Female startups on attracting and retaining talent

The growing number of female startups setting up new ventures across the UK are gradually changing the myth of the entrepreneur as a lone wolf. The reality is that your business is only as strong as your team. A rotten hire, or partner, at the centre of your business can infect and undermine the whole venture.

We invited some successful female startups to share their insights on how to attract new talent and grow your team.


Jules Quinn, Managing Director of The *TeaShed

First up we have insights from Jules Quinn, the Managing Director of The *TeaShed. Jules founded the design-led tea business aimed at tea aficionados in 2011. The *TeaShed now has 150 suppliers in the UK and distributors all over the world.

How important is your team to the success of your business?

Hugely important! I would say the most important things in your business are your product, cash flow and your team. My team are amazing. I can rely on them, I trust them and they think of different ideas. It’s great when you can pass over parts of the business to your team to look after so they feel an essential part (which they are!) and it takes the pressure off you, because you can’t run a business if you have a million one things to do and you are exhausted.   

What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

Our employees are already fans of The TeaShed, which is great and makes their application real and sincere. They like the quirkiness and fun feel of the brand, working in a small team where they can have a direct input and see their output and I think as we are all female it makes a very lovely and nurturing environment.  I always say to my employees that if they want to go on and start their own company later (as long as it’s not a tea company!), I am there to help them. I teach them how to run your own business and I would say working at The TeaShed is one of the best ways to get experience of working for yourself.  

What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team? 

Find people who respect you and who don’t want to be your friend. Often startups are run by young people and employing young people so it’s important to keep some distance and know that what you say goes and that they have to treat you with the same respect as if they were in a huge corporation and you were the CEO.  I would also say let your employees feel a valued part of the team, give encouragement, praise good work and allow them control of certain things.

Sandy Ruddock

Sandy Ruddock, founder of Scarlett & Mustard

Sandy Ruddock is the Founder of Scarlett & Mustard. Scarlett and Mustard produces a range of dressings, sauces and marinades. The business grew from her son Ollie selling their grandmother’s tarragon salad dressing at the age of 11 to the formation of the business in 2012.

How important is your team to the success of your business?

Once you’ve got a good product, then it’s absolutely all about your team, and without a good team, you are nothing!  Every person in the team represents the business, both at work and away from work, so it’s important that they are happy, enthused and all singing from the same hymn sheet.

What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

We are creative, forward thinking, and have a LOT of fun. Ideally work should be a place where you can grow both in terms of actual skills, and as a person – in confidence and ability.  Although all the team is expected to work hard and have high standards in their work, they are also encouraged to take their own initiative, come up with new ideas and speak out if something isn’t working and needs changing – or binning! No-one is “above” anyone else – this is one of the great advantages of being a small tight team – we can all support each other, and turn our hand to whatever needs doing.

What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team? 

Be really careful about choosing people who have what we call “the vibe”.  This means that we have to feel that they will fit in with everyone else and also bring something new to the party.  Skills can be learned and training given for many skills, but personalities and outlook cannot be taught, so to have them there in the first place is key.  I would say that attitude is by far the most important attribute – a good, positive and willing attitude can pretty much conquer anything, and these are the type of people that you MUST have on your team!

Whichever way you look at it, attitude is key. Take the time to find talented people with a great attitude and – as these female entrepreneurs demonstrate – you will be well on your way to building a strong and growing business.

Author Bio: Ian Butterworth is the Director and Senior Consultant at Lucas Blake. Lucas Blake specialises in the recruitment of Sales Professionals within the Information Technology and Telecommunications sectors throughout the UK and Europe.

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