Business and Baby on Board

by Johanna Baker-Dowdell


Almost one million Australians operate a business from home, taking advantage of digital developments such as cloud computing and social media to take their destinies into their own hands.

More and more of these start-ups are run by mothers looking to create a balance between spending time with their children, enjoying fulfilling work and paying the bills.

After starting her own business while at home caring for a baby, Johanna Baker-Dowdell decided to write Business + Baby on Board to help other women who are keen to try it for themselves.

Johanna shares the lessons she learnt first hand starting her business as a new mother along with those of expert business mums including writer Kaz Cooke and Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson. The result is an informative how-to guide for women looking to plan, start and build a successful business.

Business + Baby on board is filled with true stories and expert tips to provide inspiration to mothers who want to have it all: the family, the lifestyle, and the career.

The book is complemented by a blog (, Twitter account (@bizbabyonboard) and Facebook page ( and is also available in print here.

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  • Johanna Baker-Dowdell

    As a child, a curious Johanna Baker-Dowdell always wanted to know what was happening in the world around her and asked lots of questions. Imagine her delight when she discovered you could make a career from sharing stories. Though she is now based in Tasmania, Johanna started her career by studying journalism and public relations […]

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  • Excerpt


    Some 70 per cent of women have thought more about starting a business since becoming a mother according to research published in the Huggies MumInspired Report in March 2011. Entrepreneurial women are trying to create the lifestyle they want with their family while contributing to the family income at the same time.

    Mothers in business face all the usual start-up issues such as market research, business registration, taxation and marketing, but they also have to make all this work around their family. So they have limited time, may suffer from mother guilt and might even need to factor in the housework as well!

    So why do it? The answer is simple – many women don’t want to be “just a mum” or finish their career as an employee. They want to experience success that they have created themselves. These women are mistresses of their own destinies, and they have an armoury of skills that can be used while they are bringing up the baby.

    This book will look at all the steps involved in planning, starting and building a successful business, but seen through the eyes of business mums. Each section examines an important aspect of business and features an interview with an expert business mother on that topic along with her own case study. In it, she explains how she started her business; the issues she faced; her triumphs and any advice she has for you.

    Each of the 21 business mothers’ stories you will read in the coming pages is complemented by the book’s informative how-to guide for business start-ups, along with inspiration and extra tips to help mums who want to have the family, the business and the lifestyle – and be successful at all three.

    Johanna’s story

    Name: Johanna Baker-Dowdell
    Business: Strawberry Communications
    Industry: Writing and public relations
    Base: Launceston, Tasmania

    When I started working in my dream job as a cadet journalist, I assumed I would work my way around a few newsrooms and eventually become an editor. I never thought I would be running my own business where writing made up one part of my daily duties, among tax, recruitment, administration and marketing obligations.

    I had a watershed moment when I was interviewed for a PR consultancy job by a woman who was running a successful agency. She had children, and I saw that the roles of mother and business owner could go together. I was inspired, but still a long way off from thinking about having a family of my own.

    Fast forward a few years to when I was working in a marketing role at the British Franchise Association. Here I met some incredible women who had started businesses and franchised their operations, or became franchisees so they could be their own boss. Many were mothers and managed both jobs with efficiency and class. During the 18 months I worked in this role, I started thinking about whether I was cut out to be my own boss and what sort of business I would run if I were.

    The answer came sooner than expected. Less than a year after leaving the UK to come back to Australia, I was freelancing for a magazine and about to be a mum. After settling into the demands of motherhood and keeping up with my monthly magazine writing commitments, I decided I could do more. So I took on some contract public relations and real estate copywriting work. Not only was I getting the intellectual buzz I needed, I was contributing to the family income too.

    Soon my workload expanded beyond what I could do while my first son slept, and so my parents stepped in and looked after him one day a week each. Now I had time to work beyond his 40-minute naps, and I could work at a client’s office if needed or attend business events. I started to feel like a real businesswoman! By the time our son turned one, he was also spending one day at childcare so I had three days a week to run the business. He loved the social interaction – and I loved the freedom to work uninterrupted.

    All this time I’d been operating under my own name as a freelancer, even though I already had decided on my business name. In October 2007, I attended a “Mums in Business” event in Sydney and was so inspired by the women I met there, I drove straight from the workshop to the Department of Fair Trading and registered the name Strawberry Communications.

    That was an important moment for me in business because from that time on I considered myself a business owner. My attitude changed accordingly. So did my clients. I started seeking out fellow business mums to work with, giving support wherever I could and taking it when offered. I also looked for opportunities to challenge myself through further training, personal development and public speaking.

    By this time I was working almost four full days a week around our eldest son and the housework. When I had our second son, I realised my office in the third bedroom would have to go and set about creating my own office space by converting our garage. Not scared to be upfront about being a mum in business anymore, I took my baby with me everywhere, including to client meetings and networking events – and was pleasantly surprised by the reactions I received. My youngest son quickly became a hit with existing and new clients, and I started referring to him as my ‘business partner’. He thrived on the attention, and I thrived on being able to be both a mum and a business owner.

    When our baby was seven months old, my business changed again. My husband and I swapped roles and I worked full time, while he became the primary carer for our two boys. This arrangement has been in place since 2009 and it works for us. We have been able to arrange my business around moving interstate, our eldest starting school, our youngest starting daycare and my husband returning to study. Strawberry Communications continues to thrive and evolve, transforming with each new challenge and opportunity. None of us would change a thing.

    As a mother who has started a business with a baby, and built it up to a full-time operation with two, I am passionate about helping other mothers do the same with their businesses. I understand how hard it is to work around children (especially when they are constantly asking questions while you are on a business call!), but I also know how satisfying it is knowing I am working only a few steps away from them if ever they need me. I like knowing I can take a morning off to see their concerts or be with them if they are sick. After all, why have children if I’m never going to see them? Being a working mum is the hardest, and most satisfying, experience of my professional career.