I N T E R N A T I O N A L  W O M E N ‘ S  D A Y

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the amazing women running businesses at The Shed! We spoke to Becs and Chelsey, who form half of the team running our much loved Tap at The Shed, Lou – founder of our very own re-full shop FillUP and Emma, founder of SiGNAL business hub and our SiGNAL Studio within The Shed.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Chelsey: A celebration of women everywhere. The mums, wives, daughters, business owners and key workers, all grafting to get where they are now. Celebrating everything women everywhere do to better themselves and their families. Celebrating the women who have struggled and proved others wrong, the hours these women have put in to get to where they want to be.

Lou: It’s a day to recognise all the fantastic woman of the world – be it those in business or those managing a busy home and of course those doing both!

What inspired you to start your own business?

Lou: Owning my own business has been in the back of my mind for as long as I have been in the world of work and I have come up with all sorts of ideas along the way. I was placed on furlough at the start of the pandemic and took the opportunity to really put my head into making it a reality. When I was later made redundant it was a now or never situation so I took the leap and haven’t looked back since.

Chelsey: I had been working in the industry for many years and gained a lot of experience but never got the recognition of doing a good job or the appreciation of doing extra hours each week. I wanted the flexibility of being my own boss so that I could treat my team the way I was never treated. To create a work place that is fun and where people actually looked forward to going to work. I also wanted to create a space where I would want to go where everyone can feel comfortable, including women dining on their own.

Becs: I was invited to become a partner of the business I was working in. This acted as a springboard to see myself as a business owner rather than an employee and I have never looked back.

Emma: I felt I had work to do in the world that required maximum autonomy. 

What words of advice would you give to other women wanting to start their own business?

Lou: No experience is bad experience – take as much as you can from any role you find yourself in. It all adds up to give you the ability to go out on your own. Be determined and never give up.

Chelsey: Do it! It has honestly been the best thing I ever did. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy, because it definitely hasn’t. You have to be prepared to put the work in, often working 7 days a week initially to get the business up and running. Be prepared to always be on call if something is needed in your business. You must do a lot of research before you take the plunge. Research the area, any competition, what makes your business stand out? Why would someone use your business as opposed to another in the area? Consistency is key. The hours, service and product should always remain the same no matter who is working or what day of the week it is. It’s not easy being your own boss, but it is so worth it!

Emma: No one can or should build a business alone. Involve as many positive people as possible and make sure they all believe in you and your vision. Have someone hold you accountable to your goals regularly. 

Are there any groups, resources or networks you’d suggest for other women in Whitehill & Bordon to help them succeed in their business ideas?

Becs: It’s not exclusive to women but Signal in Bordon is a helpful local networking group. Having support from likeminded small business owners can be hugely beneficial and can make problem solving a lot easier. I’m sure there are other online groups too, social media can be useful for finding more resources.

Emma: The SIGNAL BizHub is a great resource for business owners– our motto is ‘no one should build a business alone’ and we provide desks, business training, accountability and networking.

What positive changes and opportunities have you seen for women in business since you started?

Chelsey: I have noticed a lot more equality since starting my own business. I was only 26 when I started my first business and no one took me seriously. As a 26 year old female people would always ask to speak to my boss or not accept the answer I was giving them. I learnt that perseverance and knowledge is key to levelling out the playing field and making people see me as the owner. Now I’m just about to turn 30, jointly running two successful business and have two fantastic teams behind me.  Pay and opportunities have also began to equalise. We pay men and women the same, there is no pay gap. Pay is now based on knowledge and experience, which is amazing.

Becs: The hospitality sector has definitely changed for the better over the last ten years. Most of my career has been in a back of house role which tends to be male dominated and as a young female head chef I certainly felt outnumbered at times. Women are now consistently seen as equals and there to do their job. We at The Tap have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to this to protect the people we work with.

What words of advice would you give to other women in business in Whitehill & Bordon?

Emma: Building your own business is very challenging and the team at SiGNAL help to make this entrepreneurial dream a reality for many business owners living in and around Bordon. Successful small businesses are the life blood of every town centre, creating jobs, serving communities and bringing vibrancy and personality – and with our particular brand of business support we hope to make a big contribution to the sustainable economic future of Bordon. 

Becs: Believe in yourself, work hard, trust your judgement, and follow your business plan. If you do these things, the chance of success is on your side.

Who is your female role model?

Chelsey: My mum is my role model. She has always showed me how with hard work you can achieve anything. As a mum of two and a business owner she was always up before anyone else and working after everyone else had finished. She always has time for my brother and I no matter how busy she is and will always put everyone else before herself.

Emma: Panko Barnes – female stunt pilot and trainer, owner and founder of the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Also Emma Jones founder of Enterprise Nation and amazing champion for small business – without whom I wouldn’t have been working in partnership with WBRC!

Lou: My grandmother – windowed with a young family she set up a catering business to help provide for her family. A truly determined and inspirational woman who worked hard in a world which must have had so many more obstacles than those facing me today.