PA Business Support directors, Sophie and Sabina wear many hats: they’re business owners, entrepreneurs, mums, daughters. Sabina likens being a business owner to being a swan (!) – seeming to glide over the surface of the water, to all observers beautiful in its elegance and harmony, the swan is actually paddling away furiously underneath the surface. She says that’s also what being a mum is like. “It’s a juggling act – being a mum and a business owner at the same time is a challenge.” They both say that in running a business together, honesty is really important. Being honest with yourself, and your business partner, and knowing when to give each other space if, say, one of them is juggling a lot that day.
So, how did it all happen? Well, they first met on Twitter (but that’s another story…) and started working together on a project. Then, one day, in the Summer of 2014, they decided to take their relationship to the next level. And the location for this great moment in history? Pizza Express in Farringdon, of course!
There they had the conversation that would sew the seed of PA Business Support. They wanted to do something together – not just collaborate on a project, but something more ambitious – they talked about running their own business. It was huge leap of faith, but one that would eventually pay off. The next 6 months they spent a lot of time, and money, getting all the legal stuff together.
A very real scenario which faces a lot of business owners who become mums is the challenge of taking their foot off the pedal. Sophie in particular found this hard. Before she had her little boy, the business was her baby. She’d nurtured it, raised it, and along with Sabina, put all her dreams and ambitions into it. Work was the ‘safe place’ she knew so well. Being a Mum, on the other hand, was completely new to her. She’d gone through the notoriously stressful process of IVF treatment, and Ted was very ill the first few months after he was born. It led to 8 months of post-natal depression. Sophie says she missed that place in her life where she excelled. She constantly felt she was missing out. She wanted to know about clients, celebrate wins with Sabina, help solve problems, but had to try and switch off and focus on Ted, which at times, was incredibly difficult. This is a common problem a lot of ambitious women who decide to have children face, particularly if they run their own businesses. Both women say it’s about reaching compromise – balls are going to get dropped. That’s life. That’s real. Sophie says that, “It’s really important to look after yourself mentally. You need to know when to check in with someone, and know when to check out (take time out).” She says that’s something she only learnt through becoming a mum.
Both Sophie and Sabina agree that, just like there’s no “right time” to have kids, there’s no “right time” to start a business if you’re a mum; there will always be things, like picking up and dropping off the kids, to challenges in school, to children wanting mummy time when mummy has to work. “There’s always guilt – guilt that you’re not giving your children the time and focus they need, guilt that you’re not giving the business what it needs…that’s why it’s so important to find your balance,” says Sabina, “it’s different for every woman, but when you find it, it’s so satisfying”. She believes, with two girls, it’s important to show them that they can be in control of their own destinies as women, and that they have options. Running a business and being an entrepreneur shows young women it’s possible.
Women-run enterprises are constantly blooming all over the world, contributing to household incomes and the growth of national economies. Female entrepreneurs are a significant part of global economic growth and poverty reduction. However, it is certainly still a sturdy road to be travelled, and, as Sophie and Sabina’s story highlights, women often wear many more hats than men (in particular during the pandemic, when home-working seems to have landed women with a disproportionate workload in childcare and home schooling). The work/family narrative that dominates discussions about why women don’t advance as fast or as far as men, proportionately, is still a complex topic that requires more research and more data. What is vital is that we all share a willingness to understand it, and continue to support female role models. In this way, we can ensure that later generations of women, from a young age, grow up believing that everything is possible and carrying the confidence to be fearless in achieving it.
To listen to Sophie and Sabina talk more about balancing a business with a family, don’t miss them on “The She Project” podcast episode 5, available here.