My mother was one of the “Ten Pound Poms” who emigrated to Australia in the early 1960s where she enjoyed a free-wheeling time working and travelling the country on a motorbike. She married and had a daughter, my sister. Sadly, the marriage failed, and she returned to England, a single mother in a judgemental world.
Back in the UK, she trained as a teacher as it was the only job that allowed her school holidays off to care for her daughter. There was little support or family help. Some years later she met my father and they married, my brother and I were born soon after. She continued teaching throughout my childhood, always around to look after us during the school holidays.
She was fiercely independent, had her own money, her own bank accounts and paid her own bills. Sadly, she is dead now, but I learnt so many valuable lessons from her, many of which guide me in the way I run Valentte to this day.
I have always believed in giving “mums” the opportunity and flexibility to work. It has been at the heart of our employment practices right from the beginning.
Almost all our production team are working mums. They have school-aged children, so they drop kids off at school first and then usually arrive at work at 9:30 am. We don’t monitor this time. They arrive when they arrive. We understand that sometimes things get in the way.
They work until 2:30 pm and then off they go to collect kids again. We never ask them to stay late as they have commitments at home. They choose the number of days they want to work based on their other responsibilities and how much money they want or need to earn.
During school holidays they work less, and we plan our production accordingly. Last Summer they asked if they could work nights instead of days during school holidays. They explained that the cost of childcare during the holidays meant they didn’t see any of their earnings. So, they started doing some nights; they arrived after partners got home from work at about 7 pm and they worked until midnight, or 1 am.
We have built this flexibility into the way we run Valentte. Of course, it takes a bit of extra organisation, a bit more understanding and sympathy. It’s a two-way street, involving give and take. But it has resulted in a fabulous team; they are loyal and hard working. Most have been with me for many years, from back when we made stock from home rather than in our shiny new unit on Gate Farm.
We have expanded this situation to include home workers who are now packing the scent samples from home. Again, they are mums who choose when they work and for how long. We post the mini spray bottles, envelopes and labels to them and they fit the work around their childcare.
I think this approach has been a critical part of our success. It surprises me how few companies are prepared to embrace truly flexible working practices. I feel very proud of our team of mums and wish my mother had been around to meet them.
On behalf of all our team, I would like to say a huge thank you for supporting us on our journey to bring wonderful, mood boosting, scented products to every person who needs an emotional lift. Please help us by spreading the word!