Article written by NZ Herald.
A Kiwi mum of two who was inspired to start a business after losing her own mum is the winner of a $10,000 scholarship designed to support female entrepreneurs.
Anna Barlow’s mum passed away when she was just 12 years old. Now 29, she reflects that she wouldn’t be where she is today without her mum’s example.
“I was like her shadow, I would go with her to everything,” she recalls.
“She was a local district councillor, so even when I was a little kid, I was going along to council meetings, and she also owned a costume hire business and did furniture upholstering and a lot of those were from home.
“So I guess I just grew up with her always working, but I never knew it in a negative way. It wasn’t like, ‘oh, she’s working, she doesn’t have time to be a parent’. We just got to go along and learn what she was doing, and got to be involved.”
Now a working mum herself, Barlow wants to set that same example. “That’s what I’m trying to be for my kids,” she shares.
As a registered nurse, she previously worked at a local GP clinic in Thames, where she lives with her husband Richard and their children Hugo and Lucia. She started her own online retail business Mom Store in 2021 after going on maternity leave.
Two years later, she’s the winner of the Dermalogica & Saben EmpowHER scholarship, which aims to support female business owners to develop their product or brand through funding and mentoring.
“It was so unexpected for us to win,” she says, adding that she’s “very excited for everything we get to do with it.”
“When I had my own son, I was thinking about going back to work when he was about six months old, and I didn’t really want to have to go back to my old job,” she recalls.
“I was like, what can I do? What can I do that works around a family? And then I looked at where all my mat leave money had been spent, and I was like, well, I’ve been shopping from this store and this store and this store. And I was like, why is there not one place that has all of these epic things?”
So she pulled money from her savings, started buying products and created a website, and Mom Store was born - an online store offering a curated range of products for mums and babies, from baby clothes to breast pumps, books, gifts and pamper products.
And while a few things may have changed since her mum’s time, Barlow thinks the demands on working parents are as high as ever - particularly for mothers.
“The mum is still the default parent a lot of the time, having to put work on the back burner when the kids are sick and constantly having to adapt to that,” she points out.
“So I do think it’s hard and there’s still a stigma around even me working from home and having my children in childcare.
“But the reality is I’m still working. And I don’t get sick leave or paid annual leave. I can’t just stop working when the kids are sick. So I do think in that respect there are more demands on mums sometimes.”
As all parents know, balancing those demands is tough. And Barlow, who’s also a marriage celebrant and reformer pilates instructor, admits she “doesn’t balance it well.
“It’s like figuring out what to prioritise and I definitely don’t always get the balance right. But you just make do, and the work stuff gets put on the back burner.”
But Barlow adds that she’s lucky to have a supportive family around her, particularly her husband, who splits his time between his own business and hers.
“He’s a big supporter of the dream and is super happy to get involved and help out where he can, and hopefully over time he’ll be able to take more and more off my plate so I can focus on the more exciting stuff,” she says.
The “more exciting stuff” includes her own line of products, currently in the works - the scholarship win, which includes mentoring from the brains behind the brands Dermalogica and Saben, couldn’t have been timed better.
“We’re still in the sampling phase but we’re hoping that it’s all going to come together. Because it’ll be our own product that we get into manufacturing and distributing - at the moment we are the retailer, so we sell everyone else’s products,” she notes.
“So being able to pick the brains of some of the most amazing women in business is going to be perfectly timed for us.”