It may be surprising (or not, I haven’t quite worked it out yet) to learn that globally one in three businesses have woman among the principal owners*. There is however a uniquely interesting industry where this figure is much, much higher. Where female owned and run
businesses are sprouting & flourishing… kids’ fashion
& lifestyle.

In our ‘Women in Business’ special edition various common themes have arisen. As you can imagine some are negative, some positive. Can women have it all? The work/ family life balance, the unrelenting hamster wheel that is planning and troubleshooting family life twenty four hours a day, all whilst driving
a successful business.

The business of kids’ fashion & lifestyle is predominantly led by women, making it a rare & interesting industry!

Katie Kendrick

Let’s take an example – you have an important work meeting, in fact you consider it pivotal to your business, but it coincides with sports day. What to do? The answer in all probability is usually to try and do it all. Squeeze in sports day, schedule your meeting in between the relay and the three legged race, then sneak off to a quiet spot at the allotted time to conduct a Google Meet (backdrop blurred of course). Wrapping it up in time to cross the finish line whilst literally bound to your child. Then jump on to the school group chat and request any photos of the day (preferably capturing your glorious ascent to the podium) and you’re done. Meeting – tick, sports day – tick, plus bonus photo to mark occasion and post on social – tick. Just as with many instagram posts, the reality is likely to be somewhat different.

The juggling is real, and the driving force to make it all work is strong. Founder and owner of DokATot – Lisa Furuland knows this feeling all too well as she explains the challenge she’s found as a businesswoman “is the transverse between motherhood and the working
world – much the same as all other working mothers.” Now with adolescent sons Lisa tries to stay in the moment, to be present and if they seem hungry for company, she drops everything else, but it’s not easy.

women in Business Pirouette

Women helping women is unsurprisingly a common theme, with many of our interviewees having had strong female mentors. Global Creative Director of Escada – Ioana de Vilmorin worked under strong women in the fashion industry both in Paris and London. Their influence and guidance shaped her business philosophy of prioritising equality, respect, humility and positivity. Ultimately their mentorship taught Iona to approach challenges with a solution-oriented mindset, reinforcing the belief that success is achieved through resilience and unwavering determination.

One subject that clearly remains a barrier to women’s success in developing their businesses is finance and the difficulty in being taken seriously. It goes without saying every business needs investment in order to grow. Despite this in 2021 all women teams only received 1.1% of all available venture funds in Europe. When we asked designer and founder Rachel Riley whether the high volume of female run businesses in this industry are spoken about enough, she replied “Unfortunately the children’s industry is very neglected maybe because men are not dressing their children as much as women. It is mostly female run and many of our customers are also women. For example the banks don’t really take us seriously. So highlighting this important industry seems very relevant.”

It is interesting how many of the businesses were started after the life changing event of becoming a parent. Blue Almonds has been in business for over fifteen years, after Iza’s first son was born, whilst UK based Lacuna child was launched after Carole became a grandparent and was inspired by missing her beloved grandchildren living in the US.

Polls suggest women are more likely than men to start a company for reasons other than purely financial. Many female founders look for their business to work for them creatively, as well as financially and to influence social change. ‘To make the world a better place’ might be the sort of platitude you’d expect to hear in a 90’s pageant, but to do it whilst running a financially successful enterprise, nourishing your creative appetite and managing family life is something many female entrepreneurs wrestle with daily.

Empowering women in business can’t always take the same approach. In fact “a multi-faceted approach that addresses the various challenges we face at different stages of our careers.” is suggested by Fuse coms and Kidswear Collective founder Shoshana Kazab.

What is clear from the contributions in this special edition is that it is still very important for us to highlight, celebrate and encourage women in business if we are to improve the opportunities for us all, no matter our gender.

Illustrations by
Philippa Coules @philippacoules