To celebrate International Women's Day this year, we wanted to chat to some of our favourite in store brands. We felt that all of these women and their approach to business but also inclusivity and support is really important and represents this years #breakthebias theme so well! 
We chatted to Jo Hill, founder and creator of Art Star. With her amazing approach to teaching sustainability and her collaborations with female artists, always leaving us inspired to create! 
We spoke to social enterprise, LoveWell who help support women escaping the trafficking and exploitation to grow in strength and confidence. By empowering women with skills and confidence LoveWell help to change lives. 
Finally, we chatted to founder of Voice International, Natasha Katumbain who work with female artisans has helped to empower and provide family support and education across the globe. It was so lovely to have the opportunity to chat #breakingthebias and empowerment.


'I always find it inspiring to work with women I admire, and collaborations are massively important to me and to my business'.

- Jo Hill, Art Star 


Could you talk a little bit about your experiences as a woman within business, as a business owner and as a female creative? – Wearing these two hats, how do they differ/similar?

I think the big thing for me about being both a female creative and a business owner is that you get to set your own limitations (or lack of!). When you're in control, you realise that sometimes the only person holding you back is yourself, and that is something you have the power to change, which is incredibly motivating and also very empowering. Getting to make my own decisions, and not having to justify them to anyone else is the best feeling ever!! For me, the business and creative sides are similar in that both of them require me to push myself out of my comfort zone. In business I have to woman up and approach people I'm intimidated by or do things like lead workshops which is always slightly terrifying, and creatively I have to try new things and challenge my own preconceptions about what I'm capable of or 'good at'. So I guess there are more similarities than differences in the way I approach these two things. When I was a female creative in someone else's employment my experience was very different and I often felt underestimated, so as my own boss I try to do the opposite!

 

How have your collaborations with female artists and other creatives helped to push and inspire you when making and designing new Art Star products? Do you have any plans for further collaborations?

I always find it inspiring to work with women I admire, and collaborations are massively important to me and to my business. It encourages me to raise the bar and I often end up doing things I wouldn't have expected! You get to reach new markets and learn new skills. I'm planning another Christmas Star collab this year and am in the process of finalising it so hopefully I can reveal that soon! I am pretty much constantly collaborating with other women in all kinds of ways, whether it's doing a joint photoshoot, or planning a workshop together. Before Christmas I got together with a friend who runs a local cafe and we did a couple of Craft and Cocktails sessions. Lorna created some bespoke cocktails and I thought up a decoration to teach people and we both promoted it on instagram. The room was filled with people chatting and laughing and making stuff together - it was such a great feeling.

 

 

Your ‘hack packs’ and donations to kids clubs & food aid networks seem to have family life in mind with education being an important part of Art Star. Could you talk a little bit how this inspires you? – This could be when it comes to hosting workshops, tutorials or making?

This side of Art Star is crucial to me. When you set up a business you get the opportunity to build ethical and charitable aspects into it from the start. The Hack Pack business model was established from the very beginning and in fact the product itself was created in order to achieve that goal of donating a kit for every one I sold. I was very lucky to work with a brilliant printer who had collected leftover paper for years and was delighted that I had found such a meaningful thing to do with it! The tutorials are also a great way of spreading the fun of making - papercraft is such an inexpensive craft as all you really need are scissors and glue, so I hope that by showing all these interesting things you can make with leftover paper or recycled materials I can inspire people to have a go themselves. The mental health benefits of crafting have been widely researched and that 'flow state' you get into when you're absorbed in making something is a real joy. By donating the kits to kids' art clubs I want to make it easier for them to experience that feeling of pure creativity where there are no right or wrong outcomes. It's all about enjoying the process of making. I'm going to start a YouTube channel this year so that I can focus even more on giving people ideas for reusing leftover materials to make beautiful things!

 

'LoveWell is not just about beautiful products, it's about empowering women who have experience significant trauma to move confidently into new areas of their lives'.

