"Follow the breadcrumbs"

with Rebekah Clark and Joanna Glenn, from Happy Marlo

Show notes:

In today’s episode, I’m talking to the wonderful Rebekah Clark, Founder of Happy Marlo and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Glenn.

Both of them have such interesting journeys up to Happy Marlo and speak really candidly about the struggles they had negotiating their new identities as mothers, trying to find their place in the business world as mothers and the social isolation that can come with pregnancy and maternity leave.

Rebekah shared how the traditional hiring model didn’t work for her and how she and Jo came to work together, and they both share some of the nuts and bolts of how Happy Marlo and their home lives work, 4 day weeks, productivity hacks and game changing delegation at home. Honestly such great tips!

We also spoke on the “doom and gloom” of fundraising for female founders. How to acknowledge the structural limitations we have as females and strategies on how to get around them.

Community and networking has been a huge part of Happy Marlo and Rebekah shared some practical advice on how to focus your networking on your priorities and cut through a lot of the noise out there.

This was such an inspiring conversation with a lot of practical advice – see below for links to all the resources Rebekah and Jo mentioned



About Happy Marlo, Rebekah and Jo:

Happy Marlo is an emotional wellbeing platform and community on a mission to help raise a new generation of resilient and mindful children. Happy Marlo’s tailored tools empower three- to 11-year-old’s so that they can understand and manage their emotions, feeling prepared for the ups and downs that lie ahead.

Following a career in international media, marketing and communications, spanning over 22 years, Rebekah Clark launched Happy Marlo in response to the high levels of stress, worry and anxiety children in the UK (and around the world) are experiencing.

Rebekah’s passion for Happy Marlo is borne of personal experience, and she understands that how our children develop, impacts the adults they become.

Joanna Glenn is the Chief Operation Officer, Rebekah had this amazing business in motion, and the story of how she found Joanna to support her on her mission – is not your usual hiring story!

Happy Marlo’s Links:

LinkedIn (Rebekah)
LinkedIn (Jo)

Resources mentioned in the episode:

The real reason female entrepreneurs get less funding TED x Dana Kanze

“Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado-Perez

Alexandria Angels – investor community

Odin – fundraising community

Happy Marlo Love Manifesto


Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner, thank you so much for tuning in today. This podcast is inspired by my mission to find out why more and more mums are leaving the employment world for the entrepreneur life. I’ll be talking to some of the people I believe to be the most inspiring women in business about their journey building their businesses alongside motherhood. I’ll be also sharing some of my own experiences of juggling my award winning virtual assistant agency Upsource, while raising my two young children. Right now they are two and four, and trust me, it can be chaos.

Caroline [00:00:05]:

Hello and welcome to today’s edition of Bump to Business Owner. I am with Rebekah Clark, founder of Happy Marlo and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Glenn. Happy Marlo is an emotional wellbeing platform and community on a mission to help raise a new generation of resilient and mindful children. Happy Marlo’s tailored tools empower three to eleven year olds so they can understand and manage their emotions, feeling prepared for the ups and downs that lie ahead. Following a career in international media, marketing and communications spanning over 22 years, Rebekah launched Happy Marlo in response to the high levels of stress, worry and anxiety children in the UK and around the world are experiencing. Rebekah’s passion for Happy Marlo is born of personal experience and she understands how our children develop impacts the adults they become. Joanna Glenn is the Chief Operation Officer. Rebekah had this amazing business in motion and the story of how she found Joanna to support her on her mission is not your usual hiring stories. Well ladies, thank you so much for joining me today. You are local to me so we’re representing the North London founder mums. Yeah. So I think that was a little bit of an introduction there but something I like to start off on this podcast is I love hearing about and I know our listeners will, is we’re all interested in how someone’s career and personal journey can lead them to then suddenly start, especially something like yours. It’s a brand new platform and something that’s really definitely, we can all agree needed in this world. So where did this start from? What in your journey do you think this story of Happy Marlo came from?

Rebekah [00:02:23]:

