Parental leave makes for a great time to start a business. At least in theory. How many of the great ideas parents develop during their parental leave are actually implemented is unknown. Most likely it is a manageable amount. At least the number of start-ups whose formation history is closely linked to the fact that the founders had a baby is quite minimal. And if the connection is obvious, then you can be fairly certain that the business idea specifically targets parents or children.
Do founders simply not emphasize the influence of becoming a parent on their business or are many of the ideas that were conceived during parental leave, that may even have been developed up to the MVP phase, deliberately not pursued?
The former remains to be investigated, the latter is fairly certain. But for several reasons both scenarios are not desirable. The reason being that parental leave is a very special time, during which one’s perspective of the world verifiably changes in fundamental ways. Things that previously seemed obvious, are now being questioned: Where did I invest all my energy before my child was born? How do I want to use my increasingly limited and valuable time? Working for someone else instead of myself? For an employer who was reluctant about letting me take parental leave? On a product that does not make life noticeably better (except maybe for a few people at the upper level of the company)? What do I really want? What positive contribution do I want to make to the world? What do I want the world to look like that I leave behind for my children? How will I answer these questions one day: Mom, Dad, what do you do all day? And what did you do when it was clear that the forests are sick, the educational system is failing, and the environment is collapsing?
Questions arise not only on an individual, personal level but also with regard to society as a whole. Role models, raising children, equal opportunities, needs orientation, education, a good life – all these topics suddenly take up much more space. The wheels in your head are turning – while nursing, during the many sleepless nights, while endlessly pushing the stroller around, or during the not-so-stimulating entertainment of a 3-month-old. It is during these moments of forced standstill that the most innovative ideas are born, driven by the reflection on your personal circumstances, but also by your completely new perspective on the world. Anyone who has been in this situation won’t be surprised that almost all visible start-ups by parents pursue ideas with a positive impact – for the environment, for society, or at least for their own professional situation. It is also not surprising that most of these ideas are still not on the market today. Not because they lack the potential to do so, but because the right structures or resources to bring together parenthood and entrepreneurship simply don’t exist. There are few places and services in the start-up ecosystem that take the time constraints and needs of parents into consideration. A meet-up on the topic of “Funding” at 8 pm? Difficult for many. Close to impossible for single parents. A coworking space with an audience consisting of 90 percent men in their mid-20s, with lots of bike racks for all those hip fixies, but no room for strollers, let alone a changing table or a room for nursing, lets a mother or father in their mid-30’s feel out of place if not unwelcome. However, exchange and networking beyond meetings specifically tailored to the needs of parents, are essential for successful start-ups!
If we want an economy distinguished by diversity, whether in team composition or on a product level, we need a start-up ecosystem that reflects the diverse life phases and experiences of people – both spatially and through appropriate formats. The resources of parents on parental leave are powerful, but they are also quite limited in the first few months of a newborn’s life. This makes it all the more important to provide infrastructures in which they can implement their business ideas in a focused manner and integrated into a strong network. A network that also gives them access to financial resources, to investors who value parenthood and diversity, who support companies that grow organically, that want to make an impact, and strive for long-term success rather than a quick exit.
Parents are a deciding factor in the realignment of the economy towards more sustainability, equal opportunity, and awareness for people’s needs. Let us think about parental leave and entrepreneurship as a logical entity. An investment in ParentPreneurship is an investment in innovative, value-driven, and sustainable entrepreneurship.
Providing changing tables in coworking spaces is a small step – but an important one.
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