Nick is am an entrepreneur and he stays at home to look after his two kids – a dadpreneur. In 2012 he started a baby toy business, Little Sport Star.
I am one of a new breed of dads – a “dadpreneur”. I am a dad who tries to juggle being the primary child carer of our two kids with starting a business, meanwhile, trying to be a good husband. All three take time and effort.
My wife is a doctor, she works long hours and frequently weekends. When our daughter was born, my wife was about to become a hospital consultant after many years of training. We agreed we didn’t want to raise our children without one of us being there for childcare the majority of the time.
At the same time, I was facing the prospect of redundancy. I have always wanted to start a business, so the timing seemed right to start my own business and become a dadpreneur.
Juggling life as a dadpreneur
Kids need routine so we try to fit our work into their busy schedules. Like all parents, life feels like a constant juggling act.
As a dadpreneur, I also try to combine my parental duties with the business I started four years ago.
This is how one of my good days as a dadpreneur typically looks like.
06-0630. The wake up call – we don’t generally set our alarm clock as generally we can hear the patter of tiny feet at 06.00 who come to remind us that night time is over. I actually think 06.00 is pretty reasonable – I find anything earlier is hard but manageable.
I like my sleep. Let me rephrase that, “I love my sleep”, but I know there are a lot of people whose schedule is far tougher than mine. I know that the early hours are valuable working hours that I am missing. In the early days of Little Sport Star, I would wake up earlier to discuss prototypes with our factory in China. Nowadays, I rarely have to start work so early which is a relief.
The house is starting to resemble a disaster zone
07.00 My wife tries to leave the house to go to work. It is tough, as she would love to spend more time with our kids. She leaves the house at 07.00 and the house is already starting to resemble a disaster zone. My kids have great toys, but they are all over.
I am usually having a battle with my 3-year-old son, Lucas, to get him dressed. He likes his Captain America pyjamas so much that he is reluctant to take them off and put clothes on. Then it can take another ten minutes to get his socks on. He hates putting socks on. I try to be patient and remind myself it is just a phase. He is only three years old!
We then move onto breakfast and I try my hardest to sit down with the kids to set a good example, but also to make sure they eat their breakfast. If I have time after breakfast, I try to read a little with my daughter, Nina. She is five and working hard on her reading at school at the moment.
The school run
08.15: I aim to leave the house with both kids.
08.30: I actually leave the house (hopefully with both kids).
Why does leaving the house with kids take so much longer? I frequently ask myself this question. I give myself 15 minutes leeway to make it on time.
08.50: I drop the kids off at school and pre-school. I still get a sense of satisfaction each morning when both kids have been dropped off. It feels like “job done” – mission accomplished. Reality soon kicks in and I realise that it’s not even 09.00 and the day is actually just starting.
I find it difficult to focus on anything other the school run. It’s that guy thing – we can’t multi-task. I may have checked my e-mails when I wake up, but I won’t be able to action them until they are both at school, so it can be frustrating.
I spend the walk home trying to prioritise in my mind what needs to be done in the next couple of hours. When I get home, I update my to-do list.
The household chores
[* BIG GROAN *]
09.08: Being tidy does not come naturally to me.
I get back home but there are usually a few household chores that need doing before I can start work. There will be toys all over the floor that need tidying up and the washing machine will need loading. I will usually have to clean up the breakfast table and tidy up the kitchen. And why are there always Cheerios on the floor?
My office is our spare bedroom. As well as my office, the spare bedroom tends to turn into a laundry room and a storage room. If I have time, I will try to sort it all out. Some days, I just try to find a different location to work from. A favourite place to work from for me is the local sports club which has an excellent wifi signal. I love the freedom as a dadpreneur to work from wherever, provided there is a good internet connection.
Dadpreneur – trying to be a good businessman
09.30: I knuckle down to work. I work with a coffee and sometimes listening to a bit of music or the radio. When you work by yourself, I find it is good to have some background noise. I go through through my e-mails, check what activity there has been on the Little Sport Star social media pages, read new customer reviews and of course check sales updates. We are now 102% ahead of our forecast sales for this quarter, and I feel pretty happy but I know we can do better.
My business is growing and so a lot of my activities are focused on managing our growth. I have outsourced most of my business operations, so in theory, it takes care of itself. However, I am constantly thinking of new ways to market my toys. I make great toys, but if nobody knows about them, then nobody will buy them. Marketing the Little Sport Star brand is critical to the success of my business.
People often tell me they have a really great idea but they might be reluctant to tell me what it is because they are frightened that I will steal the idea. My view is that business generally does not work like that. Your idea is just the start, your challenge is to bring it to market. The best person to make it happen is you.
