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The rise of the mommy economy

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Articles - May 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012

By Linda Baker

SpielWerk’s owner Stacee Wion is surrounded by eager children in her Portland toy store, which includes a play area for kids. “Our customers are really family for us,” Wion says. 
// Photo by Eric Näslund

Like a baby, Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Mom blog started out small, then grew like a weed until it took on a life of its own. “I didn’t start blogging with the idea to make money or to create a ‘mom blogger empire,’ but once I saw I had the knack for it, I became much more intentional in my business plan,” says Oxenreider, a Bend mother of three. The 34-year-old started Simple Mom — “a productivity blog for home managers” — as a hobby in 2008, and today oversees Simple Living Media, a collection of four blogs on topics dear to a simple mom’s heart: food, school and kids. Although Oxenreider declined to reveal revenues, she says she earns a full-time income. “Last year we did well, and we’re slated to do even better this year.”

Oxenreider is one of an estimated 3.9 million women with children who blog in the United States. Although only a small percentage are making a full-time income, mom bloggers and their readers are an indelible part of what might be termed the 21st century mommy economy: mothers who are leveraging social media, as well as interest in community and environmental issues, to launch a new wave of mom-oriented businesses or to influence the purchasing and development of mom-oriented products.

Unlike a previous generation of mothers who owned businesses, today’s “power moms,” also known as “mompreneurs” and “mommy influencers,” are decidedly 21st century: technologically sophisticated, entrepreneurial and heavily connected, online and off. Nationwide, their numbers are growing rapidly. There are about 8 million women-owned businesses, a figure that increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011 — a rate 1.5 times the national average. During approximately the same time period, the number of women who chose to stay at home and raise children increased 15%.

“A few years ago, you saw a huge growth of mom-owned businesses,” says Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media, a Fort Lauderdale-based marketing firm, and the author of several books about the mom market, including Mom 3.0 and Power Moms. That increase, Bailey says, “was fueled by the economy and a new wave of millennial moms who are very tech savvy.” Unlike their boomer parents, Bailey adds, today’s mothers are also “striving for a more integrated lifestyle” in which work and parenting endeavors support one another.

Collectively, these social and economic conditions are reshaping the traditional relationship between business and mothers, giving advertisers more targeted ways to reach the $1.7 trillion mom market while providing mothers with new opportunities to shape business practices, products and brands. The demand for mom goods and services is growing steadily.

“Not only are individual mothers in a position to create businesses they weren’t in before, but even if you’re not interested in starting a business you can have a voice,” says Asha Dornfest, a Portland mom who runs Parent Hacks, a site the national online magazine Babble named as one of the top 50 mom blogs in the country last year. “And once you have that voice, companies will listen.” In the past, an enterprising stay-at-home mom might have worked for Amway or Avon. “Today you don’t need the paternalistic arm of a corporation behind you,” says Dornfest. “You can potentially create something that has huge impact with you and a $15 a month blogging account. That is a huge difference.”



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