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Flexibility births a business opportunity

Marie Swarbreck found herself in the predicament faced by so many working mums in our city, and she turned it into an opportunity. After the birth of her daughter, Marie struggled to find work opportunities that were flexible and fulfilling. Seeing a gap in the market, she founded a groundbreaking business that connects forward-thinking companies with smart, savvy mums looking for flexible work arrangements. FLEXImums is the first of its kind in
Hong Kong and Marie’s sometimes demanding second child.

Q: Tell us about your business.

FLEXImums (www.fleximums.com) is a boutique recruitment agency run by mums for mums; we offer flexible work arrangements for mothers looking for a better work-life balance. FLEXImums
was established with the vision to empower and connect working mothers, and mothers returning to work, by linking them with full-time and part-time job opportunities.

Q: When was FLEXImums founded, before or after kids?

FLEXImums was founded after my daughter Arabelle was born in Hong Kong in May 2014. I found myself in need of flexible yet challenging work and little or no options to choose from. This was the beginning of a new adventure: the birth of FLEXImums.

FLEXImums connects employers who offer flexibility with professional mums (and dads) looking for flexible positions. Flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes – it can be full-time work with flexi-hours, work-from-home or part-time work, job-share or any other form of flexibility.

Q: Is your business more a monetised passion project or a
business initiative?

FLEXImums is a business initiative with the goal of growing beyond Hong Kong in a couple of years’ time. As a career-driven mum, I aim to help working mums find more flexible roles as well as help mums who have taken a break get back into the workforce.

Q: Was it hard to set the company up in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a business-friendly place where you can easily set up a business for a minimal cost. Recruitment agencies do require a licence, which takes longer, but overall I found it easy to set up a business in Hong Kong. I had good mentors and I surrounded myself with knowledgeable people to help with the company setup, investment visa, etc.

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Q: What’s the most difficult element of running your business?

As a start-up business owner you have to wear multiple hats on a daily basis; some things you like doing more and you are better at than others but, at the end of the day, everything needs to be taken care of. I have found that nowadays there is affordable software which can really help with the smooth running of a business.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part?

For me, the most rewarding part is when a mum gets back into the workforce. When a client calls and says: “We have decided to take her on board”, that is the moment I know that setting up FLEXImums has been the right decision.

Q: Who has supported you along the way?

I have had great support from my husband, family and friends. They supported me when writing the business plan and executing it, as well as today through their ongoing encouragement and motivation.

Q: What’s the reality of balancing being a mum and a
business owner?

When setting up FLEXImums I decided I was going to have flexible working hours. I have succeeded and make sure I am home for dinner with my two year-old around 6pm.

When our daughter was born, we decided to move to South Lantau to have greener surroundings to give our children a similar upbringing as my husband and I had when growing up. This means that my working week is also directed by the ferry schedule, which helps me stay on track. I don’t think finding a balance is easy when
you set up your business. It is like having a new baby and, as all mums know, you will do everything you can to make your baby happy and successful. The same is true for your business.

Q: What’s your number one advice to mums reading this and
thinking about starting their own business?

I would certainly encourage mums to run their own project or business at some point in their lives. If you have a great idea and you are driven, it is very rewarding when it becomes a success. I have read that 50% of start-ups fail in the first year and another 20% within the first five years, so you have to persevere. All start-ups have their ups and downs, and financially it can be difficult at the outset but, as with everything, when it is a success the feeling of accomplishment and being able to say “I did that” is great. As professional mums running our own businesses we do need the support of other mums and the community to succeed. Business, service and product, it’s very competitive, and having a good network and support community is of utmost importance.

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