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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
'I launched my 11m firm from home'
By Thelma Etim
BBC News

Ann Rusforth
Ann Rusforth's business turnover is 11m a year
Mothers who began their successful businesses at home are becoming a "powerful force" in British industry, a survey suggests.

The Yellow Pages says it has witnessed a "boom" in the amount of female-owned home-run businesses on its directories in the past six years.

The listings company said it discovered the majority of these women entrepreneurs were concentrated in childminding, baby foods, marketing and advertising, accounting and book-keeping, and art.

Glaswegian Ann Rusforth, whose turnover from her nursing agency firm "Scotnursing" has been 11m per annum for the last three years, is one of the success stories.

The 47-year-old former midwife and her rail engineer husband Douglas, 50, were struggling with a mortgage and three children under the age of four when she decided to take the plunge and start her own business back in 1987.

My father died from a heart attack at 45, I believe if you think you can do it you should try, don't miss the opportunity

Ann Rusforth

To the horror of her concerned relatives, she swapped her steady salary from a part-time job as an agency nurse for 49 per week - courtesy of the government's Enterprise Allowance Scheme, now known as Business Gateway.

And she has never looked back.

"When I had my first child, Andrew, now at university, I started working nights and my younger sister would look after him in the day during the week," explained Mrs Rusforth.

"My husband looked after him over the weekend, however, he also worked nights on Saturdays - the only time when rail engineering work is carried out."

Mrs Rusforth said she had wanted to run her own business since she began nursing but added: "When I was at school no-one said it was an option.

"My family said: 'What makes you think you can do this?' They were concerned because by moving out of my comfort zone, I was moving them out of theirs.

"I was passionate about nursing, I loved midwifery and I had worked at a number of large agencies while having my children.

"And, I thought: 'I can do this better. I can give the attention to detail. After all, I know what the agencies need and I can look after the nurses' interests.'"

'Untapped potential'

Scotnursing oversees 45,000 nurses and carers at 25 branches across the UK, who provide 24-hour care every day of the year.

Mrs Rusforth added: "In the beginning it was difficult but when things are not going well it is up to you to fix it. You find a way and that's what brings you through."

Catherine Kehoe, head of UK marketing at Yell, publisher of Yellow Pages, said the survey "highlighted the crucial role entrepreneurial mums play in British business".

However, Nick Bojas, a senior policy advisor at the CBI, said: "While there are positive signs of progress, the number of women involved in running their own business continues to remain very far behind the number of men, so there's a huge untapped potential for growth."

Mrs Rusforth's success has allowed her to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

She and her husband are the proud owners of two Jaguars and a seven-bedroom Victorian former nursing home located on the outskirts of Glasgow, which they have almost completed refurbishing.

"I wanted to provide services that people really needed," she said.

"My father died from a heart attack at 45 - I believe if you think you can do it you should try, don't miss the opportunity.

"I was born into a large family and was brought up in a council house.

"The worst thing is to have regrets."

Are you a mother working from home? Do you think more should be done to help women who want to work from home? Send us your comments using the form below:

I started my own Company with a friend this year doing Property management and work from home and around my daughter. Salary not too good at first but getting better and the freedom during summer holiday was beyond compare. I take my daughter with me after school to look at new properties and work viewings round her and do all paperwork at home when she is at school and playing. If there are not many employers who will allow a woman to have a family life we have to create our own employment. Our employers should work round their employees lives, and get more loyalty and mind on the job - not worrying about whats going on at home.
Jeanette, Scottish Borders

I've done both - I used to work from home for a big company which was great money but socially quite isolating. Now I run my own internet business and have never looked back. Why work for somebody else? It seems safe but you could lose your job if you get made redundant, and you have to do what your boss says. Even if they are nice, they're still in charge! If you have an entrepreneurial spirit the only thing stopping you is YOU. I take time off when I want, I can work as hard or as little as I like. I probably work slightly longer hours than I did in my old job, but I love it so it doesn't feel like work. If you're going to take the leap - GOOD LUCK!
Alexandra, Birmingham

I'm an unemployed mother with 10 years management experience and am looking for a job working from home but don't see any opportunities to do so. In the US, there are many jobs in sales and other areas which allow people to work from home and I wish it were more prevailant here. Besides, wouldn't it save companies money as they wouldn't have to provide office space costs?
Julie , York, UK

Extremely inspiring - can we have more of these stories?
Wal, London, UK

15 years ago after being made redundant from publishing whilst pregnant, my musician husband of world class was on tour when he had to have back surgery. We suddenly went from affluence to poverty. Out of desperation we started to both work from home teaching drums after his recovery and babies. We were in commercial high street premises within the year. Now he has trained music teachers in the local schools, professional musicians and talent competition winners. We now have a reputation within the achedemic world as well as years of respect from the music industry. Look back to 289 concerts in 365 days including Wembley and world tour with no sleep and torn off clothing? NEVER! From suicidal circumstances to complete satisfaction of life starting a business from home was the best thing we could have EVER done.
Noelle, Ampthill, Bedfordshire

I have been a freelance writer since I had my third child. However I have struggled with childcare, as my husband's income (which we only just live on) means we do not get any help. I therefore can only work at certain times, to fit in between school drop offs, preschool pick ups etc etc. A lot more could be done to help people in my positions. Surely this type of flexible working is the way forward?
francesca walker, liverpool, UK

I learned to type one-handed - doing website development in the very early days of the technology while holding the baby in the other arm! She's a bit big to be held now but I can still type with one hand :-)
Megan, Cheshire UK

Yes, there should be more provision for home working. Most people travel to an office and just move information around, which is pointless, stressful and polluting. The 'office' to which you commute is a dead concept - it just hasn't realised it yet. Why, however, are you confining this subject to mothers who work from home? What about fathers? My wife commutes to work every day while I run my home-based business, look after our children and deal with most domestic tasks, which suits us all very well. What's so particularly magical about a woman doing this rather than a man?
Zax, Amersham

I recently had my first child and applied for the flexible work options so proudly promoted at the Investment Bank I work for. Every aspect of my job is actioned online and can be done remotely, however my request to work from home 2 days a week was still rejected. More needs to be done to promote working from home.
Sharon, London, UK

I work for an internet service provider who sell homeworking technology solutions to their corporate customers. However, when I applied to work a couple of days from home after the birth of my baby, my request was rejected because the systems we use internally are not designed to be used remotely! Pah! How's that for hypocracy! And the company spent 1 Million on one of these systems only two years ago - which is not designed for 21st centuary working practices.
Kerry, London, UK

Working from home, for a company should be easier with broadband but it is the culture that is the problem. This could be partly solved by setting work with defined goals i.e. reports, assembly work and especially software pproduction. The other part of the problem is acceptance, too many managers want to see "bums on seats". The government could lead the way, but all the public bodies I've worked for are terrible at defining want they want, from the top to the bottom and are so concerned with office politics that they tend to want to keep their staff within sight. However, we must also consider the social applications of isolating people at home where the work-home divide may blur. Perhaps multi-nationals and large government departments should consider satellite offices shared with other large bodies, where there work force may be highly fragmented but technology would keep them highly cohesive, local offices rather than city centre offices would keep costs down and the presence of colleagues would keep them motivated!
chris, Luton, England

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