(6) What have been some of your biggest challenges (i) personally and (ii) as a business, and how have you overcome them?
On a personal level, when you’re launching a new company I think you have to just accept you’ll initially make sacrifices to your personal life, both financially and with your time. At the moment 12-14 hour days aren’t unheard of and I certainly see less of my friends and family than I did when I had a regular job.
In terms of the business, there are small challenges on a daily basis. Finding the right factory was one of the earliest challenges I faced; the combination of a nut product and being a first time business owner meant it took me about eight months to find the right co-packer. Having to be constantly mindful of budget and cash flow is another challenge; and negotiate with banks to support is something that’s very new to me.
Then, of course, the challenge of getting supermarket buyers to pay attention to you. Pip & Nut’s products are in over 2,500 stores around the UK but it’s not been easy to get buyers attention. Persistence on this one is key.
(7) What do you identify as some of the prevailing issues that women face in business, the food landscape and in senior positions?
One of the issues that I’ve noticed is that women are less inclined to shout about their achievements, in fact more often than not women tend to play down their achievements or give other people the credit for what they’ve done. Rather than say “I did this” instead it’s “we” or “the team”. There are two problems that come from these self-deprecating tendencies. Firstly, female led firms get less exposure in the press and secondly, when in a business pitch, whether that’s in front of a supermarket buyer or potential investor, you don’t sell yourself or your business as much as you should be.
Women need to be better at celebrating what they are doing and letting people know about it. This doesn’t mean you have to be self centred or egotistical, but merely recognise your success and show other females in the industry the way forward. Female founders shouldn’t be afraid of putting themselves in the limelight as it’s important to give yourself and your business exposure to win that new bit of business or gain exposure in the press – and in doing so inspire other females.
(8) How important is the “women in leadership” agenda to you (i) personally (ii) to the organisation? And how are you pushing it forward?
It’s really important to me. As a female founder I’m acutely aware that we need more women in leadership positions and I feel strongly that this is something that needs to change. On a personal level I’ve found it difficult as a new entrepreneur that there are so few women at the top to look up to, aspire towards and take as a role model. The way men approach business is quite different to women and therefore by not having a female role model means I’m having to navigate the way in which I want to lead in a way that feels authentic to me as a women.
In business I think one of the main reasons why there are less female leaders is that women are less inclined to take the risk and believe that they’re able to launch their own company, whether that’s because they lack confidence or skills. Collectively women who are in leadership positions should do what they can to support and encourage other women. I often meet with women who have ideas or have just launched their own businesses in order to offer advice and guidance from my experiences.
(9) How do you think the landscape is changing?
I think it is changing, particularly in food and drink where there are more female led businesses than other sectors like finance or tech, which is great to see. However, what I would say is that whilst there are lots of female led food businesses, more often than not such firms revolve around lifestyle and women are less likely to aspire to scale their companies. I certainly think it’s the responsibility of females already in the industry to change this.
(10) Having won the Young Achiever award, what does this mean to you?
It meant a lot. Being recognised for my achievements with Pip & Nut gave me a real boost, especially when surrounded by so many other amazing women at the awards.
Often when running a company you don’t take time to take stock of what you’ve achieved so winning this award made me reflect on how far the company has moved forwards. Particularly as a new startup brand, winning the Young Achiever award gave me and the company more credibility and helped raise the companies profile in a highly competitive environment.
By Shané Schutte
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