The founder of a leading children’s design store wants to celebrate women entrepreneurs and is calling for more to be done to support women in the workplace.
Sally Jackson, 43, runs Soren’s House, which sells eco-friendly, Scandinavian-inspired products designed to encourage magical childhoods.
Sally, who previously worked for Coca-Cola in sales and marketing, said: “I think that historically an 'entrepreneur' was and still is seen as a male-dominated role. If females are successful in business, they are often portrayed as an aggressive character and some women don't feel that is their personality.
“Women are setting up small businesses, but are almost shy to be seen as taking themselves too seriously, and are playing down their roles and abilities by calling themselves a Mumpreneur, Girl Boss and Mum Boss. I wonder how many males would call themselves a Dadpreneur, a Boy Boss or a Dad Boss? It's almost as if a female business is much more acceptable if it is seen as a kitchen table venture, but these women are building up brilliant, lucrative businesses with all of their amazing skills and should feel that they can be proud of their achievements.”
Sally also believes there are too many hurdles for women in the labour market, particularly after having children, and says the cost of childcare is a huge challenge preventing more women launching their own businesses.
She said: “Personally I think that the main hurdle of being a female in the workplace post children is how our maternity and paternity system is set up and the lack of flexible hours and job shares available. Nine months versus two weeks – which means that children are seen as the female’s 'job' unlike the countries where maternity and paternity are split more equally.
“I know so many wonderful, talented females that have had to leave positions after having their children because of a lack of flexible working hours or being demoted to a junior position to get part-time hours, while their partners’ careers continued as before. For these women, a new business of their own could be the only way of finding a true work/life balance around children where they can use their skills and experience fully.
“I think the challenges are mostly financial – the cost of childcare; the lack of a set salary each month; no holiday or sickness pay; the high costs of starting a business if you need premises. It's daunting. There’s also the lack of self-confidence that you can do all of the things needed to run a business.
“Taking on debt to start something new can be such a risk – I would like to see a loan system that sees repayments made as a percentage of turnover, to help small and new businesses with cash flow.
Sally set up Soren’s House in 2016 and has successfully grown the business with the support of a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp, following a brief hiatus to concentrate on her son Seth’s health after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Thankfully, Seth responded well to treatment and is now cancer-free. But the family business changed somewhat afterwards.
Sally refocused the business into its current form – a natural, modern design store for children and babies, selling organic clothing, non-toxic wooden toys, books and other items for nurseries, children's bedrooms and playrooms.
Sally added: “Seth had six months of intensive chemotherapy. We spent most of that time in hospital with only 17 sleeps at home. If cancer teaches you one thing, it is what is most important in life. We were over the moon, but also intensely anxious, when he finished his treatment and came home. I wasn't ready to re-open the business as I just wanted to look after my children and had no brain space for anything else. My partner, Max, made the decision that he wanted to leave his job and work with me on Soren's House. He could run the day to day activities, and I could work when I could around the children.
“When we started looking at new products, I felt differently about them – I was really concerned about materials and toxins around Seth and also the wider environmental crisis, so I decided to take the store in that direction too and incorporate the natural elements.
“We moved to a natural stance based on our own personal experience, and were keen for the products in our store to reflect a more simple childhood, encouraging imaginative and outdoor play, helping children understand the world that they live in, and if possible, away from screens! We used natural toiletries at home, so we started selling those on the site and we bought more organic clothing and wooden toys, so incorporated these too.
“Virgin StartUp helped by giving us a much-needed cash flow boost. The loan enabled us to move into clothing, work with a PR consultancy and also set up an EU website in five languages.”
Find out more about Start Up Loans from Virgin StartUp today.