The following is a guest post by Melissa Haddad, mompreneur and owner of MH Virtual Assistant Services, who inspires me daily! As you read, I am sure the story of how her business came to be, and came to be successful, will inspire you as well!
Do you remember when you were younger, going to the park and jumping on the teeter-totter, but you were the only one sitting on it until your friend hopped on for a minute and then left to go down the slide? This is what it feels like running my own business and still being mom and running a family and all the things that come with it.
I am married with two children, my daughter is 9 and my son almost 6. My husband is an amazing father, he is attentive, playful and there for me and our children…he is my rock. He works two jobs, his full time job as an IT professional in a law office in downtown Toronto and he also officiates hockey. He has a third job of being my “IT guy” for my business, although he doesn’t get paid for that…he was “voluntold”. So going back to my point about the teeter-totter, my husband is the friend who hops off to go down the slide. He is there when I need him, but has to leave to do other things. During the winter we refer to myself as, “the single married mother of two”. I always love when he is around as he helps me with the kids…he is that second pair of hands, eyes and ears, but as with all great things, they don’t last and I am left alone to fend for myself.
I started my business as a Virtual Assistant after my second layoff in 6 years. Just before my first layoff, I only had my daughter and life was much easier with just one child. She was young, my in-laws watched her all day while my husband and I carpooled together into Toronto.
When I lost my first job and landed another one a mere 5 weeks later and only 10 minutes from home, I knew I found a job for life…until it wasn’t.
At the time of my second layoff, I had my son and my daughter and they were just about to start school, my daughter going into grade 2 and my son just starting JK. I had made plans through the school to have after school care for both of them which I had until 6:00pm, but when I was laid off, I began to worry…so many thoughts and it all revolved around the unknown. “I can’t go downtown to work, my husband works downtown, the school pick up is at 6:00pm, there are GO train delays and then what about paying for daycare, I’ll have to pay for GO and daycare, I will only be working to pay for those things, not to mention the time spent travelling and the rushing of the day to get dinner, then homework and then bed…okay what about retail, can’t do that because my husband referees hockey most nights and weekends and then I have to work nights and weekends with no time for the family…” Yep, all of those things made me consider all my options…downtown, retail, in-home daycare and finally my own business. The only best option was my own business; everything else had MANY downfalls.
So, fast forward to February 2, 2015, I had taken the leap to start my business and by the grace of God, I got into a government funded program called the Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program. This paid me Employment Insurance benefits for 42 weeks and taught me how to run my business and I was able to keep any money that I made from the business and not have to declare it through EI. Unfortunately this is not an option in Ontario anymore. Having said this, my group was the 56th group out of 58 and many of the people from the groups had to go back to a part-time/full time job. This was not an option for me, so I took the bull by the horns and have rode it to success.
Now it hasn’t been without a lot of work and A LOT of time spent planning and working on the business, so much so that my daughter within my first year said to me, “Mom why do you sit at your computer all the time?” I wish I could say she was exaggerating, but she truly wasn’t. I worked most evenings and weekends, but it was truly a give and take. I was able to get the kids off to school in the morning, start working at 8:30am and pick them up from the bus in the afternoon and continued to make dinner and help my daughter with her homework after all, they are the reason I started my business, so any available time was going to have to be spent working in order to make this work and not fail.
Just before I hit my first year anniversary, I decided, I have worked hard enough and positioned myself well with my clients to be able to take the weekends off. Not all the time, but it was a work in progress. Since my husband is gone most evenings in the winter and many weekends too, I had to be with the kids on the weekends and work during the evenings when the kids went to bed. The first summer of being in business, I had no idea what things were going to be like and since I was getting money from the government, I decided to put the kids into day camp. It was for 6 weeks and my in-laws took them for another 2 weeks.
I wasn’t that busy with client work, but busy enough with building my business, so when this summer came around, I was thinking that I didn’t need to spend the money, I would keep them home and work around them…not a chance. Have you ever tried to do some sort of home renovation, whether it was painting, renovation or evening gardening, with kids around? Yes? How did that work out for you? Well, it was a disaster for the first 3 weeks of the summer. I was busier than I ever thought I could be…on most days I was working the same amount of hours on client work as I did when the kids were in school. So, I looked at my options which were each set of grandparents and they helped me tremendously…many people don’t have that to fall back on, so I am VERY grateful. It really does take a village.
I have learned many things with running a business and a family…it’s a balancing act.
A business coach said to my mastermind group many times, when you run your own business there is no work/life balance like when you were in a corporate job, it’s all life. This is so true.
There are days that I am busy, some days that I am pulling out my hair and going to cry because the crap is hitting the fan and there are days that I can do some work and then sit on the couch to catch up on my favourite TV show. No matter what type of day it is, I still get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school, walk them to the bus and then pick them up after school from the bus stop, make dinner and help them with their homework. They are the reason why I started my business at home and they are the reason why I continue.
The most amazing thing is, I have clients that understand that. I get to choose my clients just as much as my clients choose me, maybe even more so because I am upfront about having my children and the responsibilities and obligations I have and if they don’t understand or have other expectations, then they are not the right client for me and vice versa. When I was in corporate, I didn’t have a choice about anything, everything had to “fly up the flag pole” and things were stressful…all the time. Now, of course there is stress, but I can make my own decisions because if I don’t like how something feels, I drop it like a hot potato.
Working for yourself and being a business owner/entrepreneur is a lot of hard work and a lot of doubt, but if you are a tenacious person and are willing to deal with short term discomfort for long term gain, then do it. I have always wanted to start my own business, but it was never the right time. After being shown the door a couple of times within a large corporation, I decided I didn’t need another invitation, I was going to do it. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner in life, but we all have a road that was paved for us and we travel down it and we learn things along the way…I learned all that I needed to know to do what I do now, so really this was the path I was supposed to be on at this time. My children were supposed to be this age and in this stage of their lives, we had made our plans the way they were supposed to be planned to prepare me for this endeavour…not to mention my last position ensured that I met all the people I had to meet to ensure I started off on the right foot.
Just know that it’s scary and some days you may not make enough, but if you keep pushing and overcoming the obstacles you will be successful. IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU!
Melissa is a real-life mom and business owner who runs MH Virtual Assistant, a virtual business that inspires clients to transform their business by creating efficient ways to conduct administrative tasks and documenting those ways for use by others, while building relationships with clients and their customers.
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