Interview with Barbara Bryan, manager of Single Mum Australia
One of the desires of many people who seek to get into the child care industry is the thought of owning their own business. In fact, there are many ways to do this, and many different career pathways that people can take, some more surprising than others!
In 2009, 48 year old Barbara Bryan found herself divorced with two young children. She realised that she was spending lots of time online looking for advice, resources and answers to questions – but many of the sites she encountered were US-based, and didn’t have the focus on single parenting in Australia that she was looking for. So she started her own website, SingleMum.com.au.
Now the site is going from strength to strength and she’s added a couple of other sites to her resume, including a travel site and a legal advice site for people who are seeking advice on divorce. Not content with these successes, Barbara also started Single Parent Australia, a connection network which includes a single mother community and numerous social networks servicing tens of thousands of Australian single parents every month.
She understands the Australian child care industry from being at the cold face – and here reveals how she has managed to carve out her own online business with a child care focus.
Starting an online business after identifying a gap in the marketplace
“There are so many big issues that single mothers are faced with upon emerging from a relationship break-down,” explains Barbara, “child custody, child support payments, obtaining single parent benefits, child care, isolation and loneliness.”
“The SingleMum.com.au website's mission is to make it easier for single mums to find the information they need, when they need it, and offer access to a supportive single mum community.”
Top tips for new parents looking to secure a child care placement
Barbara has one main piece of advice for parents: book early. She also suggests making a follow up phone call “at least every couple of months to ensure that you are on their waiting list” and to check that you haven’t been removed due to what centres call a “lack of interest”.
“Don’t take it for granted that they will keep you on a waiting list for long periods of time without you reinforcing your need with them,” warns Barbara.
Top 3 attributes or qualities needed in a carer or a child care facility
#1: Word-of-mouth reputation
Happy clients are an essential thing to look for. “Don’t be shy!” Barbara says, “Ask parents at the gate if they are happy with the centre, and have your child in hand so that they don’t mistake your motives.”
#2: Online reputation
“Extensively search the internet for parent testimonies,” Barbara advises. “If they are unhappy parents, they will usually speak their mind in an online forum.”
“Take care to view more than just one testimonial. Several corroborating complaints should be taken seriously. Keep a close eye on child care centre Facebook pages, particularly member comments,” which can be a valuable resource.
#3: Proximity to your place of work
“The closer to work means more precious minutes in your child’s company,” according to this expert. “Even (finding a centre that is) ten minutes closer is equivalent to twenty minutes per day that you get to spend with your child.”
The main challenge single parents face with child care
Barbara says that she feels the biggest challenge for parents is whether to undertake paid work versus child care costs. “Many single parents find it more cost-effective to remain on the Parent Payment Single rather than work and pay for child care,” she explains.
According to recent government stats, an estimated 945 534 children aged 0-12 years attended government-approved child care in Australia. The number had increased from two years earlier. The study shows that overall, approximately 1.9 million children receive some kind of formal or informal care.
“Many single parents would prefer to work but cannot afford the too-small gain after child care costs,” the online expert says. “Many say that they would only be earning a small amount per year after the two costs have been balanced, so they choose to stay home and enjoy the benefits of being a stay-at-home parent.”