Babywearing’s cottage industry (or maison industry, or 3-bed-brick-veneer industry…)

If you’ve got an addiction to good quality baby carriers and slings (c’mon, I know I’m not the only one…) then you’ve probably bought from more than a few WAHMs in your time. WAHMs – work at home mums – are the backbone of the baby carrier and sling industry in Australia. They’re the ones who come up with innovations in design, source the to-die-for fabrics that make a regular carrier something special enough for a wedding or christening, and are sometimes willing to vary their design ever so slightly to make it fit you just right. So what does it take to be a WAHM, and why do women want to do it?

Being a WAHM isn’t going to make you a millionaire. In fact, you’ll be lucky to get more than a bit of occasional pocket money from it. But it can be very personally rewarding, more flexible than other forms of paid work, and a bit of extra pocket money will help pay for your own sling stash (or at least justify your fabric stash). To be a successful WAHM in the babywearing industry, you’ll need:

  • Skills. If you can sew, then you can be a sling manufacturer. If you can do marketing and publicity but can’t sew, perhaps you’re better off as an importer or retailer rather than manufacturing.
  • Time. Don’t kid yourself that you can run a successful WAHM business while the kids are napping or sleeping at night – unless you plan on never getting any sleep yourself. You need to find at least 2-3 blocks of time each week to sew, market your business, do the taxes and administrivia, and pack and post orders. That means setting aside times when someone else is supervising small children, kids are at school, or the kids are busy with their own activities and likely to not interrupt your work every 20 seconds with “muuuuuu-um”.
  • Cash. You can start a business with just a few hundred dollars in cash, but you do need to carefully plan for how you’ll fund the start-up and growth of your venture. Don’t rely on credit cards to fund it – the interest rates are a killer. Look at using savings, mortgage redraw, or micro-loan credit schemes if there are any in your area (the ACT Government has recently started one).
  • Willingness to prioritise. It is not humanly possible to be a perfect mother, partner, house cleaner, cook, and whatever other roles you fulfil. If you’re adding business owner to your list of roles, consider what you can give up to make time for the business. You may need to cook quicker, simpler dinners. Do less cleaning. Access childcare or babysitting, or let the kids watch more TV. Have less time with your partner after the kids go to bed at night. If you’re not willing to give up or change anything else in your life, then you need to seriously reconsider whether you have room in your life to be a WAHM. Even a hobby-level business is time-consuming, and a business that you intend to provide for your family adds an additional layer of stress if you’re stretching yourself too thin.

But there’s also a lot of rewards to being a babywearing WAHM:

  • Being able to fit your work around your family’s needs. You can attend that school assembly at 10am, and catch up on the sewing or emails at 8pm if you’re willing to be flexible about your hours.
  • Building a business that is yours, and being the chief decision-maker.
  • Lower overheads than most businesses – no need to lease an office or factory, or buy expensive equipment, until your business outgrows the dining room table or spare room.
  • Supporting a passion for babywearing, and spreading the babywearing love to other parents.

So are you a WAHM or considering it? What is it that you love about the WAHM lifestyle? What have you learned on your journey?

About emmadavidson

An addict who started dealing to support my habit, I have been using baby slings and carriers for a few years now. My children (Sophia, born 2004; Jools, born 2005; Billy, born 2007) are happy to be lugged around town in mei tais, ring slings, soft structured carriers, and occasionally a tablecloth.
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2 Responses to Babywearing’s cottage industry (or maison industry, or 3-bed-brick-veneer industry…)

  1. Mel says:

    Yep Im a WAHM and totally agree with all of the above, however I would like to add a bit more!

    Along with the time constraints, there are the legalities – insurance (a MUST if you have a babywearing business!), tax, how your business might affect your family assistance payments. The list goes on.

    I love having the freedom to be with my family 100% of the time. I feel that there is alot of pressure on me though as I have no family support – I sew, do all of my admin, maintain my store and do EVERYTHING, and run the household too. Sometimes (ok, oftentimes) I wonder why exactly I do this – sane people actually leave the house, go to work, come home, you get the picture? I feel like it is hypercharged at all times. It takes a massive amount of effort to actually feel like I *can* sit down and relax because there is always so much to do. I. am. not. kidding. you. Ive considered hiring a nanny so I can get into my room and sew but I would be sewing for a whole day just to pay for it! So yep, there must be a balance.

    Im also going to add that you need to be sure that you can maintain your sanity – that you can take blows (sometimes personal) from the public (who cant always see that you are a person too, not a corporation) and disappointment when you cant get every single thing done.

    For me the pros outweigh the cons, but I feel like I got lucky with what Im doing. I wouldnt like to be starting out now, it would be too hard I think.

  2. Emma says:

    Good point Mel, parenting is such an emotive area to build a business and it can be hard to take the pressure from customers when things are busy. I try to not look at email or phone messages except for set times during the day when it won’t impact on my kids, if I’m supposed to be having a day with the kids rather than a work day. I also have a separate phone number for my business so I don’t get business phone calls at odd hours (which can happen with Australia having three time zones).

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