Mother and entrepreneur – how does that work?

Picture of Oliver Gessl

Oliver Gessl

Expert talk with Bettina Bertschinger – mother of three children and company owner in the maternity fashion sector

Our expert talk with Bettina Bertschinger took place on Wednesday July 6th, 2022. Bettina was born in Zurich in 1974 and has been the owner of the company 9months fashion&more since July 2021. She is a trained bookseller and business economist, worked in the education sector for a long time and then co-founded and ran two companies. Bettina has three children and lives with her family in Baden.

Statistically, most women take the plunge into self-employment after the birth of their first child. How was it for you and what were your drivers?

Before becoming self-employed, I had spent many years in professional life. For me it was simply more important at some point to work independently in a company. Not everyone feels this urge to become self-employed, but some do it anyway because of a new situation or situation in life. For example, the Corona phase gave many people time to reflect and was a driver to break out of the restricted everyday life and dare to do something. The number of companies being founded has skyrocketed.

Traditionally, the mother stays at home with the children, takes care of their upbringing and runs the home. A lot has changed here. In Switzerland, we often have the luxury in family constellations that women can decide for themselves how they want to develop further during their childhood, be it entrepreneurial or back to work.

This choice is left out in many countries, such as the USA, where income is not sufficient in most cities and women have to go back to work fairly quickly.

How did you decide to be a mother and an entrepreneur? What were your beliefs for this?

Basically, I have always had the attitude of doing what I enjoy. Because this is the only way I can share the joy with other people. One might interpret this as a certain egoism, but personally it is important to me to do something that brings joy.

«When our children were small, my husband took on a lot of night shifts because he said he felt the lack of sleep less at work than I did in business life»

Why do you talk about selfishness? Having a mother who is happy should not be described as selfishness, or if so, then as healthy egoism, i.e. taking yourself and your impact on others seriously.

Becoming entrepreneurially active was never a decision for me. A lot of it was purely coincidental. Projects came or were offered to me and I had the prerequisites to be able to take them on. In the end, my desire to do something that gave me joy prevailed and a self-determined everyday life turned out to be a big part of it.

On the other hand, with children you also need a balancing pole, in my case a man who supports everything. My husband took on many responsibilities regarding the children and often looked after me. Otherwise this wouldn’t have been possible.

Will it be very difficult or even impossible for a single mother to become an entrepreneur?

I grew up with a single mother and used to find this a very difficult situation for you. My situation today is fundamentally different. I personally couldn’t have imagined running a company as a single mother.

When our children were small, my husband took on a lot of night shifts because he said he felt the lack of sleep less at work than I did in business life.

Being at home alone with a small child is already a big challenge.

What were the biggest challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?

I am active in the retail trade with my business “9 months”. We sell chic and partly sustainable fashion for pregnancy, postnatal and children. Retail trade is generally not an easy industry. After the boom in online trading in recent years, the industry is proving to be even more challenging. There are hardly any local suppliers in Switzerland, which means we import most of the products and therefore have to justify high prices. We can only achieve this through high-quality and mostly sustainable clothing.

What were your personal challenges?

Apart from my need to be my own boss and have my freedom to plan, I don’t put much emphasis on myself. I don’t take myself too seriously, which makes things a lot more relaxing. On the other hand, this also means that I don’t pursue enough specific goals in my entrepreneurial activities. For me, this is primarily about the diverse and self-determined “job”, about the fundamental well-being of the company and about finding solutions to the multitude of problems on a daily basis.

In this sense, I am not a classic entrepreneur who aims for financial success. For me, success is living a self-determined life and finding solutions with a good dose of optimism. I’ve never written a business plan before and I’m not much of a paper person.

«For me, success means developing a healthy relationship with failure and becoming aware of your personal resources and the ability to mobilize them»

Was the challenge of being a mother greater than that of being an entrepreneur?

Becoming a mother for the first time was a huge shock for me. A sudden change, giving up your job immediately, hardly having a private life, etc.

