We jumped in and opened our family business during the pandemic! Look, life has not been particularly fair towards us. It has sent us one unwelcomed experience after another. When all was said and done, we decided to make our own chaos. We listened to the old saying- “If you can’t beat em’, join em’!”
We signed a lease on the perfect building on March 1st, 2020. We all know what happened next – COVID! Great timing. Again.
Despite the timing snafu, we pushed forward. In late November, 2020, we opened our doors to our family business. With 3 little children along for the ride and one more in the way, we started to build a business together – as a family.
In the past few months, I’ve learned more about running a business with children in tow than I’d ever thought I could learn. Honestly, I thought it would be no big deal. Ha! Was I ever wrong!
If you are pondering a similar business venture, here are a few aspects of parenting that changed for us when we started our family-friendly, bring the kids to work almost daily, business.
- First, I had to push aside my idea of “stay-at-home mom” life. Bringing the children to our business was our new normal and we all had to adjust. The previous routines, schedules, rules, and behavior expectations all had to change. We created a room in the back of our store with a kitchenette, tv, toys, books, etc. Despite all of the fun things in this one little room, my children still prefer the copy machine in my office over their massive collection of toys.
- Customers come first, except when someone poops. That’s right. There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m with a customer and I don’t hear “Mom! Dad! I’m done! I pooped!” from the back of the store. Having a small business, in a small town, most of our customers understand my then very uncomfortable slink away to go help someone wipe.
- I have had to learn to “read the room” when it comes to customers and children. Frankly, some people do not like children and you can tell by their looks, attitude, and responses what they think of children running around the store. Those are the times where I put on my mom hat, bring the kids in the back and leave my husband to tend to all of the customers. On the other hand, a majority of customers love that the kids want to talk to them. They share stories about missing their own grandkids who live out of state, or who they haven’t seen because of covid. My kids are pretty keen to this now, too, and oftentimes run back in my office to color a picture or copy their handprint to give to the customer (that copier, though…).
- Know when to say when. Kids can be funny. Some days, they make it through a 12 hour day like it was no big deal; happy, laughing, and good-spirited. Other days, an hour in and they are ready to bust through the walls. It might just mean you need to bundle everyone up and go for a walk, or it might mean you need to take everyone home sooner than you planned. Flexibility is key.
- Electronic time limits needed to disappear. Maybe not for your family, but for mine… If there is a busy time at the store, and my kids are a little high energy, I now have no shame. “Go play on your tablet”. This was not always my philosophy and I have definitely had to change my feelings about the tablet time since opening our store. However, the younger kids leave their tablets at the store. This way, they do not even have the option of a tablet at home. At home, they can play inside or out, with limited electronics. This seems to work well for us.
- I have mentioned the copier a couple of times. Buy a second copy machine. Yes, I’m encouraging you to have two. Don’t just have your regular office copier. Jump on Craigslist or Marketplace and buy an extra one for cheap. This will provide hours of entertainment for the kids. Trust me. It is probably bad parenting advice by saying “hey, let your kids play with the copier,” but this is one time where I suggest you remember being a kid. Don’t you have some funny memories of yourself playing with the copier at your mom or dad’s work? I know I’m not alone in this. I would have hundreds of papers with my face, hands, the stapler, etc., copied, in a stack to take home after “helping” my mom at work when I was a kid.
Parenting while running a business is by no means something I feel confident in and I am definitely not an expert. But I’m learning.
Do you have any tips to share?