Money & Career

“How I Made Millions On Maternity Leave”

Three mums tell all

In between the 3 a.m. feeds and nappy changes, these three mums started their own business. Here’s how.

Erica Stewart

Erica Stewart – Founder of Hard To Find

When Erica Stewart looks back on 2010 – the year she spent her maternity leave working on her website Hard To Find – it’s a blur. But she vividly remembers breastfeeding her newborn daughter Charlotte while replying to business emails in the tiny playroom of her terrace house in Sydney.

“They were tricky times. In the beginning, I was running the site, curating pieces, managing spreadsheets, liaising with web developers and implementing a marketing strategy – oh, and raising three kids. It was … overwhelming,” says Stewart, whose multi-tasking helped the business take off. So much so that Stewart didn’t return to her job in publishing – and her husband also quit his job to become a stay-at-home dad.

“Having a parent at home takes away a lot of that mother guilt,” she says. Today, Hard To Find is a multimillion-dollar business and Stewart has swapped her kids’ playroom for an office in Sydney with 20 staff. Now in her 40s, she’s most proud of the example she’s set for her children – especially her daughters.

“I’ve shown my kids you can be a mum and a successful businesswoman. I want my girls to know that they can conquer the world,” she says.

Marcia Leone

Marcia Leone – Founder of Not So Mumsy

Holding her 10-month-old daughter Poppy Valentine on her hip while wearing a Keepsake the Label mini dress and six-inch heels, Marcia Leone, 37, is the epitome of chic. You wouldn’t know that she’d just changed a dirty nappy in the back room.

It’s just another day in the office for Leone, who started her blog Not So Mumsy as a “creative outlet” while on maternity leave with her son Archie in 2011. “I was struggling with being a new mum and having to leave my son at childcare. I wasn’t ready to go back to my marketing job,” says Leone, who decided not to return to her full-time position when she started making an income from her blog.

It was the right decision – Leone now has 160,000 Instagram followers, 50,000 unique hits on her blog every month and her own sleepwear label. While being able to work around her kids sounds like a dream, Leone admits being a mummy blogger has its challenges. “There’s no downtime … If you want to launch a business on maternity leave, make sure it’s a passion project because otherwise you’re too tired,” says Leone, who hasn’t had more than a four-hour block of sleep since her daughter was born.

Her secret? “Coffee. Lots of coffee.”

Kristy Chong

Kristy Chong – Founder of Modibodi

“Starting a business is like having your first child again, except the hard bit goes on for longer,” admits Kristy Chong, who started Modibodi period underwear when her third son Isaac was born four years ago. While on maternity leave, Chong decided to test out the market for her product – a period-, leak- and sweat-proof pair of underwear – having spent $20,000 developing a prototype.

“I was only working on the brand part time, but mat leave gave me the opportunity to test the business idea – while also looking after my baby and two older boys,” she says of the early days she spent building financial models, investigating the textile industry and expanding the product line. When Chong was con dent in her product, she started working on the business full time in 2015 instead of returning to her corporate job.

In the past year, Modibodi has quadrupled its sales and is expected to turn over $10 million this year. Chong, now 40, says the hardest part of starting a business is having patience. “You need to be patient, go easy on yourself and break challenges down into small steps,” she says. Solid advice for entrepreneurs and new parents alike.

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