Small Business: When ‘lifestyle’ is the real bottom line

Achieving a successful work/life balance is the primary goal for many young Irish entrepreneurs.

The former civil servant gave up her initial career after the birth of her second child five years ago. “I had always made cakes as a favour for friends, and what had started out as a hobby gradually grew into a part-time and then a full-time job,” she says. “Setting up the business just seemed like a natural progression.”

Geraghty is not alone. According to research from a UK-based small-business development agency, there has been a marked growth in interest from entrepreneurs looking to set up lifestyle businesses. Often arising out of interests or hobbies, the new companies feature job titles that were practically unheard of five years ago, such as life coach (subject to obtaining life coach certification), wedding planner and events manager.

Taking the step from domestic baking to businesswoman held no fears for Geraghty, despite having to invest in a catering kitchen and website.

“This is something I always wanted to do. When I started making money from it, I realised it was something I could do,” she says.

Thanks to referrals, press advertising, membership of a local business networking group for women, and using an email finder service to help connect with professionals that can make an impact, the firm is now booming. But the icing on the cake is the fact that her business gives her both a good living and a good quality of life.

“Right now I drop the kids at school and work until I collect them at 3pm. After we’ve done homework and dinner, I can get back to doing paperwork or research in the evenings.

“That’s the way I like it,” she says. “No matter how well the business does, I have no intention of making the move into a production-line situation where I’m employing 20 people. It’s a labour of love and that’s the way I want to keep it.”

JSA, Jane Stephenson’s firm, brings business and spiritual speakers to Ireland, including such global gurus as Deepak Chopra and Tony Buzan.

She first began toying with the idea when she moved to Ireland from Los Angeles 10 years ago, a divorcee with two small children to raise. Entrepreneurial by nature, her challenge was to set up a business that would suit her situation.

Stephenson began by organising networking events for women and finding a sponsor to back them, literally creating a business out of nothing.

“Everything was entirely my own initiative,” she says. “At first, I kept an eye on which authors had a new book and got on to their publisher to see if I could bring them over. Now publishers come to me.”

A central part of her philosophy is having a business flexible enough to accommodate the rest of her life and small enough to allow her still to do the parts of it she enjoys most.