Fiona Scott Media Consultanccy

Parent Julie Hawkins is organising a UK conference to offer support and inspiration to single mums who are running a business alongside caring for their children.

The 42-year-old who lives with her young daughter Kaylyn in Ross-on-Wye set up the Single Mums Business Network (SMBN) less than a year ago. Now she’s bringing some of those women together at a conference on Wednesday September 11.

“I held down a job for 20 years before having my daughter when I was 36. While on maternity leave, my employer sold her business and while I was able to go back, the new job role on offer would not offer any flexibility. It didn’t make economic sense with childcare costs and meant leaving my daughter for 12 hours a day. I had no choice but to leave. When I applied for support, I found out something very shocking – from the very first phone call I was treated very differently and felt like something stuck on the bottom of someone’s shoe. Despite 20 years of contributions, I was made to feel like a leech when I needed financial support.”

Julie set up the SMBN after experiencing financial hardship and prejudice as a single parent.

She felt there was a need for a supportive network of women who are facing the special challenges of growing a business while on low or limited income.

“I worked and had money for so many years and I enjoyed home ownership, lovely holidays and copious amounts of socialising. With the end of my marriage and then a friendship ending in pregnancy, I suddenly found life had changed and I’ve realised our system unwittingly keeps down single parents with no savings or other means of financial support,” Julie said.

“We want to work. We try to work and bring up our children – which often means forced into low paid roles topped up with benefits. Many of us have to rent our property and we can also be put out on the streets with very little notice so we have little security. You can easily become trapped in a pit of need which is very difficult to escape. Self-employment is often our only hope.”

Julie has spent several years building her business KIH Products after stumbling across a great idea during her pregnancy. She found it difficult to get comfortable when lying down due to her growing ‘bump’. Being very creative, she made her own cushion to accommodate her changing body shape – The KIH Bed Pregnancy Cushion.

“I took my homemade prototype to my midwife and health visitor and they loved it and that led me to looking into making the cushion on a commercial footing and that’s what I’ve done ever since.

“However it’s hard to build a business when you are running a family, you are the sole breadwinner and you want your business to grow. Growth requires investment – there’s no way around that – and even finding £20 for something can be a stretch when you are a single parent.”

The conference will feature guest speakers including Jackie Groundsell of the 1230 The Women’s Company, Catherine Gladwyn, Delegate VA and Cara Sayer, founder of Snooze Shade. These women either are, have been or understand the challenges of single parents. Tickets are £20, though SMBN members can attend free of charge.

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