Date of Award

Fall 10-15-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Individual & Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Sue Motulsky

Second Advisor

Pat Bentley

Third Advisor

Amy Rutstein-Riley


The 21st century has seen a substantial increase in female entrepreneurship. A large portion of these entrepreneurs are mothers who combine entrepreneurship with looking after their children, also known as “mompreneurs” (Collins English Dictionary, 2011). Given the current growth of women-owned businesses (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2018), it is especially important to examine the work-life experiences of women who are creating and sustaining entrepreneurial ventures while raising children. There are few studies that address mompreneurship (Ekinsmyth, 2011; Lewis, 2010; Nel, Maritz, & Thongprovati, 2010), leaving an empirical gap in understanding the experiences of mother entrepreneurs. This dissertation addresses the question of how women with dependent children thrive personally and professionally while growing businesses. The study aims to understand how these mompreneurs feel about their businesses, their families, and themselves as they navigate their personal and professional realms. It specifically explores how meaning-making of these mompreneurs’ learning and personal development and relational support contribute to their success and sense of self. Using a qualitative, phenomenological research design, this study examines the experiences of twelve mother entrepreneurs through three theoretical frameworks: Kegan’s (1982, 1994) constructive developmental theory, Bandura’s (1977) social cognitive theory, and relational cultural theory (Jordan, 2017; Miller, 1976). The study’s findings reveal that there are two key components that enable mompreneurs to thrive: personal growth through learning and meaning-making, and supportive relationships. The study proposes a mompreneur immunity model to explain how mother entrepreneurs thrive and build immunity to the challenges faced in their journeys. This research extends the existing literature by highlighting the experiences and the voices of mother entrepreneurs, an understudied and overlooked population in empirical research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Number of Pages


Embargo Period





The author owns the copyright to this work.