International Women’s Day: “Women Supporting Women”
Deborah Meaden, a tour de force and role model for women owned business around the world recently tweeted about PomPom, “Totally plastic free, eco, handmade, fairtrade, organic…. Everything good about a business and rather gorgeous! Love what you do (and no..its not one of mine!!)”
Deborah Meaden (Business Entrepreneur and a Dragon on Dragon’s Den)
Deborah is in an unique position, as a woman. Female entrepreneurship in Britain is growing but still only 19% of serial entrepreneurs are women.
CrunchBase report states just 10% of global venture capital funds between 2010 and 2015 funded startups with at least one female founder. Female founded companies get less than 1 per cent of total UK venture capital, while male founded companies get 89 per cent, according to a February study by the British Business Bank.
So we want to celebrate our fellow women entrepreneurs who are role models for driving change, inspiring new ideas around sustainability, design and work ethics. We are not alone, #womensupportingwomen has 4.8m posts, we would like to stand up and join them!
Introducing “Women Supporting Women”
Fiona Walker is synonymous with children’s playroom decoration; organic felt animal heads, sustainably made animal hooks, gorgeous cot mobiles to delight any nursery. Up and down the country, kids’ bedrooms have been transformed into quirky safaris and has been enormously successful.
However, behind the fun is an important philosophy to bring uniquely hand-crafted items using traditional methods. All products are ethically manufactured under fair trade guidelines using natural materials. 98% of her workforce are female, receiving a fair wage and living standard with women at all levels of the structure. Women are enabled to work from home, so they can be with their families while they sew.
PomPom: Your women are encouraged to work from home so they can be with their families. In England, it’s called flexi-working and it has finally reached parliament levels, but it was very forward thinking of you to introduce it years ago. What inspired you and why did you introduce this ethos?
This really came from the amazing abilities of the ladies in India, who have fantastic artisanal skills but may live in outlying areas and are unable to travel and leave their small communities and families to commute. Therefore it was a think outside the box decision, instead of imposing a traditional work situation, why not have flexibility to take work out to these remote communities so they can provide for themselves.
Kelly Gaine, Co-Founder, Mama Huddle
The Mama Huddle creates a safe play space for women to bring their children, nurturing, loving and - crucially - judgement free. Mums are welcome, regardless of their mental state, how they look, or the words that they say. The huddle wants to break the stigma of mental health issues, and encourage women to be honest and proud of their mental health, wherever it might be.
As a mother, why do you feel it important to support other women?
I am a true believer in the old adage that 'it takes a village' but unfortunately, in a time where we need that village more than ever. It is less and less common for us to share the responsibility of parenthood outside of our immediate families but we need each other! We need the empathy, love, kindness and support that can only come from another woman. In many cultures wet nursing is still a very normal and everyday part of parenthood, and what a wonderful way to lessen the burden on a nursing mother! The fact that this is so taboo here is just one small example that demonstrates how far removed our society is from the type of tribal support that would make such a difference. If we can create a village around us we quite simply create a safety net, one that catches us when we fall, and encourages us to fly.
Why is PND still such a taboo subject in our society (or perhaps you feel it isn’t?)?
What I think is wonderful is that slowly and surely, mental health is become much more spoken about and far less taboo. However, there is still a way to go and many mothers - particularly those who lack support and the insight of the much needed 'village' around them - can very much still feel that they have to be seen to be coping. I think that this is a real mix of fear - it's not unusual for new mothers to worry about their baby being taken away if they express negative feelings - the ongoing pressure and influence of social media creating a false impression of the realities of life as a mother, and that stoic British stiff upper lip which means we have a cultural tendency to lie about how we are truly feeling to avoid making others feel awkward.
How do you juggle everything so brilliantly– running your business, supporting others and being a Mummy?! (Is there a secret we are missing?!)
The truth is - I don't juggle it brilliantly! I work late at night, answer messages whilst making the children's breakfasts in the morning, cry when I become overwhelmed, and frequently reply to my friends’ messages with 'Sorry for the delay in replying....'. It's really hard work and there have been moments when I have seriously wondered whether I have taken on too much. But outweighing those moments are the many more moments in which I see the positive effects we are having, when I really feel like we have helped, and then I realise that although it's stressful and hectic, I wouldn't have it any other way. Luckily I also have wonderful friends who are very forgiving and ensure that I do occasionally leave the laptop at home in favour of a glass of wine and a natter.
Meet Deb, the creator of Mmaa Social. She is completely passionate about the transformative power of the Collectives on communities, hear her speak on TedX.
Mmaa is a collection of beautiful, handcrafted baskets and straw bags with a decidedly social mission aimed at empowering women and promoting African crafts.
The collective of just over 200 women provides a supportive network whereby members have access to financial literacy training, sexual and reproductive health education and business support programs.
For each Mmaa bag that you purchase, a girl or young woman will receive a reusable sanitary kit (one pad holder, three washable pad liners, soap, six pairs of underwear and washing bag) that will help keep girls in school and help end the shame and silence around period poverty.
As a mother, why do you feel it important to support other women?
The community of mothers is incredibly powerful. Mmaa actually means “mother” in the local dialect in Ghana where we work. The weavers in our collectives are all mothers and many are also grandmothers. During our last visit, they unanimously shared that they were weaving so that their children could have a better life. “I cannot read and write. With these baskets, my children will go to school and they will learn to read and write and have a better life.” We are grateful not only for the opportunity to share our beautiful baskets with the world but also how the baskets connects communities of women all over the world.
Why is social enterprise so important to your brand?
Social enterprise is at the heart of Mmaa. Dorcas Apoore, the founder of the Collectives, humbled and inspired me when I first met her in 2017 with her fiery commitment to bettering the lives of women and children in her community and beyond. Her organisation, Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls’ Education, run the Collectives so that women are finally fairly paid for their craft. They also organise programmes around financial literacy, sexual and reproductive health and girls’ education. We are very proud to support their menstrual hygiene programme, keeping girls in school by distributing sanitary pad kits. We are all consumers but we can also act as citizens by putting our money to support brands in line with our strong social ethos.
Which other female owned brands do you admire and why?
I greatly admire other female owned brands that not only work with artisans but also hold the artisans’ stories at the heart of their brand. I adore Pink City Prints for their stunning block printed dresses crafted in India and the founder Molly’s total commitment to fair wages and ethical working practices. I also love Cleopatra’s Bling for their beautiful, eclectic jewellery and the founder Olivia’s commitment to social causes from refugee rights to climate change. Finally, Qasa Qasa is another brand that I admire for the beautiful craftsmanship of their homeware and the people behind them.
Of course, I also hugely admire PomPom for its amazing ethic of sourcing beautiful toys that are built to pass down to the next generation with a view to avoiding plastic which is no easy feat with young children!