SINGAPORE - Factory suppliers and vendors meeting Ms Dorothy Loh to discuss work often find themselves interrupted by her children crying or tugging at the hem of her blouse to get her attention.
"They understand and sometimes when they come over, they end up playing with the kids," said the 39-year-old, who started a home business which sells nursing wear in 2008.
Ms Loh is one of a growing brigade of "mumpreneurs" - mothers who leave their jobs to set up home businesses.
The number of women running registered businesses from their HDB flats has gone up from 6,600 in 2008 to about 7,000 last year.
Social enterprise Mums@Work has also seen a jump in entrepreneurial mothers on its career portal, from 20 in 2010 to about 600 now.
"Increasingly, they are younger and better-educated women who are confident of running businesses so as to create the flexibility that they desire," said Mrs Sher-li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work.
Mothers interviewed said they enjoy the flexibility. Instead of being shackled to a nine-to-five job, they work around their children's schedules and can have "no work" periods. This allows them to enjoy the best of both worlds: the challenge and satisfaction that come with work, and time with their children in their formative years.
These businesses are not "cottage" ones helmed by the low-income housewives of yore, who baked or sewed to supplement the family income. Instead, they range from employment agencies and party-planning firms to those offering legal mediation or fitness classes. Some stay-at-home mothers have even gone on to set up thriving law or public relations businesses.
"Sometimes, the business grows very big but they still choose to work from home because their kids are very young," said Ms Torrey. These enterprising mothers are part of a trend in home businesses here: Those run from HDB flats alone have risen from 19,000 in 2008 to 20,600 last year.
People who work from home also save on travelling time and expenses and get to spend more time with their families, said an HDB spokesman.
Ms Vicki Heng, 38, took the plunge last year to run her law firm from home. She used to be a partner at another law firm but rued missing too many of her children's school performances and celebrations because of work.
"They would ask me why other mums were there and why I wasn't around to take photos with them," said Ms Heng of her son, five, and daughter, seven.
Ms Loh said juggling her business and childcare duties has given her new skills. "We learn to not only multitask, but also to start and stop working at unexpected moments, such as when they wake up from their naps."
Doing well selling baby products online
Pupsik Studio, an online baby products store that Ms Tan Su Ling, 38, runs from her four-bedroom condo home, is doing so well that cartons of prams can be found stacked under the bed or spilling out into the living room and study.
Ms Tan, a former architect, found herself working through the night to meet more than a thousand orders each month.
Pupsik Studio sells baby and nursing products to mainly local customers and overseas retailers. Its products, mostly designed by Ms Tan and manufactured here, are popular with mothers, and celebrity Martha Stewart even sponsors Ms Tan's parenting blog.
"It got to a point where... I needed help and I needed more space," said Ms Tan, who now employs five part-time and full-time workers. Her company also has a 3,000 sq ft warehouse in Bukit Batok.
Back in 2008, she quit her job to spend more time with her elder daughter. She went on to set up a business that allowed her to work in her pyjamas after she put her daughters, now aged five and seven, to bed.
"You don't have to waste time dressing up or commuting, and the children always need you at the most unexpected moments."
Love of dressing kids up turns into business
Sophie Loy, five, gets to wear dresses such as the sparkly blue dress donned by snow queen Elsa in the Disney animated movie Frozen.
All because her mother runs a costume rental business at home.
During peak party seasons such as Christmas, their four-room flat in Bedok Reservoir sees about 30 customers a month.
"My children and husband have got used to having people over," said Ms Alicia Cho, 31.
She started the business last year, after giving up her marketing executive job to spend more time with her children, then two and four years old.
"I love to dress my children up and take photos of them, so the costume rental idea came naturally," said Ms Cho.
Her costumes are from the United States and China, and are for sale or can be rented for $10 each.
One of the drawbacks of a home business though is the income, said Ms Cho, who now earns a quarter of her former earnings.
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