The Single Parent Entrepreneur

By Rachel Coplin

I am a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, business owner, board member of a non-profit, secretary for the school board, writer and artist, but first and foremost I am a single mom to four beautiful children.  A lot of people ask me how I manage running a business, constantly starting up businesses, business consulting, and volunteer a lot of my time on top of everything that comes along with being a single mom and I have to say that it is BECAUSE I am a single mom that I can do everything I do.

Everyone has heard the saying that “being a stay at home mom is the hardest job it the world.”  I have to agree.  I was a stay at home mom for nearly 8 years.  It is a thankless, never ending, job that consists of enough mindless busy work to make the most domestic homebody go crazy.  When I was married we never had enough income to make it by, so on top of being a stay at home mom to several little humans, I did everything I could think of under the sun to make or save money without sacrificing time with my kids.

I have always been an out of the box problem solver and I love to tackle a challenge head on.  With a limited income and mouths to feed, I made it my job to find ways to make a full-time income from home by either making bits of money here and there or finding creative ways to save money which would allow my family to live on less—a lot less.

I have never been ok with the thought of having my kids in daycare.  I am very intentional in my parenting methods and I value my one-on-one time with my kids more than anything.  I believe strongly that my kids need ME.  Because I chose to take such an active role in my kids’ lives I was forced to get very creative when it came to how I managed our finances and modest income.  Some of the things I did to make and save money are typical.  Some of the things I did are extreme and borderline embarrassing to admit.  But through my desperation I was able to learn skills and create habits that have turned me into the single mom serial entrepreneur that I am today. I also proved to myself that there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to provide my kids with every opportunity and experience they could ever want.

A few of the things I have done for side income include: selling for MLM companies, crafting and selling products on Etsy, cleaning houses, doing eyelash extensions from home, working as a secret shopper, taking surveys online, buying and selling things for profit…

Ways I have saved money: extreme couponing, dumpster diving for Kohl’s $10 off anything cards, shopped only at thrift stores and clearance racks, sewn clothes for my kids making alterations to accommodate season changes and growth, NEVER go out to eat, completely ignore the desire to keep up with the jones’, forgoing most luxuries, and make every effort to learn about all of the free things we could possibly do or get.

I opened my first business 3 years ago.  It was on online store that sold eyelash extension products. Everything I needed to know to start my store I learned from asking the right questions to the right people, and doing countless hours of research online.  You can learn how to do almost anything from YouTube. I bought inventory and domain name and hosting with my tax return money and spent hours every day researching online marketing and eCommerce.  I took a lot of risks and made a lot of mistakes but I got lucky with some of my trial and error and always made enough to at least cover my overhead month-to-month.

Nine months later, I opened an eyelash extension studio, Salt City Lashes, with a $10k home equity loan.  I stayed up every night after my kids went to bed, for the first six months after starting my business teaching myself how to build a website, edit pictures, improve my google rankings, and understand how to use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to promote my businesses. It was during this time that I separated from my husband and began being a single working mom.

Because I had spent the previous 10 years pinching pennies and stretching dollars through creative problem solving, I acquired all the necessary skills to become a shrewd business woman without even realizing it.  From knowing how to spot a bargain so I could equip my business with furnishings and supplies for less than $500, and knowing how to find and negotiate a lease for space in a prime real estate area of downtown Salt Lake City, I started my business and ran every aspect of it. I taught myself how to do everything from sales to marketing to accounting to website management to providing the actual services. Two years later it provides me with enough income to support my kids while only working an average of 12 hours a week.

To this day, because of the skills and mindset I’ve developed over the years as a struggling parent, I live in and own a spacious house in a desirable neighborhood and provide for my 4 kids, while living off of an income that the government would consider to be at a poverty level.  I have been fortunate enough to have had the of support from my dad and step mom for the last 9 months. They watch my kids when I work and it has allowed me to sleep at night knowing they are consistently in a loving and nurturing environment.  Without them I would not be where I am today and my kids would not be who they are.  It really does take a village to raise a child.

I see my primary function as a parent to be to provide my kids with everything they need.  Anything beyond necessities my kids have been trained to work for and to value what they get in addition.  They are nothing like the the entitled millennials we see taking over the internet.  We don’t own a flat screen TV, or pay for cable service, I don’t drive a fancy car, and all of our furniture is old and used.  The trade-off is, I work less than 20 hours a week and I get to go to every one of my kids’ baseball games, dance recitals and volunteer in school on a regular basis.  I don’t waste any time focusing on the acquisition of material luxuries.  I live for the moments and memories I have been able to afford because of the hard work and prioritizing I’ve been forced to do as a single working mom.

We live in a day and age that making money outside of a full-time nine-to-five job has never been easier.  I have known single parents who drive for Uber and Lyft when they don’t have their kids.  Pick up second jobs delivering pizzas or waiting tables.  If you are creative you can sell on Etsy, or write for blogs.  Get paid for taking surveys, sampling products, doing contract work on sites like Fiverr.  It’s fairly simple to sell things online on sites like Amazon if you know your product and audience.  Sites like Airbnb allow you to rent unused rooms in your house.  You can use Rover.com to start a pet sitting business.  When I was a hustling stay at home mom these options weren’t as readily available.  There is no reason why any single parent can’t make it on their own these days.  It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and what isn’t worth doing for your kids?

As a parent I think one of the most important things I want to teach my kids is how to be self-reliant. I want each of my kids to feel empowered in knowing that they can be and do anything they want.  I’m not just telling them they can be a doctor or lawyer or astronaut, but they can literally be ANYTHING.  I would in fact be most proud if they figured out a way to be something that no one else is.  I want my kids to be entrepreneurs, game changers and make a mark on the world.

My kids have always had clothes on their backs and been able to participate in enriching activities like going to museums, participating in sports and extra-curricular activities, they have had all the benefits of an upper-middle class upbringing without the money one would expect it to cost. I have taught my kids to value experiences over things.  I don’t throw them extravagant parties or buy them hundreds of dollars-worth of gifts on birthdays and Christmas.  I have taught them where true happiness comes from and have never spent much on them and insist friends and family don’t give them gifts. It might sound mean but I can guarantee their birthdays are just as happy and memorable as any other kid. Most kids don’t remember the gifts, they remember the feeling they got when people showed up and made them feel loved.

If my children want something I have them earn the money themselves.  All four of my kids work together and operate their own pet sitting business and are responsible for managing their own money. The older two employ the younger two and pay them out of their earnings.  My kids know about having a work ethic, saving money, being charitable and spending their hard earned money wisely.  Because they have one successful business they are always thinking of new ways to increase their income.

My oldest has a blog where she reviews books. (www.lucyslibrary.com) The hope is that she can build an audience and someday create a passive income from affiliate marketing and get free books to review while improving her writing skills and doing something she enjoys, reading.  It is work and she has had to be disciplined but the potential for a blogger who got her start as a 9 year-old is a fun possibility to explore.

Opportunities to supplement or create income are endless.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re stuck or limited.  I offer one free hour of entrepreneurial consulting because I care about people and truly believe that anyone can take control of their own life and those that do are better parents. Sometimes you need a nudge in the right direction to get going.  Take the first step in empowering yourself today.

I am an incorporator of a new nonprofit organization called Utah Self-Reliance Training Center.  Our goal is to provide financial literacy and entrepreneurial training for refugees, immigrants and low income families.  If my 3, 5, 7 and 9 year olds can figure out these concepts, anyone can.  To find out more or contribute please email me at rachelcoplin@gmail.com

 

 

photo credit: perzonseo Laptop from above – Business to Business via photopin (license)

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