By Kate Silver
Can women have it all? It’s a topic that’s generated quite a bit of buzz over the summer, following The Atlantic’s July cover story, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” In the piece, author Anne-Marie Slaughter says that notion of life/family balance is more fantasy than fact in this day and age. “I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ …’” wrote Slaughter. “But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”
While Slaughter makes strong points, the piece neglects to explore the world of entrepreneurial women who have left behind jobs that don’t allow for the life balance they crave, and set out on their own.
According to the 2012 “State of Women-Owned Business Report” by American Express Open, more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States generate more than $1.3 trillion in revenue and employ more than 7.5 million people. Between 1997 and 2012, women-owned firms increased by 54 percent in the United States. That’s one and a half times the national average.
Do the women at the helm of their own businesses have it all? According to a sampling of women business owners at Pigtails & Crewcuts, a kid-centric salon, the resounding answer is, “Absolutely.”
Hailey Arthur never expected to be a stay-at-home mom. When her first child was born, she had every intention of returning to her job as a recruiter at Bank of America. She enjoyed her career, and she and her husband relied on both incomes. But then her son suffered a brain injury during birth, and doctors told her that he had cerebral palsy. Faced with a lifetime of therapy and doctors appointments, Arthur decided she needed to quit her job and stay home with her son.
A few years later, in 2007, her twins were born. For Arthur, being home with three children was challenging, to say the least. “By the time the twins got to be 18 months old, I was certifiably insane,” says Arthur. “I said, ‘I cannot do this! I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom!’” She and her husband, Mike, discussed their options, and decided that they wanted to open Pigtails & Crewcuts, a children’s hair salon franchise in the Blakeney area of their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Today, three years after the salon opened, Arthur spends mornings at Pigtails & Crewcuts and afternoons with her children. She says the business has given her the challenge and outlet that she craved. “It gives me, Hailey-the-person, more of a purpose than Hailey-the-mom,” she says. “I feel like I have something that is mine—my project and my passion outside of my children. And I think it helps me keep my identity that way.”
For Arthur, having it all is about having a strong support network. “I think women can have it all if you are doing the right thing. With Pigtails & Crewcuts I have a very supportive network,” she says. “While I feel like I have a great balance, I wouldn’t be able to do it alone.”
For Kendra Keating, opening two Pigtails & Crewcuts in San Diego (eventually she will open a total of five) was a way of keeping close to home. A single mom, Keating was the former CFO of a consulting firm, and in the first year of her daughter’s life, mom and daughter (and nanny) traveled 122 days. As her child approached kindergarten, Keating began searching for a flexible career that would allow her to pick her up from school every day and be involved in homework, parent-teacher meetings, activities and more. As a Pigtails & Crewcuts salon owner, she’s found just that. “I probably work as much as I would if I were working for somebody else, but I decide when I work, and a lot of it can be done from home,” she says. “I think if you power through, you can do anything you want to do.”
Julie Luna was searching for an opportunity in Omaha, Nebraska that would mean little to no travel. For years, she’d managed an automobile business unit with a Fortune 150 company and was on the road, away from her five daughters, up to 75 percent of the time. After leaving her job, she signed a five-salon deal with Pigtails & Crewcuts, and today, is much more involved in her daughters’ lives and schools. Luna says she’s thrilled to provide an entrepreneurial example for her daughters, who range in age from 6 to 13 (recently married, she also has two stepsons). “I’ve always taught them it’s great to be a mom, and if that’s your career choice that’s awesome, but you can do anything you want to do,” says Luna. “I think this shows them that yeah, I had a big job with a big company, but now I took a chance and I own something, and it really illustrates how many options are ahead of them.”
For Dalia Alford, owning a Pigtails & Crewcuts in Cedar Park, Texas, has proven to her that she’s a better multi-tasker than she ever knew. A former teacher, Alford quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom to her two children. Soon after, her husband was laid off, and the family decided to invest their savings in a kids’ salon franchise (her husband found another job soon after). Now with a third child and a fourth on the way, Alford can’t picture herself doing anything else.
“I can’t imagine what else would have allowed me to continue doing everything I’m doing without completely losing my mind,” she says. “I definitely have flexibility. I have great hours. And while I’m always available to my staff, I don’t physically have to be here every single second,” she says.
Alford adds that, as far as she’s concerned, woman can do whatever they set their minds to. “I take issue with the theory that women can’t do everything. I don’t think it’s easy, but women are certainly capable of having it all.”