Well first of all thanks for having us Caroline and we are very proud to represent the North London Mama entrepreneurs. And congrats on your new podcast. In response to your kind of first question I’ll start and then maybe Jo can pick up the thread because she has a really interesting story that’s led her to this space as well. As you mentioned, my background is in communications and campaigns and specifically in social impact. That’s relatively a new phrase. So 22 years ago we weren’t talking about social impact and we weren’t really talking about purpose, but as I reflect back, that’s really been the thread through my work. So I worked for the UK government for eight years when Tony Blair was in charge and then I moved to the UAE and worked for different government entities, the Royal Family there. And it was while I was there I set up Beautiful Soup which is my social impact communications consultancy which is essentially me. And then I would bring on other people as per the brief so maybe other strategists or designers or whatever it might be. And through that work I got to collaborate with some of the brightest and the best in the impact space. Some really exciting projects. I had spent some time in the Middle East kind of in the entertainment space of impact so using documentary and factual programming to raise awareness, kind of change behaviors, all of that good stuff and had some real successes in that space. And in my mid to late 30s, was doing all the things my teenage self dreamt of doing traveling around the world, staying in nice places, doing really cool things. But as I was getting older, I just started to really feel that it was losing its shine a little bit. And I think that’s a natural thing that can happen. As I was approaching 40 I really started to think about what was the next chapter of my life going to look like, what was I getting satisfaction from and also what were things at home going to look like? My husband and I had kind of been umming and ahing for far too long as to whether we were going to try and have a family or not. And so really for me, like a lot of people that big milestone birthday of 40 kind of really brought in some changes and on a personal level I tried to get pregnant and luckily did and so we had Aura later that year and it was really probably while I was on maternity leave. And I know that we hear this story quite often where you have a little bit of space to kind of think about what’s going on and I had my own consultancy clients weren’t really waiting for me to come back from mat leave and so it wasn’t all positive and great. It’s quite scary in a lot of ways I think when we start thinking about big changes and your personas alter going from this kind of pretty carefree wonderlust kind of traveling person who was married but didn’t have a child to kind of losing some of that independence on a personal and a professional level. And as I said, my kind of work wasn’t as busy as it had been previously. And so it was during this period I actually joined a coaching cohort. It was like twelve of us, led by a guy called Peter Oppermann, who is German but based out of Topanga, just outside Santa Monica. And his whole approach is rooted in what he calls the future self method and all coaching kind of comes back to the understanding that the answers are within us. It’s just how we access them. And Peter’s method was very much around, investigating deeply kind of what our inner child might want to tell us and looking at some of the kind of shadow experiences that we’ve had in our lives and really kind of looking at persona and the things that have happened in our lives to date. And as I was going through that process with my kind of fellow coaches, there was just this recognition for me. And we all already know this, but there was this recognition in that moment that why is it that so many people, as adults are walking around with unresolved childhood trauma or kind of walking around with issues that they just haven’t come to terms with, if they’re even aware of the relationship of where these things have happened? And as I started to think about it through this new lens of being a new mother and being a new 40 something and this idea that this notion that, gosh, I’ve spent the last 20 years really working and coming to terms with the first 20 years of my life, it just occurred to me, why aren’t we doing more to support children? If my hypothesis was, if none of us get out of childhood unscathed, then what more could we be doing to support children during that journey when we know there are going to be inevitable ups and downs? And the kind of shorter version of this is because I know it’s a long story, as I kind of was thinking about that, what could we do? I looked back at some of the modalities and techniques and tools that I had experienced over those 20 years of healing and everything from traditional talking therapy to cognitive behavioural therapy to reflexology and more holistic and complementary or alternative approaches. And I realised that the things that actually ended up being a real game changer for me were those more mindful if you will, approaches or techniques that are rooted in ancient wellness. And it just appeared to me that there’s this kind of full circle moment almost in our really busy modern lives that there’s so much that we can learn from and really be empowered by in things like breath work and sound healing and emotional freedom technique, also known as tapping. And those three are the modalities that we really focus on at Happy Marlo. And I got really excited about the possibility of bringing those modalities to children in a fun and accessible way. So that is my kind of whistle stop tour of what got me to here. And as part of that journey, I was lucky enough to meet Jo. So I’ll pass over to her.

Jo [00:08:42]:

And yeah, thank you for having us. Caroline. Yeah, my journey is quite different, so originally when I was at university, I did American Studies focusing on American foreign policy. And I always thought I would do something to do with that in my career. And I was applying to NGOs and things like the Human Rights Watch and lots of things like that post Uni and two weeks after I handed in my master’s thesis, my brother took his own life, my younger brother. He was 18, I was 23, and that just kind of turned my whole world upside down. So I moved home to be with my parents because they were suddenly with an empty nest and a whole lot of emotional trauma to go through. I got a temp job and turned up to the job on the first day. It’s just basically like a three month thing as a PA, turned up on the first day and they handed me the Official Secrets Act and I was like, where am I? And it turns out I was at the Ministry of Defence, so they hadn’t put it on the role description or anything. And I actually ended up in the Ministry of Defence for a few years, worked my way up from PA to being a procurement officer. And I had a bit of a reckoning with myself five years in that I really just wasn’t on board with what I was doing as my job. It was so opposite to the person I was. So my master’s thesis had been all about American foreign policy in Afghanistan and how differing ideologies kind of came in every 20 years and completely flipped the way that different parties in Afghanistan were seen. And in my job, I was literally purchasing vehicles, like heavily armoured vehicles from a company in America that were then getting fitted with our own navigation systems and things, and then getting sent out to Afghanistan. So it’s completely the opposite, I’m quite a political person, and completely opposite of kind of my ideals. And I just had a moment where I said, what am I doing? I don’t agree with what I’m doing. I don’t necessarily agree with the structure of where I’m working. I have to be a neutral person, even in my kind of personal life, on my social media, et cetera, which is hard for me. When I had this realisation in 2011, I didn’t tell anybody at all, but I just started looking for other jobs and I had to think really hard about what I wanted to do. And since my brother had died, my family had set up a foundation in his memory and were fundraising a lot of money, and we were working in conjunction with a charity in South Africa to build classrooms in an area of South Africa that my brother had actually visited and wanted to go back to and work with. So I thought, that’s what I’m really interested in. And so I applied for a few charity jobs and I got a job in a children’s charity and I uprooted from Bristol, where I was living, to London, literally moved on a Saturday, started work on a Monday, told everybody on the Saturday that that’s what was happening. So then my focus was on charity and on children’s wellbeing, which obviously was the thing that was closest to my heart because of what had happened to Matthew. So I’ve spent the last twelve years with that as my focus in my work life and in my personal life. I’ve got two daughters. After I had my first daughter, I went back to work and I didn’t really have a great time in my return to work, so I decided to leave. I had the luxury of being able to say, I’m just going to take a few months. And as Becka said, people have to do this in maternity leave because there is a kind of a luxury of time, a little bit and a little bit of thought, and more thought can go into something when you’re not on the work treadmill. So I took a few months, or I intended to take a few months to really think about what I wanted to do, still with children’s well being, but in a kind of a different field. And then I found out I was pregnant again and then COVID happened, the lockdown was two weeks after my second child was born, which was an interesting time. So then just until I started at Happy Marlo, I had three years out of work, which I hadn’t been intending to do so there’s also a journey around that and going back to work after three years, it’s quite a mental switch.