For all any budding dadpreneur or mumpreneur out there, don’t confuse the difference between a great idea and marketing it. The idea is the easy part and the time-consuming bit is marketing it.
11.10: * BUZZ BUZZ *
My alarm goes.
My special dadpreneur warning alarm is not to wake me up. It is warning me that I have to wrap up what I am doing to go pick up my son from pre-school. I have only just started working. Lucas is only at pre-school until 11.45 and for the rest of the day, I will be on “Daddy-day-care” parenting duties. I know that the moment my son leaves pre-school, he is going to be hungry, so my alarm is also warning me to get his snacks and lunch ready.
Dadpreneur – trying to be a good dad
11.45: I pick up my son from pre-school. He has only been there for three hours, but it is always great to see him again. He is still young enough that I get a smile and a hug whenever he sees me after any period of separation. I am usually the only dad in the line at school which is a reminder that SAHDs are a rare commodity and it reminds me how lucky I am.
My son loves his pre-school. He has a great buddy called Sam and they like to pretend they are superheroes. I feel that he would love to stay at pre-school for the whole day, but it is not an option and so we have the same problem that a lot of parents have. Our dilemma is what to do with the other half of the day? It is the same dilemma that all parents have and especially parents who are trying to get back into work. It can be emotionally tough if you feel your children still need time with you. I am very fortunate that being a dadpreneur allows me so much time with my kids.
Work and play – is it possible?
13.15 – 14.00: I try to plan activities each afternoon. Lucas’ favourite is going to his gym class on a Friday. His gymnastic class is brilliant and he loves his coach, Scott. The gym class take place behind closed doors and parents are not allowed to watch. Fortunately, the gym class has a little cafe area with wifi connection, so I know I have 45 minutes to do some more work. It is surprising how efficient you can be when you have a time limitation. I find in 45 minutes I can actually achieve quite a lot.
15.15: Nina finishes school. From gymnastics, I can go home briefly with Lucas or I can go straight to the school gate, to wait for Nina to finish school. Having picked her up from school, my next question is what to do with both kids until Nina’s after school activities start.
In the summer, the kids like to play in the school playground. In winter, there are fewer options and I find myself hanging around trying to entertain both kids. It always seems that a lot of parenting is just hanging around waiting for activities to finish or start. I am constantly trying to think how to use this time more constructively.
Did I mention we like sport?
16.30: Nina loves gymnastics and she is doing really well in her swimming class. She recently started playing hockey too. There are just so many things for kids to do these days, and I want to offer her lots of opportunities, without exhausting her. We used to play tennis as well but she has shown little interest in tennis so has put that on hold for the moment. Her mum is a brilliant tennis player and I know she would love Nina to enjoy her tennis as well. We have to let the children decide what they enjoy however, you might see why I started Little Sport Star. Am I a pushy parent? I clearly love sport but I try to do it responsibly.
17.30: We get home and I pray that her mum has finished work in time to help with bedtime. I can manage it myself, but it is great for the kids to spend some time with their mum as well. They are young enough to appreciate that she must work, but they do miss her. She is a medical consultant in a hospital. The kids will tell me that mummy goes to work “to make people get better”. I am glad they understand that her work is critical and I know that they are proud of her.
“Daddy – what do you do?”
I sometimes wonder what the kids think I do? All the other dads commute into town to work. They know I am daddy, and they will say things like “daddy makes great toys” but they don’t really see me working. I try to clearly separate my daddy time from my working time. I don’t want them to see me constantly check my e-mails, addicted to my phone.
17.30-19.30: We have a fairly standard routine for the next two hours. When I am organised I have prepared the dinner in advance.
After dinner, we may let the kids watch some TV because they need some “down time”. They are both exhausted. At least, they should be exhausted. I am!
We always give the kids a bath and then read to them before turning the light off at 19.30.
Finally, dadpreneur – trying to be a good husband
Realistically, it is usually 20.00 before both kids are asleep. My wife and I can both come downstairs for some time for ourselves. It always takes longer to get the kids to sleep than we plan. My wife and I try to relax a little, but only after we pack the school bags for the next day, prepare the kids clothes for tomorrow and put today’s clothes into the washing machine, and of course, we tidy up as in the short space of time that the kids have been home, the house now looks like a bomb has hit it.
There is always work to be done on the business. I often have to work in the evenings. It is a balancing act being a parent. Sometimes, I feel that there is no time in the day for my wife and me, but I have a distorted vision in my head that life will get easier. I still cling to the vision that my wife will have the option to work four days a week and that we will be able to start enjoying the fruits of my business, rather than ploughing the profits back into the business to grow it.
Would I change our busy schedule, definitely not. I hope my kids grow up to do something entrepreneurial too.
Or to become a doctor like their mum!
The photo above suggests Nina has made a good start as a businesswoman.