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10 successful mums who started their businesses during economic recessions

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

We all know it, our global economy is currently facing uncertain times, many companies have had to reduce their services, furlough their staff or shut shop completely. As hard as it may be to believe, there could be some positives out of this for you. With businesses quietening, this can be a good opportunity to spend a bit of time improving your skillset, or for the very brave…. launch your own business!

Again, I know it’s hard to imagine, but just for some inspiration here are 10 mums who started a business during global recessions, weathered the storm and are showing what is possible.

Lynda Harding founder of Sweet Dreamers

Back in 2009, this Portsmouth based mum of 6 invented the well-known “ewan the dream sheep” after struggling to put her own son to sleep and spotted a gap in the market. Years later this iconic sleep aid is now lulling hundreds of thousands of babies to sleep across the globe (1). She now has her own successful multi-award winning brand Sweet Dreamers which sells a range of baby sleep products (2). I think it’s safe to say that Ms. Harding is a true inspiration for us mummies right?!

Ruth Wakefield founder of Toll House Chocolate cookie

Do you like chocolate chipped cookies? Did you know that they were invented by a mummy? In the late 1930s, this savvy mum, who owned the Toll House restaurant in Massachusetts, with her husband (3), decided to serve her customers with something new… and it caught on fast! She later collaborated with Nestlé and the Nestlé Toll House Chocolate cookie was born. Since then, variations of the chocolate chip cookie have been developed, but needless to say, we can all thank this OG mum for her invention that millions of us have enjoyed in our childhoods.

Helen Rankin founder of Cheeky Wipes

Helen founded the worlds first natural cloth wipe in back in September 2008, in East Sussex. After discovering that disposable wipes only aggravated her sensitive skin, she made her own system, and the idea for Cheeky Wipes was born. By 2012 and she already had over 15,000 happy customers under her belt and has never looked back (4). #goals

Sally Preston founder of Kiddylicious

If you walk down the baby food aisle of your local supermarket, I am pretty sure you will not miss the Kiddylicious range. Founded in Buckinghamshire back in 2009 by mum of 2, Sally Preston (5). Sally has since spoken about her trials and tribulations of starting a business, but evidence shows that life and business challenges has not stopped this mummy from achieving her goals. Her brand has picked up a range of awards and has also expanded globally. #thismmumcan

Annabel Karmel founder of the Annabel Karmel brand

Back in 1991, this phenomenal mum created the book The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner as a special tribute to her late daughter who sadly passed away at 3 months of age from a viral infection (6). After the picking up a lot of great recognition, Annabel’s sought-after recipes have also grown into a successful supermarket food range with organic baby purees and chilled meals for toddlers and older children (7). Her brand now also spans across apps, entertainment and a fast-expanding online community. Annabel has 3 grown-up children and in 2006, received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her outstanding work in the field of child nutrition.

Kelly Bayett co-founder of Barking Owl

Armed with a background in music, Kelly co-founded her Los Angeles-based music and sound company Barking Owl in 2009 in her own home after taking the leap of faith from employee to business owner (8). In an interview with Entrepreneur she says that “it was definitely a hustle. And it was a really interesting time because I had to be so resourceful.”

Needless to say, she quickly propelled her company and 11 years on, if you visit her site, you’ll see case studies from big brands such as Reebok, Nike, and Audi (9). This mummy is obviously going places.

Tracey Montford co-founder of Cake lingerie

Founded in 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and now recognised widely as a key supplier of maternity and nursing bras. Tracey and her husband set out to design beautiful, quality, functional and comfortable garments that women want to wear, which originated from a personal need. Several years later, Tracey has managed to build an internationally recognised brand that supplies over 55 countries (10). And the icing on the cake (get it…) is that over 90% of her staff are mothers who work during school hours (11). Tracey are you accepting new applications?!

Yasemin Drury founder of Funky Giraffe Bibs

In 2009 Yasemin Drury created Funky Giraffe Bibs a year after her son was born to reflect how uniquely special he was to her (12). And since then this colourful mamma has been serving us with real style, top quality, and excellent value. Equipped with a professional background in the fashion industry Yasemin’s expertise has helped drive her company, and now her range of products have expanded to include burp cloths, hats, and scarves. We’re here for it.

Hilary Collins founder of Big Wave PR

Hilary set up her Essex based company Big Wave PR in 2007 after the birth of her daughter. Equipped with a background of 10 years experience, Hilary has gone on to attract a plethora of well-known clients, such as Raddison Blu, Carlsberg, and Pappa Jones, to name a few (13), and bagged herself some awards along the way! Promising that “With a Big Wave behind you the possibilities are endless” she is certainly practising what she preaches.

Adi Tatarko co-founder of Houzz

Back in 2009 Adi and her husband set up Houzz after having trouble remodelling their California home (14). 1 year later, the pair managed to secure their first investment of $2m and left their jobs to work on the project full time, using the money to hire their first staff (15). With a mission to provide their customer with the best experience in home renovation and design, things quickly picked up for Adi's company and she was able expand internationally in 2013. Like all companies, not everything is perfect but this extraordinary mummy's company is reported to be worth $4bn and has 4 million monthly users.


As you can see in these examples starting your own venture during a recession is still a possibility. Another big take away is that the mums mentioned likely chose their business ideas in areas they understood well. It is likely that their insights are what allowed them to truly appreciate their customers’ or clients’ needs first, before delivering on value afterwards. And their motivation for delivering this value is what sailed them through the difficulties of starting a business in any climate.

Although the odds aren’t stacked in your favour, who says that YOU can’t be that 1% that we all admire. If you have an idea that will add value to people’s lives, just go for it.

Head on over to my Instagram and Pinterest page for more inspirational content.

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