femalefounder

THE FEMALE FOCUS: EMMA SEXTON

277A2275.jpg

Meet Emma, Serial entrepreneur and Connector

She is the epitome of the word ‘entrepreneur’ and we’re never sure how she makes time to run her business MYWW™, present on talkRADIO for The Badass Women’s Hour, advise at board level on design strategy to brands and businesses, feature as Creative Pool Top 100 Influencer 2017 & 2018 and take up the post of Creative In Residence at King's College, London, Entrepreneurial Institute. Phew!

I am a bit tired of businesses who decide on a set of values to operate by and decorate them onto a wall but in reality they never get authentically lived

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

I can’t remember anyone specifically but there were lots of people I admired for different reasons. There were those who intrigued me and had attributes of the person I wanted to become. I suppose I was drawing up my own human Pinterest board. I don’t mean celebrities, I mean people I looked up to and thought, “I want to do that one day”. I was aware of a theme I was drawn to and it was those running a business or a person’s mindset towards life.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

As much as I had a great upbringing I don’t think I was exposed to enough of the world as a child. I lived in a very comfortable bubble. My desire to go to London and then to finally move here really opened up my world. I had never felt like I fitted because I know I wanted to experience a very different life than what I was seeing around me. I couldn’t identify with them in many ways and I really struggled with that. I sometimes wonder what I would be doing differently had I grown up around more diverse people, lifestyles and culture, for instance.

277A2527.jpg

You’re a business founder, a broadcaster, a speaker and connector and you don’t have an office. How do you create a culture amongst the people you work with?

I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “if we don’t have an office, we don’t have a culture”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. At MYWW™, our culture is built on the way we communicate - it is about how we interact with each other, be that face-to-face or via a smartphone. I am a bit tired of businesses who decide on a set of values to operate by and decorate them onto a wall but in reality they never get authentically lived. From the very first day I started my business the culture has been focused on being respectful to one another. We embrace candour and honesty and make sure we have the difficult conversations. We also just get the fucking work done while weaving our lives around our client’s needs. There have definitely been some learnings mastering this approach but it works. It’s a culture we can sustain because it is authentic and people can thrive as individuals.

You’re a propagator for pushing real women’s conversations into the mainstream and redesigning ‘business as usual’ to make it better, not just for women but for everyone. What would be the first thing you’d do in your redesign?

I feel like I am doing it all the time by allowing people to weave life into their work and challenging our traditional ‘masculine’ approach to business. As an employee you are often a resource - there to make someone else more money while the business interest is in paying you the least. I stand by a people first, business second principle. I do not have a business without great people so my job is to keep my team content so they can do the best job for our clients. Happy team = happy client!

277A2354.jpg

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

A lack of consciousness. It’s about consciousness versus unconsciousness. If you’re unconscious you’re only seeing the world from your point view. If you’re conscious you learn that there are things you haven’t experienced that others have and you try really hard to understand this as best you can. We have lived in a very one dimensional society for so long and it’s high time we all listen more, raise our awareness and massively dial up our empathy.

What does ‘badass’ mean to you?

For me, it’s about living life on your terms. It’s about being authentic, seeing multiple dimensions to one thing and choosing the one that fits with you and how you want your life to be.

You are positive impact personified! What have been some of the most positive results you’ve seen from the work you do?

It makes me happy that I can make my staff happy. Recently, one of my employees told me that MYWW™ has changed her life. She’s always worked agency-side and was never able to balance work with looking after her child. Now, she can do pick-up from school, work at home when she chooses and vary the times of days she works. She’s happier, less stressed, and no longer feeling like she’s torn between two worlds. That’s important to me. The more money I make the more I can help others live happier work lives. Work has become such a cumbersome thing where people end up self medicating at the weekend and head towards extremes to escape their working lives. It doesn’t have to be this way. I had read so much about better ways to work and what we need to be happy human beings, now I am practicing it rather than talking about it and always happy to share my learnings with anyone else who wants to know how to make it work for them.

(Being a badass) is about living life on your terms

How do you keep learning more whilst on the many jobs you have?

I think having a mindset that the more I know the more I realise I don’t know! And you don’t have a choice to keep learning if you want to have a successful business! I am a work in progress and want to keep evolving even if I am 90 years old. As the business changes, I change with it. As I change, the business changes. The day I don’t want to learn is probably the day I am done with life!

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?

Resilience; overcoming fear of rejection; sheer bloody mindedness!

Where do you get your inspiration?

People always inspire me. There are lots of different sources and I keep it varied in the types of people I interact with. Working with the ventures at King’s in my role as Expert in Residence on their award winning accelerator scheme has opened up my eyes to new ideas, technology and fresh business perspectives. Every year, through the initiative, I meet over 40 of some of the smartest entrepreneurs from all the over the world - I gain so much from my sessions with them.

Screenshot+2019-03-05+at+08.38.11.jpg

You’re constantly interviewing interesting women on a weekly basis as part of the Badass Women’s Hour. Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

We had an amazing author on, called Tomi Adeyemi, who is the author of the very successful book ‘Children of Blood and Bone’. Her interview was so inspiring so she was one (of so many guests) who really stood out for me. Tomi is only 21 and tipped to be next JK Rowling. She had always really wanted to be an author and hearing her journey of how she went from quitting her job to getting the book published was really special. As a teenager she’d been fixated with fiction but could never identify with it because of her African heritage. She’s rewritten for the genre from her perspective.

 

Name the quote you live by

“The world will not invite you to the feast. You must burst in, demand a seat, and take it.” John Carlton

I realised early on that no one was going to go, ‘here you go Emma, here’s all the opportunities you are waiting so patiently for’, so I got my head down, decided what I wanted and worked bloody hard to get them all - but I am not stopping yet!

Keep up to date with what Emma does next (we’re sure there’ll be something exciting) on Twitter and Instagram.



THE FEMALE FOCUS: GEORGIE POWELL

05_GeorgiePowell_037AAA_final (1) (1).jpeg

Georgie Powell, Founder of SPACE

We’ve been lucky enough to work with Georgie and SPACE, the app she founded to encourage us to have more tech/life balance and less mindless phone scrolling. Georgie tells us why her own tech overdose led her to create SPACE and why millions are downloading it.

(Having kids) made me realise more than ever that if I am to be working away from them, I need to care about what I do.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

My first headmistress. Her motto was to always make a difference. She had gravitas, poise and purpose.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

Both of my parents showed me how what you put into life you get out. They both worked hard and I lived abroad for much of my youth, experiencing different cultures whilst living in different places.

What led you down the path of building Space and what has surprised you most about the process so far?

I had been thinking about my relationship with technology for a while - how it didn’t always make me feel great. I had a wakeup moment when I became a new mum, whilst breastfeeding my child, that I was scrolling through photos of her on my phone. She was right there in front of me and I was missing the moment! I instantly became interested in the technology overdose that so many of us are experiencing.

I never anticipated that startup life would be such a rollercoaster. One of the things that put me off corporate life is that success is often based not on what you do, but how you communicate what you do to your peers and bosses. I know I’m having an impact in making this app, but communication is still so important. I have learnt I need to make storytelling present in everything SPACE does. I know I need to find the right way to communicate our successes, our vision, our impact. If this business was run by guys they would spin it into something bigger. I’m conscious of this but haven’t found the solution yet.

Georgie and her baby

Georgie and her baby

How do you keep learning more whilst on the job?

I care so passionately about the issue of tech/life balance and am constantly on the hunt for more research and findings on how it’s impacting people’s lives. It was really important for me to choose a business I really care about. I learn a new skill every day, from building a new email template, to understanding how PR works. There’s an element of enforced learning with start-up life.


What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?

Having kids. They gave me the impetus to make this a reality. They made me realise more than ever that if I am to be working away from them, I need to care about what I do. Technology and social media is going to have an impact on their future too.

SPACE has had a lean model from the outset which has allowed for flexibility. I was able to have a day job and launch the venture alongside it, which was great. This meant that I learnt whilst still on the job and we didn’t have upfront fixed costs. I was looking for partnerships from the beginning to avoid capital risk.


device-2018-07-25-122830.png

Where do you get your inspiration?

I have a few things. A close friend who has a very successful startup - Messly, an NHS recruitment service - definitely inspires me. He has amazing tenacity and drive. I get ongoing inspiration from my kids and I continue to be inspired by the sector I’m in. Having a flexible lifestyle keeps me alive too. The thought of being back in corporate life makes me feel grey.


You led YouTube’s content business in Australia and New Zealand. Do you think businesses of such a large scale can have a grip on staff work life balance? And if they don’t, what can they do about it?

They can. Google did it really well. For them, it’s not about having staff face-time but about deliverables - it’s on you to make it work. It’s a fine line to make sure people have enough work; complex enough but not too stretched so they don’t lose their balance. And it’s about ensuring it’s flexible enough so that time is carved out specifically not for work.


What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

There’s still a lot of unconscious bias out there in the way people are hired and promoted. Business leaders often hire versions of themselves and it’s evident particularly in tech.


Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

Women in my daily life inspire me - friends, family and other mums who give so much to everything. And this might be controversial, but to be honest, at the moment Theresa May is also a huge inspiration. The way she has conducted herself with class and tenacity throughout the Brexit process and how she took on a job that was always going to be a poison chalice is impressive.


Name the quote you live by

Always make a difference, as my headmistress taught me, and what you put in you get out, following in my parents’ footsteps.



Check out Georgie on LinkedIn and if you feel you need more time away from your phone but are unsure of what to do next, find out more about what SPACE can do to help here.



THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: LACEY HUNTER-FELTON

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 16.36.34.png

Lacey Hunter-Felton, Founder of Hunter Collective

Hairdresser Lacey saw an opportunity to build a space for beauty and fashion people wanting to be independent and work flexibly. Hunter Collective is an incubator for the mums who still want to work and the next generation of tastemakers who want to forge their own path. We caught up with her on why the co-working salon studio and event space is filling a dying need for change.

If I can give women flexibility and independence through the business, I am doing what I set out to do. And even if it’s helping just me and one more woman, Hunter Collective is giving us another option.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

Very much so. From a young age I was surrounded by strong female cheerleaders throughout the generations and into my adulthood. My mother, grandmother, friends, my hairdresser, Cheryl, who inspired me as a kid to become a hairdresser. I’ve taken different things from each of them and carried them with me. For me, it’s so important to have strong female influences and keep gathering them. And there’s a couple of my clients too, who are powerful, articulate and beautiful women who have been following my career and invested time in me. When I was mulling over the genesis of Hunter Collective, I realised that they were stepping up and motivating me to do it. And since the birth of the business they haven’t steppedback. For me it’s not a gender thing. The women in my life are strong influencers with my priorities at heart. I’ve expanded my network as an adult and have tried to bring others into it - to inspire back.

A pic of Lacey with her grandmother May Ivy Hunter. She takes the name from her and she symbolises the amazing women who have influenced Lacey’s upbringing.

A pic of Lacey with her grandmother May Ivy Hunter. She takes the name from her and she symbolises the amazing women who have influenced Lacey’s upbringing.

What led you to start Hunter Collective?

I needed to. I had to. Hunter Collective was born out of waking up and looking around, thinking ‘where do all the women in my industry go?’ It’s crazy but 70% of women drop out of the industry by the time they’re 34 years old. In hairdressing, the strongest influencers are men and they’re usually the owners of the salons, while women are the mentors. In my experience, women were having kids and not coming back. I was working in central London and the chance of having a long career in hair as a woman wasn’t sustainable. I kept in touch with my mentors, who went on to diversify their careers, which was great, but in reality they didn’t have a choice. Classic salon life did not accommodate them and their families.

I definitely learnt from these mentors before deciding to potentially have a baby myself. (Lacey had her baby Gene last year). I thought to myself, ‘if I become pregnant, I can’t wait for these barriers to move as I could be waiting forever.’ Instead, I built my dream of what I wanted for my career and as a mother. I quit my job, feeling very frustrated with the situation. I set about spending two years collecting and building what is Hunter Collective now. I am a creature of consistency and cosmic ordering so it was ultimately fear that put a rocket up my arse.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you're doing today?

My mother raised 3 children on her own. The stability my mum created in a tough situation is a cornerstone that I have replicated for myself. She supported me to become a hairdresser at the age of 16. We couldn’t afford for me to train at Vidal Sassoon London but she encouraged me to learn the skill and do it well. Hairdressing gets a bad rap outside the industry but not everybody can be a hairdresser.

I learnt a skill rather than studying a skill, one which I could use anywhere in the world. This gave me loads of confidence. I moved to London, which was the making of me. I wouldn’t have had the career opportunities, I wouldn’t have met my husband and friends, and built my aspirations of how I would raise my child. London’s vibrant diversity and beautifully complicated way was oxygen for me.

The Hunter Collective space

The Hunter Collective space

How do you keep learning more whilst building a business?

Listening. Simple as that - I listen all the time. I’ve made it my job to take every person I work with for coffee and get feedback. I’ve also learnt to say ‘I don’t know’. This was difficult at the beginning but it’s massively rewarding now. I work with interesting, dynamic characters every day and I always ask them to tell me what they’re doing. I have realised that asking for 5 minutes of their time to listen, people will share.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Where to start! My connections from Hunter Collective - our members, my son – are massively inspiring. Through the business, I meet people with diverse careers and backgrounds - that’s inspirational enough. These are the people who I wanted to build Hunter Collective for and help them build their own businesses. And Nico, my co-founder, is inspirational - he took on a major risk doing this. Ultimately, inspiration is people.

It was ultimately fear that put a rocket up my arse.

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

Awareness. Businesses don’t understand bias. A lot of businesses remain unconscious. Many of us are guilty, including me. I was always conscious of culture and diversity but even I was complacent. Hunter Collective, alone, has proven to me how everyone has a responsibility to take diversity seriously and actively take part in building a diverse society around them. In some parts of our lives we’re just cruising to be happy and support ourselves. But some businesses need a reality check and structure within so that diversity becomes second nature and part of everyday life. We’re not there yet.

What brands are on your radar right now and why?

We’re always looking at brands to partner with and inspire us. They won’t interest me if they don’t back themselves up ethically and sustainably. At Hunter Collective, we build long term relationships with partners so it’s in our culture to work with businesses who celebrate ethnicity and address waste and pollution, which is a big issue in the industry. We’re trying to set an example so we can influence others and create a knock-on effect. We’re quietly encouraged that brands are being more responsible and future-proof.

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to be an entrepreneur that you'd think you'd struggle without?

The knowledge that it takes a village. I didn’t know what the phrase meant until I needed a village. When s*** gets real you need people around you and a support network cheering you on. I thank my family and husband on a daily business as I couldn’t come to work if my family couldn’t look after my child and I couldn’t have done it without my husband financially supporting me. Their commitment is still high even a year after my son was born. This pushes me forward as I’m determined not to let them down.

The Hunter Collective meeting room

The Hunter Collective meeting room

What's your biggest learning so far since starting Hunter Collective?

I have learnt a lot from working with Nico. That everything we want do we’ve got to do ourselves. From the structure and framework of the business, to how it’s run. It’s endless and I’m still learning. I still have confidence wobbles but I know that as long as I keep going, it will get better. Being a hairdresser has given me a good basis for knowing how to treat every meeting with a high level of customer service. And then there’s the stamina. Fourteen hour days standing on my feet has taught me what a hard day’s work feels like.

How has work changed since having a child relatively recently?

It was the best thing that ever happened. I was treading water and not really sure about whether to set up Hunter Collective. In my mind I was an unemployed girl with an idea and I couldn’t do anything with it. When I got pregnant, my mindset changed. I needed to step up and look after my family and future. My son, Gene, was a ticking time bomb – and kicked me into getting some funding and a location. I met Nico when I was already 6 months pregnant and 12 days after the birth, together we signed the lease. By week 3 of Gene being born I was working full time and by week 7 Hunter Collective opened.

If I can give women flexibility and independence through the business, I am doing what I set out to do. And even if it’s just me and one more woman, Hunter Collective is giving us another option.

Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2018?

Well, two that I need to name are my clients and they’ve been quiet pushers for me to grab life. Firstly, Nishma Robb, Marketing Director at Google, who is someone whose career I see getting bigger and bolder. And Emma Sexton has been a massive influence on me. I can only thank her and keep beating her drum. She is the ultimate badass. Emma was one of my first clients and she ignored the fact that I was on gardening leave when I left a former salon and took me for a drink. These are two women who I want to be even more publicly successful so that they can inspire lots more women.

Name the quote you live by

“You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce”, which is on the side of a mug my husband bought me. Otherwise, it has to be “It takes a village”, which I constantly cling to as my guiding prophecy. My husband, Liam, is the best man and he’s been in this 100% with me. I feel that men are often taken for granted these days because equality has shifted. Liam and I both co-parent our son. He’s never told me not to go to work so he can prioritise his work. He has not let me down when I’ve needed to push harder. But beyond my husband, the quote reminds me that I need everyone. It’s not just about having a husband and girls squad around me, it’s about everyone who has a genuine impact on my life. We’re all in it together.


Find out more about this incredible woman’s creation here and follow Hunter Collective on Instagram.

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: DANIELLE NEWNHAM, CO-FOUNDER, F =

We're big fans of F =, and their GIRL POWER TEES, so much so there's a picture of our founder wearing one on this website. We caught up with one of the women behind the brand to find out more about the online store and empowerment platform for women and children, which recently launched the Our Stories Matter campaign. F = was founded by twins ~ tech entrepreneur and author Danielle Newnham ~ and fashion doyenne Natalie Bardega. They created the platform to inspire, motivate and empower women to rise. They practise what they preach too, with an ongoing GIRL POWER partnership with Worldreader, a global non-profit organisation on a mission to deliver digital books to every child and their family. Check out our conversation with Danielle below!

Women need to take ownership of the sisterhood and come together more
Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton

What drove you to create F =?

Having spent ten years in tech, I was acutely aware that women were almost invisible in the industry and, after spending a day at a tech conference where all the men were wearing their startup t-shirts, I realised one way to make the women stand out more was with slogan tops. I saw guys approaching others when they recognised the logo on their t-shirt – it was almost a conversation starter so I looked into what existed for females in tech and female founders and saw there was nothing. At the time, my sister was taking a well-earned career break so we came together, discussed the idea of how we could make women more “visible” in general and F = was born! 

With my background in tech and hers in fashion, we decided on the idea of selling empowering slogan tops alongside a site filled with incredible stories from women doing amazing work. We also knew our fashion couldn’t reach everywhere but our message of empowerment could so we partnered with Worldreader to create the GIRL POWER t-shirt with proceeds going to the non-profit which elevates girls out of poverty in the developing world.

What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up F =?

There is an assumption that in the tech world that if you build something, people will just appear – like some mythical pull to your product. That’s just not the case. The same has happened to us – we get big hits when celebs wear our tops but the biggest lesson for us has been around building a community first. All the hard work for us has really been in building up a community who are loyal and engaged. People underestimate the effort that goes into community building through providing great content but, in this day and age, it is one of the most critical aspects of our business. We’re proud to now reach over 100,000 on a daily basis.

How have you been able to turn what was a side project into a mission-driven business?

It really happened organically. We definitely didn’t see it as a full-time thing to start with but it started to demand more and more of our time and because our mission was so aligned with our purpose in life, it made sense. I don’t think I could have committed more hours to a business without really believing in it. I am a mother, I write books – my time is pretty full but there has been a seismic shift when it comes to female empowerment in the last three years since we started. We could never have predicted it but it definitely made our business more necessary.

It has been hard work though – we often talk about the good aspects of entrepreneurship such as the fact you manage your own time but there are also a lot of hard times and that is where having a well-defined mission really helps. It certainly gets you through the more difficult times and helps you put in the hours necessary to build something you really want to see in the world.

@coral_pearl_ and her daughter

@coral_pearl_ and her daughter

Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

There have been definitely a few. When some big brands and well-known TV stars first copied our GIRL POWER tops, I have to say, they were low times. We had built up a brand, and a mission and this was a charity tee so we were devastated - and we felt we couldn’t compete with a high street retailer or a celeb with x million followers. 

We felt like this for a few hours but then our community started posting their anger and disappointment on the celeb’s feed and as well as our own mission snapped back to the forefront again. So we decided to fight and we fought hard. We started emailing those concerned – the brand, the celeb, the agent, the manager explaining the history of our GIRL POWER tees and the charity, and explained our legal rights to the design… and after a while, they accepted it, apologised and pulled the tees. So the lesson here is never give up, never give in and never forget your worth.

What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

Our latest launch – OUR STORIES MATTER - because it ties up everything we are about from inspiring girls to empowering women and telling the untold stories of great heroines. And, most importantly, we can see the difference it is going to make.

We only launched recently and we are already selling out. But this launch isn’t just about fashion – it’s about education. It’s about reaching more and more young girls with inspiring stories about incredible women – stories which we know will have impact.

By wearing the tees, we hope you spark conversations around our own stories, and the books that accompany the tees — we ask customers to donate them to local schools and libraries to inform, inspire and empower the next generation with the stories of incredible women which have gone before them. If each school had these books on their shelves and hundreds of thousands of children had access to them, we know what a difference it would make. 

We want to make the books as inclusive and diverse as possible so will be starting with both Vashti Harrisons’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World but we will be adding more in due course.

As sisters, does this bring up complications in your business relationship when it comes to making decisions?

The trouble we have is also what works – despite being twins, we are VERY different. Natalie is very logical, uses a lot of common sense and is risk adverse. She likes order whereas I am far more impulsive, “reckless” she would probably say but I always go on my gut. I can’t do something unless I 100% believe in it and when I do, I go for it – feet first. She likes to work out everything beforehand but I think the two different personalities can help us find a sustainable middle ground! 

Why do you think Fequals t-shirts have been so well received by women?

When we started, there really wasn’t anything like it around. Selfish Mother existed but she was firmly in the mother camp and we were more focused on women at work – sharing inspiring stories about women kicking ass in their field. No one was really telling the stories of inspiring women and we like to think we changed that area somewhat.

Allbright  Founders Anna-Jones and Debbie-Wosskow with Sadiq Khan

Allbright Founders Anna-Jones and Debbie-Wosskow with Sadiq Khan

On the flipside, there has been some discussion amongst women in the media on whether a female empowerment statement on a t-shirt goes far enough to support the sisterhood. What are your thoughts?

I think it depends on the brand and their mission. When high streets stores put vacuous messages on their tops which have been made in a factory filled with underpaid workers then clearly, there is a disconnect. But our mission has always been three-fold and I think this cements our commitment to a “sisterhood”.

Brands need to be more aware that their customers are no longer passive – customers want to know more about their mission, that if they have empowering tops, that this message is aligned with how they treat women in their own company. Today’s world requires much more from the seller. And I think that is a good thing.

Proceeds from each t-shirt sale go to Worldreader. Have you seen positive impact through this?

Yes, we regularly meet with Worldreaders to see the work they are doing and the impact they have on girls in the developing world. We know how transformative books are and the fact that we are able to contribute to that makes us very proud.

It feels like the #girlpowertee is cresting the wave of female solidarity, following the swell of movements such as #metoo and #timesup. Do you think women are feeling more confident to stand up and be heard right now?

100%. When we started designing our tops, it was to make women feel more empowered – we used to get messages from customers about how they wore our tops to meetings under blazers and just wearing them, made them feel stronger. This was our intention but then 2017 was a catalyst and led to our recent launch of #ourstoriesmatter.

What more do think we can do to build action in the sisterhood community and create change?

Women need to take ownership. We talk a lot about what support we need and how our stories need to be told but we also think women need to come together more. We need to share our stories with each other more because they help and they heal. They have the power to inspire and empower and the world needs more of that.

With thousands of people around the world now wearing your t-shirts, what’s next for Fequals this year?

We’re wholly committed to our Our Stories Matter campaign to get more young children reading stories about diverse, female heroines but also to get women talking about their own stories. Our voices have been held back for so long – it’s time for us all to now speak up.

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: JESS MACINTYRE, CO-FOUNDER, MAC&MOORE

If you follow CLO PR at all you'll know that we're fierce cheerleaders of marketing consultancy, Mac&Moore. We have a tight partnership based on a shared vision, attitude and we also share some stonking client work too! We caught up with one half of Mac&Moore, Jess MacIntyre, to delve into why she aims to promote equality with attitude and her perspective on creating positive impact for clients, people and the world.

I don’t want to just talk about the unfairness of equality. I want to do something about it.
Jess's love of sassy female musicians played out in her teenage years

Jess's love of sassy female musicians played out in her teenage years

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

I was completely obsessed with music when I was a kid and instead of going stir-crazy over boybands I was more interested in singing an angst ridden female anthem a la Alanis Morrisette and Gwen Stefani. In real world terms I was lucky enough to have some kick-ass BFF’s who served as my everyday role models by bucking the status quo with a general “I’ll do whatever I damn please” sassy attitude. This definitely taught me the importance of being a part of the sisterhood and how we’re stronger together.

What led you to start Mac&Moore?

I’d been thinking of going solo for a few years before Mac&Moore was dreamt up as quite frankly I had a perpetual headache from being pressed up against the glass ceiling.

Aside from that, in my 20s I’d always felt like something was missing doing the 9-5 grind and working for somebody else. It became especially difficult when some of the interactions I had in business showed how little integrity and empathy was present. I just wanted to work hard and be nice to people! As soon as I set-up on my own I knew I’d found my calling.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you're doing today?

As a child I really didn’t understand some of the injustices of being a girl. I was often scolded for being “difficult”, “bossy” and “opinionated” whilst noticing that when boys (or adults) acted the same they were treated differently. It genuinely perplexed me as to why this was the case. I was a really curious child and being silenced when I spoke out had a huge effect on my self-esteem. So I’ve always wanted to prove people wrong and that anger about being silenced initially fueled me to do things differently, take risks and build a huge amount of resilience which is needed in today’s business world. That anger has dissipated now but I’m grateful for where it got me.

How do you keep learning more whilst building a business?

I’ve always been obsessed with reading. However especially in the digital age coupled with my severe lack of patience I struggle to make it through a full book or dedicate daily reading time. So to counteract this I consume blogs/podcasts and Ted Talks which cover a wide range of subjects from philosophy, women’s rights to science. I’m currently obsessed with Farnam Street a blog dedicated to “mastering the best of what other people have already figured out.”

I also love meeting new people especially if they come from a different world than I inhabit. You can learn a lot by asking the right questions and taking the time to listen to others. I try and meet one new person a week – it’s a hard task but I’m all the better for it.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I love the “underdog” so whenever I see somebody who has overcome an incredibly difficult situation/life experience I always feel hugely inspired. I’m currently in awe of Hannah Gadsby and her Netflix comedy special Nanette. Her intelligence, self-awareness and passion to speak out about her story using the vehicle of comedy absolutely floored me.

Jess with her BFF, Jade

Jess with her BFF, Jade

Why do you promote equality with attitude? 

I’m a strong believer in “action speaks louder than words”. I don’t want to just talk about the unfairness of equality. I want to do something about it. I’ve been subjected personally to sexual harassment in the work place and been undermined repeatedly because I’m a woman. Enough. I want my business to be platform for women and men who want to push for a fairer workplace and world. Working as a mentor for the incredible charity YouMakeIt is another small way I can use my privilege as a platform and create positive change.

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

The total female population worldwide is roughly 49.6% (3.52 billion) and yet most businesses have way less than 50% of women in their workforce – how is this reflective of today’s world? Whilst businesses are becoming more diverse I still believe there’s a long way to go in order to create more equality and diversity at management/board level where most critical business decisions are made.

Jess, during Mac&Moore's sojourn in Amsterdam

Jess, during Mac&Moore's sojourn in Amsterdam

What are marketing agencies doing right / wrong in 2018?

Being short sighted by thinking more about revenue than about what’s right for their customers, employees and culture. The very best agencies are just being themselves and constantly challenging the status quo. Creative work should be brave and you shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the client.

Also the best agencies nurture talent. Giving autonomy and confidence to young people is crucial if you want to get the best out of them.

What advice can you give to businesses that want to make a mark through their marketing?

I love this quote from Dave Trott: “People buy a product for what it DOES. But they buy a brand for what it SAYS about them.” Think about what your business and customers stand for. Then communicate these values effectively and consistently via all of your chosen marketing channels. I’ve recently purchased a Chilly bottle as I’m super aware of how much plastic I’m using day-to-day and wanted to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles I buy on the move. Reusable water bottles are a bit of a “statement” piece of kit so I chose Chilly as I loved the brands style, ethics and product benefits.

Name a brand you admire and why?

Here’s a few:

Aesop: Beautiful design paired with ethical quality ingredients.

Vice: They saw a gap in the market and gave the next generation a platform and voice. It’s incredible to see how much they’ve achieved in such a short space of time and truly are the voice of a generation.

Bodyform: Two GREAT ads the first a hilarious tactical campaign in response to a Facebook post – check it out here. The second is their latest Blood Normal campaign. We loved the second ad so much Nat wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about it!

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to be an entrepreneur that you'd think you'd struggle without?

I’ve always hugely relied on external validation and I’m working hard to change this as I’m aware this isn’t a healthy habit. So practicing self-care and setting up new daily habits/routines such as exercise, good eating, new ways of learning and avoiding toxic people have made me better as a person and at what I do. Also my amazing boyfriend, friends and family who give me that boost of support when I need it the most.

What's your biggest learning so far since starting Mac&Moore?

  1. Stop listening to what other people think. Have the self-confidence to listen to yourself. You’re better than you think you are.

  2. Lots of men will mansplain to you.

Who's a woman you watch or someone you admire in 2018?

I tend to look in the real world first than to someone well known. We’ve recently made pals with loads of incredible females in the creative entrepreneur/advertising world so I can give a few shout outs here! Cookie and Alexa from Mellor&Smith, Jana who runs The Completist, Jess Sims, Natalie Cutler, Sophie Livingston and of course our favourite Claudia from Clo PR!

Friends Anneli, Jade and Jess

Friends Anneli, Jade and Jess

Name the quote you live by.

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“Stop saying yes to shit you hate.” Unknown legend.

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: LEYYA & ROSHNI, FOUNDERS, THE OTHER BOX

We were more than excited to catch up with the female duo behind The Other Box, Leyya and Roshni, who have built an award-winning platform to empower people to work and live more inclusively. Part of CLO PR's mission is to support clients on the road to building sustainable cultures that truly embrace diversity. The Other Box is doing just that and we look up to them as a source of inspiration. Check out what the girls had to say on what drove them to help change the creative industry make-up due to the colour of their skin. 

Women of colour, like us, were being totally left out of the conversation
Image credit: Maaria Lohiya @justmebreathing

Image credit: Maaria Lohiya @justmebreathing

1. What drove you to create The Other Box?

In the creative industries, we noticed that the 'diversity' conversation was still very much based around gender. And that meant people of colour and especially women of colour like us were being totally left out of the conversation. So we decided to change that. 

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up The Other Box?

For the first 18 months (so basically till about a month ago!) we were running The Other Box alongside full-time jobs and one of us studying a part-time Masters. It was really full on but we learned very quickly how to manage our time, prioritise, and, as geeky as this might sound, scheduling in down time and family time, so we don't neglect our own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. 

3. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

Going full-time was a big leap for us. It's terrifying and exciting in equal measure! 

4. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

Not really! Almost every day we get amazing messages from people in our community saying how grateful they are for it, and that really keeps us going. 

5. Would you say you're close friends? And does this bring up complications in your business relationship when it comes to making decisions?

We were introduced through a mutual friend (shout out our fairy godmother Amiera!) but we weren't really friends when we decided to start The Other Box! We've obviously become very good friends since, and it helps that we complement each other with our personalities and working styles. But we also decided very early on how we wanted to work together, and we've stayed faithful to that. 

6. You're winning awards left, right and centre at the moment! Do you think the celebration of women is gaining momentum in the industry?

It is, but we never want to take away from the decades of work that has come before us! We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we definitely think things like social media help to democratise voices and allow movements to gather momentum faster. 

7. The lack of diversity is well-documented in the creative industry. What do you think is the biggest barrier to people of colour getting in and what should businesses be doing to tackle this?

This is a BIG question and - shameless plug! - we'd say do one of our Know Your Bias workshops. Diversity is more than a box-ticking or quota-filling exercise. There's a lot of deeply entrenched structural inequalities at play, and all of us need to invest time (and money) into unlearning the ways we've been naturally socialised, to create more genuinely inclusive working environments. 

8. The rise of #metoo and #timesup has created an important opening in discussion on gender equality but it has also put fear into young women of what they may expect to experience in the working world. What would you say to those wanting to pursue a career here?

We don't think it has put fear into young women! If anything, those movements are empowering young people to come into the industry and call out inappropriate behaviour. We also think these movements demonstrate the importance of community and sisterhood. There are also amazing organisations like Diet Madison Avenue who are putting in an immense amount of work to make sure voices are heard and also that we have access to legal representation. That kind of work cannot be underrated. 

IMG_3374 EDIT.jpg

9. It feels like female solidarity is slowly starting to crest a wave. Do you think women are feeling more confident to stand up and be heard right now? 

Definitely! 

10. What's the one thing that's shocked you in your mission to raise the profile of diversity?

We still hear some horrific stories of the everyday racism and sexism people have to encounter in the workplace. We think we should all feel brave enough to call these things out, but of course we understand that it's not always easy to do that. 

11. Where do you get your inspiration?

Our own backgrounds as working-class Asian women from immigrant backgrounds gives us a fire in our belly to work hard and represent for those we feel are underrepresented. 

12. What's in store for The Other Box this year?

We're determined to get more workshops to more agencies and organisations. And we also want to do more for our TOB community, to create and share more opportunities and really change the face of the creative industries for good. And we want to make sure we continue to have fun and meet amazing people along the way! 

 

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: SARA & MARIA, FOUNDERS, WELL&TRULY

We do love a good snack at CLO PR. No more so than one which is on the healthier side so less of that guilt is hanging over us. Move over Walkers, Well&Truly have got our back when it comes to satisfying, wholesome snacks. We spoke to one half of Well&Truly, Maria Trechman, about her desire, along with her sister-in-law Sara, to challenge the oh-so-clean world of ‘healthy eating’ and the outdated ‘guilty pleasures’ label of mainstream snacks. We love the fact that the brand is packed full of positivity!

Being two female founders hasn’t held us back. If anything, our investors outright said they were excited to be backing an all-female team.
Founder Shot Maria & Sara Trechman.jpg

1. What drove you to set up Well&Truly?

My sister-in-law Sara and I both felt that there was a serious lack of great tasting snacks that weren’t really bad for you. The old kale crisps just didn’t quite hit the spot for us taste wise, so we set out to un-junk and improve the nutritional profiles of classic snacking favourites such as Doritos and Nik Naks without compromising on the great taste. Snacking should be a pleasure and we don’t think the word “guilt” should have anything to do with it.

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt in setting up the business?

That having a co-founder to share all the ups and downs with is invaluable, and that everything always take longer than you expect whether it’s the development of a new flavour or the listing with a new customer. 

3. What has surprised you most about the process?

How many investors are genuinely excited about the F&B space - it’s fantastic to be pitching something that everyone in the room can see, feel, smell and taste. We often let our products do most of the talking!

4. What has been the thing you've most struggled with that you've had to overcome?

As a start-up you face challenges on a daily basis. You need to juggle so many roles and tasks which you don’t always have experience in, but being co-founders has helped us a lot as we always have someone to bounce ideas off and challenge each other. One of our biggest challenges is staying on top of cashflow to make sure we can continue to grow quickly. We’ve put in place several models to help us monitor this and stay one step ahead.

5. Have you needed to raise investment? If so, how have you found it and do you think being female founders affected the negotiations?

We’ve done two investment rounds to date and found the process surprisingly enjoyable albeit very time consuming. Being two female founders didn’t hold us back, if anything several of our investors outright said they were excited to be backing an all-female team. It also enabled us to apply and secure funding from AllBright, the all female fund.

6. What's the one thing you'd like to change about the food industry?

We’d like to see more frequent range reviews to be able to introduce new products more often, and a reduction in the amount of plastic packaging. We’ve just reduced the plastic in some of our packaging by 20%, and whilst this doesn’t go anywhere near solving the problem, it’s a start. If all food brands did the same that would be a pretty great improvement vs where we are today and a good platform for further reductions.

Social images May-08.jpg

7. The number of snack brands out there on our shelves is incredible. Was it ever a worry to be part of a busy marketplace? What do you think has ensured you're still firmly in the game?

The snacking market is hugely exciting, and there’s been a lot of innovation at the healthier end of the spectrum in recent years. We try not to worry about the competition but instead focus on doing what we do as best as possible. The key to our success is our no-compromise approach when it comes to taste and health. When it comes to snacking taste is king, but today’s consumer also demand improved health credentials and Well&Truly delivers both.

8. Many women experience the so-called 'imposter syndrome'. Is this something you’ve experienced and do you have any tips on managing it?

Dips in confidence happen to most people and we’ve definitely had periods where we’ve questioned ourselves. We work hard on recognising the signs of self-doubt and the negative effects it can have on performance. It’s an ongoing journey!

9. Where do you get your inspiration?

The London start up scene is hugely inspirational and we constantly meet up with other founders to share stories and learnings. This is where we have learnt the most and try to give back as much as possible to other founders who are just starting out.

10. Who do you look up to?

Any working parent holding it all together whilst finding time to care for their little ones is a hero in our books! 

11. What does 2018 hold for Well&Truly?

2018 is a hugely exciting year for Well&Truly with the launch of our rebrand going live early this summer, new exciting flavours hitting the shelves - including our first vegan flavour -and an acceleration of our international business.

12. If you weren't doing what you do now, you'd be....

Looking after my baby boy whilst thinking up new fun business ideas in the baby space! I’m pretty sure Sara would be setting out to scale another crazy high mountain in the Himalayas (she’s done it before!) or trek across Greenland and then come back to set up an online sustainable start up.

Range 2.jpg

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: ASMA SHAH, CEO, YOU MAKE IT

We met the firecracker, Asma Shah, who set up charity You Make It to empower young unemployed women to realise their potential regardless of their background. CLO PR is part of the charity's mentorship scheme to support some of the cohort to build confidence and skills in PR and publicity. We loved talking to Asma. She tells us straight the situation of fighting for true diversity in business and society.

We help to give women self-worth and a sense of entitlement to improve their personal and professional lives. Sisterhood is built into our programme.
Asma_01.jpg

1.     What drove you to set up You Make It? 

My upbringing was such that I was raised by my single mum in Peckham on a council estate. My mum originally came to this country from Pakistan with my father and my 2 older sisters and myself and older sister were born here. She left a violent marriage while in London and welived in a refuge. From that moment on, my mum forged a successful career in education in which people believed in her and encouraged her to achieve against all the odds. Her determination for us to have a good start in life is what inspired me to set up You Make It. 

Once out of university I got into the creative industry but was struck by the sheer density of white privilege and I found myself losing out on promotions next to my peers. 2011 was the beginning of austerity in this country and I saw how people with backgrounds like mine were falling through the cracks in employment and support. This was topped with many years living inthe East End, where I saw how the divide between rich and poor had begun to build, with coffee shops never employing women of colour. In the aftermath of my mum passing, and the reflection this provoked her struggles and those of myself and sisters, I decided it was time to change what I was seeing around me and propel women’s lives against the odds. 

2.     What has surprised you most about the women who come through You Make It? 

Nothing. I am like them. I’m 44 now and know what it’s like to grow up in difficult circumstances. Women are resilient and strong. What does surprise me, though, is that the women who come through are not jumped on by employers. Statistics highlight that unemployment has dropped in London but this is not the case for black and Asian demographics. We’ve got a long way to go. I think Brexit and the Windrush scandal have started to show that people are acknowledging racism as real.

3.     What do you think is the biggest value women gain from You Make It?

We help to give women self-worth and a sense of entitlement to improve their personal and professional lives. Sisterhood is built into our programme. These women have tiny circles of friends and contacts. They may have depression or have suffered abuse and neglect. We show them that they’re not alone. People in working class backgrounds are not exposed to lessons on how to build contacts - we help them to grow their network and their confidence. 

4.     What’s been your proudest moment since starting up You Make It?

Every graduation event is a proud moment. It’s when myself and the team are truly reminded why we’re doing this and hear the journeys the women have been on. It’s always a time when I think, ‘Oh my god, this works!’ and a chance to reflect on the fact that I took risks to set up a company with £3k, juggling paid work. The number of programmes we launch double every year and it’s still working.

5.     The rise of #metoo and #timesup has created an important opening in discussion on gender equality but it has also put fear into young women of what they may expect to experience in the working world. What would you say to those about to pursue a career?

On entering the workforce you’ve got to have a strong understanding of your self-worth. You Make It does exactly this - it coaxes it out of our cohorts. If you’re confident, you’ll be in a better position to challenge discrimination in the workplace. It’s important to be fearless. 

A You Make It member of the cohort presenting her business ideas to mentors.

A You Make It member of the cohort presenting her business ideas to mentors.

6.     Many women experience so called imposter syndrome. Is this something you’ve experienced and do you have any tips on managing it?

This is not just an issue of gender. Company management - particularly run by white middle class men - has a responsibility to build cultures that promote and reward people based on their merit, rather than just because you look and talk like them. 

7.     You Make It currently operates within the area of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Are there plans to expand to other areas?

I have thought long and hard about building impact in other areas. However, we have created something in the East End, as I understand it and I am part of the community. We’re looking at ways of growing it by sharing knowledge of how we work with other organisations and how they can apply our model. Sharing what we do for others to do it feels right, otherwise we risk diluting our mission.

8.     Where do you get your inspiration?

My personal experience and being a responsible member of society by looking at inequality and deciding what needs to happen are both inspiring to me. Also, the women we work with inspire me - they make me carry on. There is an element of accountability and the need to contribute to the social and cultural capital we’re building together.

Company management has a responsibility to build cultures that reward people based on their merit, rather than just because you look and talk like them

9.     Who do you look up to?

Myself. I appreciate my background, of being one of 4 girls where there was not always an emotional focus on us as my mum was often working. I respect what I’ve managed to do from where I’ve come from. I also think ‘look up to’ is interesting - I believe we’re all equal and no one should look up to anyone.

10.  What plans does You Make It have in store this year?

As a charity, we’re fighting for survival. We have programmes locked down until the end of the year but it’s all about raising funds to continue the good work. We're focusing on a mix of traditional fundraising and partnering with organisations and sponsors for the 2019 programmes. We’ll be doing more thinking around how to share our model through a You Make It Knowledge Hub which will share practice with stakeholders who want to learn from us. 

http://www.you-make-it.org