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Dads bossing it in business

Dadpreneur doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as its mumpreneur counterpart. But maybe that’s no bad thing, as mums and dads who own their own businesses or start-ups don’t necessarily need an awkward moniker to describe them. The tech revolution has paved the way for fathers to create careers that fit in with the job of parenting – and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Dads carving out their own careers

The number of dads swapping the contracted commute for a stake in their own business is on the rise, and it’s clear why. Digital has overhauled the idea of a traditional office job and the norm is no longer the nine-to-five-that-is-actually-eight-to-seven. A rife do-it-yourself tech attitude is driving a combination of fatherhood and entrepreneurship to achieve a better work-life balance. And it’s working.

Mobile working, faster communications and an always-on working culture have led to a huge shift in the way business is done. Meetings aren’t restricted to meeting rooms, working hours aren’t fixed and your job title is yours for the choosing if you’re going it alone.

It’s personal

Digital has streamlined running a business, but there are personal as well as practical reasons at play for the rise of the dadpreneur. According to a survey, 62% of dads had missed a parents evening, and a fifth said that they were ‘lucky’ if they caught one bath time a month. Add to this the fact that half of the fathers they spoke to had questioned whether their career was worth the time they missed out on at home, and you start to get a picture of where this trend comes from.

Father of two Adrian Thomas made the leap when he came up with the idea for his Belleville Brewery business while chatting to other dads in the school playground. He cites numerous advantages of owning his business, particularly the benefits it brings to his children. “It’s given me insane amounts of freedom. I can pay myself what I want. I can take holiday when I want. I am able to see an awful lot more of the kids than people who work in an office. I’d say become your own boss, be self-employed. You can be in charge of everything you do. Everyone I know who has done it has not regretted it.”

As well as providing practical parenting benefits, it’s given him an edge over competitors: “In terms of being a father at the same time, brewing is a fun business to be in. It’s proved very beneficial to have that dads’ angle with what we do – we’re 40-something and 50-something guys and that comes through in our brand. It makes us into a different brewery and I’d like to think you can see it in our branding. We’re from that punk rock generation, but we’ve had to grow up because we’ve got houses and kids now. It differentiates us from youngsters in the business who are able to capture the trendy side of the brewing business.”

A tough challenge

It’s not all rosy, and being your own boss has its drawbacks. “Setting up any business is a strain,” Adrian says. “It takes a lot of emotional commitment – and that definitely has an impact on children. They can see – even when I’m at home – that I’m preoccupied. Making businesses work is hard work.”

Owner of vegetarian produce company The Parsnipship and father of two Ben Moss agrees: “The first three months for anyone starting a business are a shock to the system. With kids, it’s carnage.”

Time consuming is an understatement, says Ben. “I work at the weekends, at events and run workshops too. You do have the power to say no if you really want to but most people tend to work harder when they’re self-employed because you don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s taken seven years to get to that point, too.”

But the tough side of self-employment can be balanced out by involving the children in the business too. “When we go to festivals, we take the kids with us,” Ben explains. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s chaos, but they’ve become a real part of the business and it’s brilliant to have them with us. They love it, too.”

“It’s the holy grail, isn’t it,” he says. “Lifestyle balanced with business and not working every waking hour under the sun. It’s about playing the long game, I think. Think about the long-term benefits and provide your children with more consistency in the meantime.”

Tech and start-ups

Digital and tech advances have provided both Adrian and Ben with the means to start and expand their businesses. Adrian has amassed over 2,000 followers on Twitter in two years. “Twitter has been invaluable. It’s a quick way to tell people what you’re doing, and creates a symbiotic relationship with your customers.” He also makes use of apps: “I would not be able to run my company without my phone. All our sales and invoices on Dropbox, our supplier lists on Dropbox, I’ve got recipes on my mobile. We use Zip vans on an app and Google Maps is invaluable. Without the phone everything would take a lot longer.”

Despite the challenges, Adrian knows the benefits: “I’m not up at the crack of dawn. And I come home and know I’ve got time with them. I think the price of being emotionally unavailable is outweighed by being able to be around much earlier and not be walking in the door at 8.30pm.”

Ben agrees: “You get used to working harder. The longer you do it, the more you get used to it. That’s what you’ve got to do. Explore ways to get more time with the kids and build them into the business.”

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