What’s it like to be a… charitable brand founder?
After volunteering in some of the world’s poorest countries, Jennifer Georgeson was inspired to set up ethically sourced marketplace So Just Shop. During her travels, she realised there were so many women who could make amazing products but had no platform from which to sell them. The brand enables female artisans to sell transparently to a global market enabling them to build better lives for themselves and their families.
We met the founder of the sustainable and ethically sourced women-led brand…
What time does your alarm go off?
Any time between 6 and 7am, depending on my workload.
Do you snooze or get up immediately?
I have a 6-year-old bouncing boy — he has no snooze button!
What is it that makes you get up?
Hunger, work or my son! We work a fair amount with India, so I often try and get some early work calls in. Although I work far too many hours, I absolutely love my job and there is a great privilege to be FaceTiming with women in the Himalayas (and yes, they show me the view from their window!) at 6am.
Describe your routine before you leave the house
Dependent on how busy I am, I sometimes get up at 6am to get an hour of work in. I try not to make this a habit, it’s just when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything I need to do. Normally I get my son up then head off to shower and dress for the day.
For breakfast I make myself a vegetable smoothie from my weekly box, so it can be quite a varied affair! Currently my favourite is beetroot, carrot and cucumber. I also have a slice of toast and cup of tea. For some unknown reason, my son does not like a smoothie first thing so he sticks to the more boring breakfast of Weetabix and a glass of milk. Next, it’s time to brush teeth, find the inevitably lost shoe and school bag, and off we go — one to school and one to work.
When’s your first caffeine of the day and how much do you end up drinking on average?
I do enjoy coffee, but nothing beats that first cup of tea — there is nothing more satisfying! Then mid-morning I’ll generally have a coffee and occasionally a second one with lunch, but that is my lot.
What’s your working day like?
Very, very varied. One of the utmost joys of being a founder of a start-up is that you are working across so many different areas, so no day is ever the same. On Monday I had a call with our women’s group in the Himalayas about a collection of Christmas pashminas we are prepping for a launch in New York. I had a meeting with an investor as we are currently developing a platform that will enable us to work with the bankless poor across the world and track the product supply chain, and we are looking to raise investment for this. Then I had a call to discuss a reseller contract with one of our Colombian women’s groups and finalised the content of our homeware lookbook with our creative director.
And when does it end?
Again, this is very workload dependent. There will always be work to do so I have to be careful not to work too much it’s not good for me or the business. I generally pick my son up before 6pm, we then have a couple of hours playing, doing homework, watching a bit of Horrible Histories (my favourite children TV show!), reading, stories and bed. I normally do an hour of work until 9pm and then read for an hour before bed.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your day?
Again, this is hard to say as it’s so varied! I really enjoy walking to school with my son. As any parent can testify, leaving the house with everyone fed and clothed, with the everything they need for the day is a huge undertaking, so I’m always relieved when we have managed this and we can just take the time to talk and bond. I have meetings all over London and I tend to cycle to them when possible as it gives me the time to prepare and reflect. I always enjoy meeting with the So Just Shop team — I am so lucky to have found such a committed group of individuals, all of us working towards this same goal. Least favourite is trying to manage my email inbox, but I don’t think I am alone in this!
What made you want to go into that job, and is it what you expected?
So Just Shop is a business that I founded so, if it doesn’t live up to my expectations, I only have myself to blame! I have a background in international development and start-up tech. Increasingly now, in most countries across the world, there is a level of free education and healthcare (though, of course, in many places these are far from ideal). However, in my work I was still seeing children who weren’t being vaccinated and families where only one child attended school (and this was usually a boy). Choices were being forced on the parents because of their economic circumstances — how can you get your child vaccinated if you cannot afford the bus fare to the clinic? How can you send all of your children to school if you cannot afford uniforms or books? This is further compounded by who ‘owns’ the wealth in the family. Those families where women earn a wage and have a say in how household expenses are allocated are more likely to send their children to school, have healthier and fewer children (irrespective of the amount of income). If you economically empower women you will increase children education, healthcare, reduce child and maternal mortality, and domestic violence. This is exactly what So Just Shop aims to do. Working with some of the poorest communities in the world, we provide design, technical, development and operation support to enable these women’s groups to sell their high quality handmade accessories and homeware to the international market.
Some days this job is an absolute wonder. When you speak to some of the women, like Teresa who’s collective is saving up to put a well in their village with some of the profits from the sale of their bags, you cannot ask for more. However, it is hard, hard work. Impact businesses are not a well established phenomenon in the UK (businesses where impact on the community you are working in and profit are measured equally), so it is a challenge to persuade investors. But the more investment we have, the more communities we can reach and the more lives we can change.
How do you spend your evenings?
Evenings are generally spent with my son, networking, exercising or being with friends. I do enjoy running and pilates, when I have the time. It is really important for me to make sure I am fit and healthy as I can’t afford to get sick! Pilates holds my body and mind together (due to the concentration involved). I go to an amazing studio in Camberwell called Artichoke Pilates that keeps me together and mends me when I am broken. I have a large and varied circle of friends who offer endless support in babysitting, meeting up for dinner and drinks, and continuously buying from So Just Shop — I do not know how I would cope without them!
How and when do you relax?
Not often enough! But I try to read for at least an hour every night (currently readying Zadie Smith’s Swing Time), spending time with friends, and running whilst listening to podcasts (The Guilty Feminist is hilarious, and I love Invisibilia and Infinite Monkey Cage but they make my head hurt). On Sunday mornings, my son and I snuggle on the sofa with a cup of tea (for me, milk for him) and a biscuit, and watch children’s TV or embark on crazy art projects. Our most recent was making an aviary complete with birds made out of cardboard and egg boxes.
And when do you get to bed?
As early as possible! I’ll generally be in bed (with book and a herbal tea) by 10pm.