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Jade Stoner recently visited Downing Street as part of a panel of single mums who have started their own business.
When Jade Stoner responded to a Twitter call from Ali Golds, an entrepreneur writing a book on single parents who were starting businesses, little did she know that not long after she would be stepping into Downing Street to meet two of David Cameron’s special advisors as part of a panel of single mum entrepreneurs.
At the Downing Street meeting last month the panel raised a range of issues with Daniel Korski and Laura Trott, the Prime Minister’s special advisor on women, education and childcare. One woman suggested that small businesses could be given a loan similar to student loans which would mean they pay them back according to how much they earn. Jade says many small businesses are loathe to take out a loan and commit to regular monthly repayments when their income varies constantly, particularly in the early days.
Other issues included making childcare a legitimate business expense, including holiday care, and changing the benefits system so that it supports entrepreneurs as well as employees. For instance, tax credits are based on people being able to predict their future earnings, something which is difficult for entrepreneurs, particularly in the current economic situation. Korski said the feedback from the session would be brought to the attention of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Jade [pictured far left] separated from her son’s father two years ago and set up her business, Love Business Expo, last September. She had been working in publishing and was made redundant a couple of months before she launched the business. “It all came at once just after the separation,” she says. “I’m glad that period is all over. It’s like buses – everything happened around the same time – but I have learnt a lot.”
She had been running her own network marketing businesses alongside her full-time work so was no stranger to self-employment. When she separated from her son’s father who no longer lives in England, she realised a full-time job was not feasible because of childcare issues. “If I was working full time, I’d never see my son during the week and would be too tired at the weekend. Besides, running my own business full time was something I wanted to do,” she says, “but if I had stayed employed I doubt it was something I would have done as I wouldn’t have had time.”
Love Business Expo is a business to business networking exhibition which offers both business and personal development opportunities. Jade found setting it up and organising her first event from scratch was fairly straightforward. She got her own accountant and has some business mentors. It was not putting the business together that was hard, but the fear that she could pull off her first event, she says. She took on a few people when the event was about to launch to help her out, but essentially she has run the business on her own.
She did pull it off though and now she’s looking to hire a salesperson to move the business forward. Jade works from home which works very well around the school run and her son, who is seven, is involved in helping her formulate her goals and visions, which are centred around the family. “I think it’s important that he gets to see that side of things,” says Jade, who lives in Essex. “I want to instil a work ethic in him.”
She says responding to the tweet was a big jump for her. “I don’t want to use being a single parent as an excuse,” she says.
Her mother helps her out with childcare when she is in the country and Jade says she is able to do the school run and spend the two hours afterwards on one to one time with her son. She can then work in the evenings when her son is asleep. She also does some work at the weekends from home. Next year she is planning to hold more events and she will launch another business, Love Property Expo, in the early new year.
“Next year is my first proper year after starting up and I want to move the business up to the next level,” she says. “A lot of what we are doing is aimed at start-ups. Small businesses will be the ones to drive the economy forward and turn it around.” She adds that women are a vital and growing force in business. “It’s true that when you empower women you empower the next generation. Single parents are mainly women. What we do filters through the generations.”