10 Top Tips for single parents starting a business, by single parent business owners

New research by Novuna Business Finance has explored the challenges businesses led by single parents face. The research surveyed more than 300 single parent business owners asking about how they started their business, running their business day-to-day, and plans for the future.

From a series of one-to-one interviews with single parent business owners, Novuna Business Finance has compiled the tips and advice for other single parents who may be thinking of starting a small business.

1. It is a not a weakness to ask for help

You don't know until you ask is what they often say, so take this on board, and don't be afraid to ask friends and family for their help and support. It makes strong business sense to ask for help, whether that is for childcare, help around the house or simply showing their support by posting and sharing on social media etc - if it gives you some breathing space to focus on the business, it will reap rewards in the longer term.

Lisa Berry, Founder and owner of Cheeky Little Prints says:

There is no reason, with a bit of help from friends and family, that your business should be anything but a success.” See more

2. Be patient, it takes time to grow a business

Be patient, it takes time to grow a business The average small business takes at least 2-3 years to start being profitable and 7-10 years to grow significantly. Don’t be hard on yourself if it seems to be going slowly. Rely or lean on friends and contacts as much as you can. Talking can be a difficult one to get your head around, but there are so many online resources to help you with this, tap into them and learn a new skill.

Lisa Berry, Founder and owner of Cheeky Little Prints says:

”It may seem daunting at first, but take the longer term approach, be realistic on what you want to achieve in the first year and be mindful to keep costs down.” See more 

3. Put your children first

40% of single mum business owners set up on their own in order to achieve a better balance between work and family. It is easy to forget that when you are trying to juggle business and children. Learn to accept that in order to get the right balance, you will have to work around their timetable, even if just for the short-term i.e. school hours, nap times etc...

Laura Callahan, HR Consultant says:

“…sometimes I have meetings with my staff who are also working mums after the children have gone to bed, because it fits our family schedule. It’s not about the 9-5, it’s about trust and flexibility.” 
See more

4. Build a network of trusted specialist advisers around you

Even if it is a little at a time, have a broad plan in place that includes an idea of how the business will grow and what expert advice may be needed at every point in that plan.

5. Use resources where available

Join the Single Mum's Business Network and websites such as Enterprise Nation to connect with other single parents. The majority of online resources are free, and they provide invaluable support via workshops and networking events around the country.

6. Have a few contingency plans in place, just in case!

When plan A doesn't work, have a plan B, C and D so that if one plan fails you have another! It is all too easy to put all your eggs in one basket, but to do so is to ignore the fact that all those eggs may fall one day, fall out of the basket and crack on the floor!

Laura Callahan, HR Consultant says: 

“I had no idea whether my business was going to work, so just in case, I set aside three months’ money to cover the bills, and told myself that if I got to the end of that money, I would find a full-time job again.” See more

7. Podcasts are a great way to kill two birds with one stone

Listening to a podcast whilst doing daily chores can be a great use of time. Janet Murray's podcast is excellent, free and really useful for small businesses to start up.

8. Trust in your gut instinct

Do the right thing. If anything feels wrong, it most probably is.

Laura Callahan, HR Consultant says: 

“Having a bit of confidence and self-belief is crucial to success as you have to weather the highs and the lows by yourself” See more

9. Don't get caught up in the need to compete with other brands

There is always enough business for everybody, believe in yourself and set your own goals - that confidence will carry you through.

10. Stick to a work life balance

The average single mum business owner spends up to 44 hours a week working compared with the national average of 35, with one in 10, saying they regularly find themselves working a 12-hour day. Whilst single mum business owners are adept at managing to work these hours around their children, in order to be happy and healthy, it is important to recognise when to switch off. Time management is key for productivity, as is a good night's sleep!

Julie Hawkins, Owner of KIH Products and Founder of the Single Mums Business Network

“Many single parents business owners do not give themselves enough credit for when they are working because most find it hard to recognise what is work and what is downtime.” See more

View from our team

Jo Morris, Head of Marketing & Insight at Novuna Business Finance

"Taking the bold step to go out on your own is hard. However, for single parents, the playing field is far from level and the challenges are that much greater. Our research shows that, despite the odds being stacked against single parent business owners, most have a genuine love for their businesses they run, driven by unrivalled passion for what they do, and plan to continue growing their businesses long into the future. The key for any entrepreneur thinking of starting a business is to learn from others who have been in the same situation who can help navigate the demands of running a small business."

"More broadly, at a time of unprecedented anxiety and market uncertainty, understanding the outlook from small businesses has never been more important. We need to look beyond industry sector or size to fully appreciate the variety of ways small business owners are thinking and reacting to current issues. Novuna Business Finance understands that every single business owner faces a variety of challenges - some unique to them. Tailoring a service that acknowledges this is key to helping them to grow in the long term."

Read the research

Business Owner Insights

Practical advice from 3 single parent business owners on overcoming the obstacles they faced:


Please note that these guides are provided for information purposes only and not as advice or recommendations. Before deciding to undertake any course of action you may wish to seek independent professional advice.