move away from rigid nine to five working continues. Watch this space.

‘I realised my whole life was an agile development’ – read how Tempus Energy founder Sara Bell ran her own electricity supplier with three children under 18.

‘I was made redundant on maternity leave. That was a big mistake.’ – read how Ambassador Theatre Group’s co-founder and co-CEO Rosemary Squire built the world’s largest theatre company.


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