• Cambridge start-up helping mothers run their own businesses

    By: Bob Dumas

    Updated:

    BOSTON - Many women struggle with raising kids and finding a satisfying way to make a living, but some local entrepreneurs are offering a way to help mothers strike that balance.

    They have created a new platform, Pepperlane, which helps mothers start new businesses, often using skills they might take for granted.

    Sonia DeMarta launched a business as a home chef.  

    “I decided what I really wanted to do was start cooking for people," she said. 

    She said she started her business with just two clients from her town, but then added a profile on Pepperlane.  

    DeMarta now works about 30 hours a week which she says is just right for her husband and three children.  

    “I think combing full-time work with having a family is very hard on women because despite all the advances and men helping, it is still pretty much women's work," DeMarta said.

    Sharon Kan, co- founder and CEO of Pepperlane, said their website provides mothers with all the tools they need to start a business.  She estimates it takes about an hour to create a profile on the site.

    “Pepperlane was born after so many conversations with mothers who told me that it was too late to start, or I don't know how to start, of this is too difficult,” Kan said.

    Kan believes their site creates power among peers.  

    “You are launching into a community,” she explained.  “Other mothers that understand what it means to be a mother.”

    DeMarta has appreciated the chance to hone her business skills, like learning how to place a value on her work. She said she never charged for her time researching and preparing menus.

    Pepperlane taught her, “You need to charge for that, and it never would have occurred to me because I don’t value the time I put in for it.”

    Currently, Pepperlane is free.  

    Kan is urging women to take advantage because she believes no idea is too small.  

    “As a society, we sometimes devalue the idea of starting something small, taking a small step," she said. "Just jump in and it will be OK. I think that’s the most critical part.”

    A survey found 43 percent of educated women leave the work force at some time due to family challenges.  90 percent, however, want to resume working.

    Pepperlane recently sponsored its first conference for mothers to learn more about starting a business. They plan to hold more in the future. 

    Next Up: