For International Women’s Day, we are looking at female founders and sharing their tips and advice for growing a business, which they have shared with The Homeworker.
Michelle Butler: Co-founder, Good4U
When we discovered this product, we were blown away by the research that was being carried out on the benefits of sprouted seeds. Not only on disease reduction but other positive attributes beyond normal nutritional benefits. The research was being carried out close to home in the University of Northern Ireland and what they had shown was that 100g of our sprouted seeds could help reduce cancer risks.
Additionally, I studied nutrition and I could have gone into various roles, but I was exposed to a family business all my life which made me want to work for Good4U. The food industry interests me as my parents had working in it for as long as I can remember! I then eventually fell into quite a similar role to my Mum, and she led the product development team in previous businesses. I felt passionate about following the same path!
As a dietician, people often think that you’re 100% clean eating. For the most part, I follow an 80/20 rule, so I usually eat very healthy. I enjoy cooking my breakfast, lunch and dinner and having healthy snacks in between. I follow a very balanced diet, eat most food groups, and consider myself flexitarian, so I don’t consume that much meat.
Challenges as a parent
Balancing family and work life was a real challenge. For the first 10 years of Good4U, I didn’t have a family to worry about, so I was working long hours dedicated to the company and really enjoyed travelling with work. Yet when Covid came about, myself and others have taken time to step back and reflect and be with our families more – you can’t beat being face to face with people to maintain those strong relationships!
When I had my first child, I was living in Dublin, and travelling 3 hours to Sligo every day to work. This meant I had to organise childcare and stay overnight in different places including London, and this happened for the first few years in my role. Having many demands from work and family life, I knew I had to managing the business better and run it more efficiently, Covid was also a challenge trying to maintain our core team and keep everyone happy, trying to manage people’s shifts.
Advice for women looking to launch or grow a business
It’s important to do your research, looking at where your product sits in the market and if there is consumer demand for it.
Also, I think it’s important to get the right support from your own network and also from business mentors/initiatives to help provide you with business advice and tips on how to grow your business.
Starting your own business is time-consuming and emotionally and physically tough, you have to be 100% committed and dedicated to your business and brand. When we started Good4U, we were working extremely long hours, even 12-hour days at some points.
Many women like myself are also balancing family life and work life, so its getting the balance right to make the business work. We have a passion for empowering people to eat and live healthier, and this has driven our business forward.
Grace Trowbridge: Founder, Simply Noir
Grace began her business, Simply Noir at the start of lockdown 2020 in order to solve the issue of finding products suitable for the black community. She found it particularly hard outside larger cities where there is more cultural diversity.
She launched Simply Noir as a marketplace to help people find products from black-owned businesses.
“It’s not just for black people – it’s for everyone to celebrate, to see these amazing people and push them into the forefront of people’s minds and get that message out there for us to all shop consciously… We needed that message for small businesses… We needed that message to shop locally and that really got us thinking. All those campaigns were so powerful and so meaningful that it really gets us changing the way we shop as a consumer.”
The importance of balance
“It’s wild. It’s mental and sometimes I think what am I doing?! One key is to not put too much pressure on myself. If I haven’t finished everything on my to do list, I used to get really down. If somebody is waiting on an email – just let them know it is coming.
I’m keen on prioritising, making sure I’ve got a to-do list. As soon as the children are in bed, I get down my to do list for the next day with the things that need actioning asap at the top of the list.
It’s all about prioritising what needs to be done, what is urgent and what has a deadline. The key is to look after yourself in the process and look after yourself mentally. I try to fit in an exercise class each day which also helps me mentally.
My husband has also been more involved… He has seen things and has been able to share the journey with me with the children. The only way we’ve got through it is with give and take.
Understanding that everyone has a role to play in trying to keep the household running. They aren’t the conventional roles, just because I’m a woman, I’m cooking. My husband will get into the kitchen and cook. He does’t need to wait for me. It’s understanding that you can do something to help out. I’m grateful for my husband for that because he keeps me sane and he won’t wait for dinner to be put on the table, he will just get on and do it.”
Lisa Brancatisano: Founder, This Tuscan Life
From fashion design to publishing This Tuscan Life magazines to tourism and painting, Lisa Brancatisano has perfected the art of the pivot. Being flexible and adaptable has been an important skills for Lisa and so has discovering what works for her.
From when she works to where she works, to what level of support she needs, this level of self-awareness, has enabled Lisa to transform her business, redirect her energy and build an engaged community on social media.
Being a parent and trying to juggle work meant that before Covid-19 and lockdown, Lisa ended up doing a lot of work on the magazine at night. “Sometimes I’d get into this creative zone and I didn’t want to go to bed because I’d lose it and was going at such a great pace and everything was falling into place. But the next day I’d suffer because I’d be really tired.”
She admits she’s getting better at not working too late. “I’m much gentler on myself,” she says. “We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves.”
Lisa is also getting better at focusing. “I am shocker for multi-tasking,” she admits, talking about having YouTube videos playing on the iPad while working on the computer and even having a podcast playing in the background. “But I’m getting better at focusing on one thing,” she says.
“Writing lists helps. I put post-its on my computer as a visual reminder to stay focused.”
Space and support
Her own office is on a mezzanine in their house. She can keep an eye on what is happening and be involved in family life while still having her own space. While it’s not private, she has realised how important creating that personal space is for her own happiness. Something as simple as changing the position of her desk has mad a big difference. “I used to face the wall, and now I’m looking out and under a skylight so the light hits the desk. I love sitting here now. Space really important.”
With a position overlooking the main living area, one of the biggest helps to Lisa and her productivity since lockdown ended has been bringing back a cleaner. Getting this sort of support mis an affordable way to free her up to focus on her work. “Can I tell you how happy it made me to walk into my house, sit at my desk and work, and see everything tidy. It was the best 30 euros I spent. She’s now going to come every second week.”
You can read the full interview with Lisa in volume 3 of our print magazine