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Working from home: Mom finds home-based business gives greatest flexibility to spend time with kids

Julie Haakenson gets some help with labeling catalogs for her Pampered Chef business from her children, Chloe, 9, and Noah, 7, at their home at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Eric Hylden, Forum News Service

Julie Haakenson has what a lot of working moms crave: time to be with her kids and participate in their activities.

She’s a working mom, too, but she went from being an employee to being her own boss when she started a home-based business about eight years ago when the family was living in Germany.

“I started because my husband was military,” she said. “Especially as a military spouse, it’s hard to find a job everywhere you go.

“With Pampered Chef, you don’t have to start anew.”

When she and her husband, Eric, became parents, they weighed their options.

“We talked about whether I’d work outside the home,” she recalled. A job would mean she would probably miss her child’s first words and first step.

“We decided I would be a stay-at-home mom, so as to not miss any of those moments,” she said. “I went from career woman to stay-at-home mom.”

When the family moved from Germany to California, “I was able to easily move my business,” she said.

As a result of U.S. Air Force assignments that have taken the family to various locations, Haakenson has a wide network of consultants and customers.

“I have team members and customers all across the globe,” she said.

She has also done Pampered Chef parties via Skype with her mother serving as host in Raleigh, N.C.

Haakenson is typical of many “mompreneurs” who struggle to find balance between their family and having a career.

It’s not a new phenomenon, as the term “mompreneur” was coined in the late 1990s by Ellen Parlapiano and Pat Cobe, co-authors of “Mompreneurs: A Mother’s Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-Home Success” and “Mompreneurs Online: Using the Internet to Build Work@Home Success.”

Although there are no statistics for the number of mothers who own businesses, it is estimated that there are more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than $1.3 trillion in revenue and employing nearly 8 million people, according to American Express’s OPEN’s 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. That’s an increase of 5 million businesses in two years.

Flexibility

The best part of owning her direct-sales business is “it gives me flexibility, especially now that we have school-age kids,” she said.

“I need that flexibility because we’re an active family. I can take kids to activities without disrupting work.”

Plus, the business provides extra income to pay for family or kids’ activity expenses.

Chloe, 9, and Noah, 7, are quick to help with tasks that keep their mom’s business running, like applying labels with her personal contact information to Pampered Chef product catalogs.

Since they get paid for their time, they’re getting early lessons on money management.

Haakenson’s business “has been a blessing schedule-wise, and being able to pay for things too,” she said. “I’ve been able to volunteer in my kids’ school — to be there for those kinds of things.”

Before her husband joined the military, Haakenson earned a college degree in parks and recreation and later managed an Olympic-size swimming pool in Raleigh, N.C.

After the birth of Chloe, when she was considering a home-based business, she said, “I knew direct-sales was the way I wanted to go.

“I looked at it from a business sense,” she said. She wanted to sell “a product that fits a need, not just a want.”

“I’m all about serving people. That’s my love: how can I be of service… Pampered Chef fits my personality.”

She liked the “hospitality aspect” of the company, “even when I wasn’t able to cook,” she said.

‘We all have to eat’

Haakenson figured that a business focused on kitchen items had a good future.

“We all have to eat,” she said. “Every house has a kitchen.”

The timing of her business start-up coincided with the surge in people’s interest in food and cooking — as evidenced by the increasing popularity of food shows on TV — and their desire to lead a healthier lifestyle, she said.

“Pampered Chef really made sense to me, it really appealed to me.”

Her work involves planning sales events, including what recipes to feature; handling customer care issues and follow-up, and “helping those who have joined our team,” she said.

For those consultants, “I’m not their boss, I’m their coach. I point them in the right direction if they have a problem.”

Haakenson also uses social media to promote her business.

“I’m on Facebook a lot,” she said. “I post recipes, product tips and food shopping tips — like how to pick a good green pepper.

“You’re CEO, CFO (chief financial officer), COO (chief operating officer) — you’re really kind of everything when you own your own business.”

In addition to giving her time to participate in her children’s lives, the business “has helped me become a better cook,” she said.

Before she started her business, “we had a lot of spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and Ramen noodles.

“Training with the company gives you a lot of knowledge on how to use the (cooking) tools. The company’s mission is to get families back around the dinner table.”

Research studies have found that one of the indicators that a child will not abuse drugs is being part of a family that sits down together for dinner at least three times a week, she said.

Because of her success in customer sales and recruiting other consultants, Pampered Chef has rewarded her with several expenses-paid trips for two, including a Caribbean cru

Role model

Haakenson also appreciates the company’s emphasis on healthy eating and being able to share food-preparation knowledge and skills with others.

“I’m a little older now; I can be a role model to younger moms and stay-at-home moms,” she said.

She was the first Pampered Chef consultant in North Dakota to offer “freezer meal workshops” to help busy cooks make time-saving meals that free them from relying too much — and spending too much — on fast food or dining out.

The idea has “taken off like gangbusters,” she said.

A recent workshop that she led in Northwood, N.D., drew 17 women who learned how to make seven meals in “meal kits” which they took home that day for their families.

“I love seeing that. I love seeing how accomplished they are” at the end of the workshop, Haakenson said.

A local woman, who is a member of the military along with her husband, sent a testimony thanking Haakenson “for teaching me another skill that makes me feel like a better mother and gives me back precious time with my family.”

The testimony, which appears on her business website, “made me cry,” she said.

Freezer meals have been a “blessing” for her own family, too, “when we have gymnastics and need to be able to get a meal on the table quickly,” she said.

At home, “when the Pampered Chef booklet arrives with all the new recipes, we go through it and tell her which recipes she should definitely try,” Eric said. “We’re the guinea pigs usually.”

“Most of the recipes take 30 minutes or less,” he said. “And they’re delicious, flavorful and healthy.”

Owning your own business is a nice fit for a young mother with a sometimes hectic schedule, Haakenson said.

The business “can ebb and flow around your life, your kid’s life and your family’s life.”

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By Pamela Knudson, Forum News Service.

Knudson covers health and family for the Grand Forks Herald. Call her at (701) 780-1107, (800) 477-6572 ext.1107 or email pknudson@gfherald.com.

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