Mastering this requires very good organization. Nevertheless, I wasn’t afraid to get help and therefore never had the feeling that the child needed me as a mother. My interactions with my children were always very relaxed. I learned from my husband early on to let go, on the one hand, not to lose my freedom and, on the other hand, to allow my child to share in the resulting positive attitude towards life.

Men can do this better than women. Ultimately, my children turned out to be very easy to care for. They had no choice either (smile!).

How do you define entrepreneurial success for yourself?

First and foremost, to do something that I am happy with and that I can be satisfied with. The monetary aspect is in the background, even though I have to accept major financial cuts for my activities and only earn a fraction of what I earned in my previous job.

For me, success also means taking on challenges, taking risks, going out of your comfort zone. Some things work out or they just go wrong; it has to be like this. You learn from mistakes and can find new solutions. For me, success means developing a healthy relationship with failure and becoming aware of your personal resources and the ability to mobilize them. There’s always a chance that something won’t work and I’ll try anyway. The power and energy that arises from this is a great motivation.

What makes you get up in the morning?

I’m not a morning person at all. Nevertheless, I really enjoy getting up… for my first coffee (smile). You need to start every day. Only when you tackle things does the feeling of satisfaction arise or the motivation to do more increases.

Science shows that pure “positive thinking” only helps to a limited extent. What drives people is doing.

What does your everyday working life look like?

As a rule, I plan my week based on tasks to which I dedicate a large part of the day. So I have my social media day, one day for accounting and administration, two days in the shops, etc. Of course everything is coordinated with the children. Entrepreneurial work also brings with it a lot of flexibility and planning freedom.

What percentage do you estimate your working hours to be?

My mind is at work very often, not to say almost always. Since work is also a hobby and freedom for me, this has never been a problem for me. However, I don’t have any other time-consuming hobbies… (smile!)

How and where do you regenerate yourself and find the strength for further drive?

This used to happen when riding a motorcycle. However, the work does not represent any effort for me. Rather, I find a lot of strength and relaxation in tackling the challenges.

In addition, it is often the little things in life that make me enjoy the beautiful and easy things. For example, when my children go to school and wave to me every morning when they say goodbye. I hold onto this internally and draw a lot of strength and drive for what comes next, especially from these small moments.

On the other hand, perhaps it is also a healthy demarcation from certain things in life that keep me on an optimistic course.

Have you ever had a role model?

I have good friends in my circle, some of whom I can consider role models. For me that means they have something inspiring from which I can sometimes learn things. Basically, it is important to me to spend my time with people who inspire and with whom I can exchange positive ideas. Working in a challenging environment and activity has taught me to distance myself from negativity and not see it as an obligation to have to be there for everyone, which doesn’t mean having an open ear for a friend.

How can you approach the issue of self-employment?

There are many small businesses that you can just start and try out. I see a lot of entrepreneurship that comes from a hobby.

Personally, I didn’t have a brilliant idea either. As I said, it was more of an entrepreneurial coincidence for me, but it coincided with my joy and desire for self-determination and freedom.

Statistically it shows that trading, bloggers and copywriters are good areas in which you can start self-employment from “home”. However, in order to make progress, it is helpful to exchange ideas with like-minded people. However, you have to go the route yourself.

What are the deviations that one should take before deciding to pursue an entrepreneurial activity?

In most cases this means that in the medium term you will earn significantly less income than in your previous employment, but you will find significantly more joy and self-fulfillment. This is of course a big hurdle for single mothers. Nevertheless, the question ultimately arises as to what added value I can give my child by being fulfilled and happy, even though I/we will have less income available.

What could Switzerland do better to promote female entrepreneurs?

Clearly, expand the range of day schools. The expanded crèche offering, even if it comes at a price, brings enormous relief. The big question in Switzerland arises when school begins. In Switzerland there would be a need for significantly more day schools to support single mothers in particular with entrepreneurial and other tasks. It seems to me that the canton of Argau has taken on a pioneering role by introducing the first day school a good 20 years ago. Unfortunately, you still need luck in the lottery to get one of the few school places.

Thank you, Bettina!

We had the expert talk with Bettina Bertschinger, mother of three and entrepreneur.

Website: 9 months fashion & more

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