- Claire Dormand, LoveWell UK

How do the stories of women around the world affect the LoveWell products produced?

Lighting a candle has always been a sign of hope and we want our trainees and every woman using the products to feel hope. Women suffering from trauma desperately need hope, they need time and space and quiet to process and work through their experiences, and candles to us felt like the right product. The products we wanted to be premium, high quality products. However, Lovewell is not just about beautiful products, it's about empowering women who have experience significant trauma to move confidently into new areas of their lives. Making the candles and all the other products in our range are gentle, mindful activities that can really support healing. Trainees love the production days. They say that creating quality products which they know customers value, helps them to feel valued and that they have skills. We have exciting plans for the future that have come from our trainees and what they see and feel is good for their self care and recovery so watch this space. 

 

 

Could you talk a bit about how LoveWell has provided women with opportunities since its beginnings?

We have run two paid training employability programmes now, and 80% of our trainees have gone onto further employment, training or education. The whole premise of Lovewell was to create a place where women felt a sense of belonging, of community, and of hope. Often, they have come from an isolated background, and working within a team where they can learn to trust others, and trust us to support them, is scary. Every single trainee says they feel more confident through participating in our training programme. We are here to support, but we’re also here to prepare them for the next part of their lives. Timekeeping, teamwork, dealing proactively with conflict are all high on the agenda. We offer mentoring support to each woman a year after her time with us. Someone to come alongside you, to be accountable to, to ask you ‘how are you doing this week?’ is key to the women’s support network when they finish the training programme.

Within the organisation, we are also creating more opportunities for women to continue working with us after the training programme. All our production assistant roles come from our graduates - women who have been through the training programme.

 

 

How important is it that the beauty industry works towards the empowerment of women? How can this help us all moving forward?

The growth of Lovewell has shown us that people love to buy beauty products, but also buy into supporting marginalised women. Consumers no longer want to buy from large corporations who are doing nothing but lining their own pockets. This is such a powerful move for ethical purchasing within the beauty industry. But the amount of need we are faced with can be overwhelming. How exciting is it to know that you, as a consumer, can have such a powerful and direct impact on someone's life through choosing to buy from us? Because we are a CIC, 100% of our profits go back into the work we do. Customers value our products because, by buying from us, they are directly impacting women's lives for the better. Kinder gifts are becoming more popular, ‘buy good to do good’. Women’s beauty products are bought primarily by women and for women, so when making these purchases (which we all like to do), why can’t we empower the women around us, at the same time as getting a nice product? 


'Our day to day is always centered around empowering our artisans and community to speak up and be confident in breaking the bias'

- Natasha Katumbain, Voice International

 

This year’s IWD theme is #breakthebias – Could you talk a little bit about how Voice International aims to break the bias, either within a business sense or creatively?

The sole vision and purpose at Voice International is to be a platform which gives a Voice to women, so our day to day is always centered around empowering our artisans and community to speak up and be confident in breaking the bias. When a woman works for us at Voice she is encouraged to further believe in herself, her dreams and what she can achieve. Which we believe is incredibly important in seeing a truly gender equal world. When we believe it, we can start to see it and begin collectively speaking up and forging change.

Could you talk a little bit about your experiences as a woman within business, as a business owner and as a female creative? – Wearing these two hats, how do they differ/similar?

I think similarly to what I mentioned above, it starts with your mindset when you are a woman in business. You could easily fall into a negative way of thinking when driving a business forward as there can be many obstacles as a woman. But I’ve always held on to a ‘can do’ attitude when making business and creative decisions for Voice. The two come hand in hand for me, my creativity fuels my passion to work hard and continue pioneering a business empowering women around the world. Whilst I’m definitely aware of the circumstances we will have to navigate as we grow and tell our story far and wide, I’ve loved the journey and experience so far!

 

Thank you so much to all the women who help to support Frankly and who help inspire and empower us everyday. Thank you to Jo, Natasha and Claire for chatting to us. You can check out all their products via our website (frankly.store). 

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