Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Beating the downturn by staying at home to work

Call them mousewives or momtrepreneurs, but online working from home is an increasingly common option for mums who stay at home with families

Mark Radcliffe has an interesting claim to fame. He recently became the UK’s second eBay millionaire.

The first, Jamie Murray, pulls in an estimated £2m a year from his eBay shop http://stores.shop.ebay. co.uk/BMCdigital-Ltd .

He started out by selling his PlayStation online and now has a line of 1,500 electronic goods.

Mr Radcliffe has a similar story. He started his own store on the auction site with £200 he had saved up from his £7 an hour wage as a trainee manager at Tesco. His stock room was his parents’ garden shed. That was in 1999. He now owns a £700,000 home with a £170,000 Ferrari and £120,000 Aston Martin in the driveway.

His store, http://stores.ebay.co. uk/First2Save , sells 36,000 items a month. Interestingly, eBay’s biggest global seller shifts 50,000 a month. But Mr Radcliffe plans to overtake that soon.

What’s so remarkable about the two men’s stories is that neither could ever have afforded to open a shop on his local high street. The web offered a low-risk way of starting up in business.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that these entrepreneurs are not alone in their quest for online riches.

Let me introduce the “mousewives”, as they’ve become known — women who work from home using their computers to boost the family income during the recession.

According to one piece of research, almost half of stay-at-home mothers use the internet to make money.

The survey, by the European Inkjet Systems division of Kodak ( www.kodak.com ), found that one in 20 made at least £200 a month, with many earning much more.

The work ranges from selling CDs and books on eBay to doing accounts for other businesses.

It also encompasses market research work, secretarial services, party planning, mystery online shopping and web site design.

The main motivating factor is that money can be made with a relatively small investment. In many cases, the additional investment is nil, because the budding entrepreneurs already have a PC and internet connection.

There’s a web site dedicated to “mousewives” at www.mouse wives.com , as well as an online magazine at www.wahm.com (the initials stand for “work at home moms”, so you’ll gather that the site is American). Incidentally, the reason I keep putting “mousewives” in inverted commas is that some of the women engaged in running their own business from home object to the term.

They prefer the word “momtrepreneur”. Whatever the preference, there’s no shortage of clever shorthand for the practice!

Some stay at home mothers have branched into online franchises for everything ranging from toys to jewellery. See www.wahm. co.uk . In fact, the web is packed with sites dedicated to this new breed of businesswoman.

See http:// homeworkingmums.typepad.co. uk, www.wahmall.co.uk and http://webmums. ning.com . There’s even an online radio station — www.wahmtalkradio.com /blog.

Interestingly, Belfast was already on the mumtrepreneurs map a couple of years ago, when Sunday Life reported how two local women established the Belfast In Your Pocket tourist guide while juggling family life.

Read the story at www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/features/mumtrepreneurs13903053.html.

Starting a business — even an online one — at home is not for the faint hearted. There are challenges — such as the need to maintain a fairly constant presence in the home (what happens if you have to go out for example?) and, of course, you need a unique selling point. But the economic downturn combined with childcare costs means that it is becoming an increasingly popular option for families — not just for the mumtrepreneurs, but mousehusbands as well!

Darren Lemon is general manager of eircom NI (www.eircomni. co.uk ). His email address is: Darren.lemon@eircomni.co.uk

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