Taking the Leap with Children in Tow…

Q: I want so badly to start my own ice-cream shop but I am very concerned about the time commitment and how it will affect my family life. I believe that it is obviously workable because so many people run businesses every day but I have to make sure that it is right for my family before I continue further.

How long does it generally take for the business to become established? I know it will take many long hours and hard work and I am more than willing to make the commitment if I will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and be able to go to my kids’ sporting events and school functions.

I really want the creative freedom of owning my own business but I don’t want my children to miss out because of my dream. Any suggestions from business-owning parents?

A: My father-in-law owned an ice cream business while he and my mother-in-law raised my wife, here’s what she had to say…

“I was the most popular kid on the block because we had a freezer in the garage full of ice cream! It was also fun because in grade school we took field trips to my dad’s ice cream shop. My dad had lots of flexibility and was able to come to my school plays and other daytime activities. However, by the time I was born, my father was three years into it (running his ice cream shop) and the business was already rolling.

I know that in the beginning years my mom was alone a lot and he worked tons of hours. It wasn’t until 3-4 years later when he had the flexibility. Other businesses may stabilize faster, but that was my dad’s experience. He was home at dinner as long as I can remember, although every night he’d get calls during dinner with business related issues.”

My mother ran a bakery called the Confection Connection for several years while I was growing up. She was a single mom and worked very hard. She did have a partner who helped, but I can still remember she would get up and go to the bakery at 4:30 am and make the rolls and breads. She’d then come home and get my brother and I to school.

Then she’d return to the bakery and work until 5:00. Then she’d come home and make us dinner. Talk about Super-mom. She did it though. My brother and I were 11 and 13 respectively and I don’t feel in any way deprived.

I think there are several questions you should ask yourself…

1.) Can my family afford this while the business is costing more than it is bringing in?

2.) What other help will I have with the children while I’m building the business? Can your husband help? Is family close by and supportive of your dream?

3.) Can I invest my time heavily for 2-3 years before the seeing the time flexibility?

Do not listen to franchise sales representatives when it comes to estimating when the business will become profitable or how much free time you will have. I’ve talked to far too many franchisees who were given unrealistic time and financial expectations. There is flexibility, it just takes longer than sales people often say.

Your best source of information on this topic will be other parents (and non-parents) who have started ice cream businesses.

Based on what little I know about your situation if I were to give you advice, I’d tell you to wait until your children were old enough to take care of themselves after school. There are plenty of other more flexible jobs if you need time for your children in the meantime. Starting a capital-intensive business right now would put you in a time pinch and a potentially a financial pinch. This is very hard with young children.

Jason Lexell

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