Molly Morgan, Head of International Corporate Affairs, Alibaba.com

A growing number of mums are using their maternity leave to embark on new business ventures which could offer a better work life-balance than the traditional 9-5 position they previously held.

And these ‘mumpreneurs’ are making a significant impact on the UK economy, with figures from Mumpreneur UK showing that there are around 300,000 mum-run companies operating today, adding about £7.4 billion to the national economy, despite only needing average start-up costs of around £500.

Many of these companies specialise in baby products such as the soft baby slings sold by SnugBaby, while others make use of skills developed in the mumpreneurs previous profession.

Regardless of what your start-up involves, the most important thing is that you make it work for you and your family.

1 — Make the most of technology

The internet can be an entrepreneur’s best friend and is a key reason why so many mums are now able to juggle business and family. Being able to sell products on your own website, or through sites like eBay or Etsy, makes it easier for mumpreneurs to work flexibly, while Twitter and Facebook offer great marketing opportunities.

Websites such as Alibaba.com allow mumpreneurs to source products and materials from overseas manufacturers without leaving the country, helping to cut down on costs.

2 — Be realistic about money

Cash flow is critical for new businesses, so before you launch make sure you have enough funds to see you through the initial start-up phase. As other mumpreneurs have shown, it is possible to start a business with relatively little money, but there are still some essential costs such as product stock and marketing materials, so it’s best to be aware of these from the start. If you need a little extra start-up cash, local business groups can offer funding and loans.

3 — Create a professional image

Your office may actually be a toy-strewn kitchen table and you may do most of your work in your pyjamas after the bedtime feed, but it’s important that the image you present to potential customers is a professional one. A good website and a solid business plan to show potential investors will help position your business as a lot more than just a hobby.

4 — Separate work and play

One of the major benefits of being self employed is that you can work flexibly, however, it’s still important to try and keep work and home-life separate. Set aside a few hours each night where your work phone and emails are switched off. Similarly, it’s important not to get too distracted by housework or familial obligations when you are trying to work. It can be worth investing in childcare for a few hours a week so you can focus solely on your business.

5 — Network, network, network

Networking is one of the best ways to spread the word about your business and get valuable advice from people who know what it’s like to run their own company. Most areas have local business groups where you can pick up tips about the best local suppliers and selling opportunities.

However, if attending events isn’t possible, there are great opportunities to network online. A simple internet search will bring up a variety of communities and forums for you to choose from.