Caroline [00:13:16]:

Gosh. Thank you both for sharing your stories because you’ve both got incredible stories and it’s kind of like you’re using your stories for good now and for future generations. And what was so interesting as well is that both talking about your maternity leave, the fact that on one part, it gave you space and time. But whether you were self employed with your own business, Becka, or you were employed, Jo, you both had these situations that weren’t great for you in your maternity leave with two ambitious women who’d had quite solid careers until then for fantastic organisations. It’s really interesting perspective to kind of chat on is that you kind of then get to the maternity stage and you feel like you’re losing it all. I read something yesterday about a lady who had a similar journey to mine because I had that with my first child. I was too scared to take too much time off work, I felt I was going to end up behind and I found a woman who did exactly the same as me with her first child. Do you think that is something to really kind of talk about now? Is the fear around maternity leave on your career?

Rebekah [00:14:20]:

Yeah, I think it’s a really challenging time. I refer to my kind of pregnancy and maternity leave the best of times and the worst of times because my work started to dry up pretty much as soon as I got pregnant. And I’ve used the example of I felt like I’d made a trade off without realising it with like a Disney villain. It’s like, yes, my pretty, you can have your baby, and I’m going to take your career in return.

Caroline [00:14:47]:

You can’t try and have both.

Rebekah [00:14:48]:


Jo [00:14:50]:

How dare we?

Rebekah [00:14:51]:

It’s really hard, isn’t it? Because I never thought of myself as being so wrapped up in my career, validating who I was or my personality, but it absolutely would be. And I’d find myself getting, like, the W7 into town to have more meetings. It would never materialise into anything. Or I remember this one particular October, it was the start of the new month, and kind of just being in tears, like, what has happened to my world? I don’t understand. The phone isn’t ringing. I’m not getting emails saying, hey, come and work on this. And I felt at least, yes, I’d been given this beautiful, healthy, gorgeous girl, which was everything I wanted. But I’d also just had this void that was created with what was a pretty vibrant career. And that was very hard for me to reconcile and figure out where my place in the world was because I did want to take some time off with my baby. But for me, I was never going to stay at home for a long period of time because I didn’t want to do that. So I think it can be really tough.

Caroline [00:15:56]:

Yeah, I feel it’s so much of our identity. If you have the privilege of being told in your upbringing that, go get this job, you can do a career and go to university. But it’s kind of like they missed the piece that there’s still a gap there, though, if you decide to become a mother. And I feel like that’s the piece that’s still missing right now. I went away with a couple of girls recently who are younger than me and just at that stage before babies, and I couldn’t kind of tell them what’s about to come with their careers, because you can’t on that level, it’s more of a society level. It wasn’t that particular group of girls. But there’s really still that missing gap of knowledge, there’s a whole piece going into what your career is going to look like post a child, even if your plan is to go back to work fully, kind of thing. It’s quite scary from pregnancy. How was yours in pregnancy, Jo, being employed? Did you feel it was fine until the return to work?

Jo [00:16:57]:

For the most part. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I felt really supported and I felt fine. What I really struggled with was things like the commute and just the toll that took on me. By the time I got to work, I felt like I’d run a marathon, especially in the first trimester when you’re not really telling anybody, but you feel like I was trying to ask people for a seat on the tube and saying, if you don’t let me sit down, I’m basically going to throw up on you. So it’s which is it? My energy is going into not throwing up.

Caroline [00:17:27]:

Or I would wear my badge on the train and then take it off before I got to the office. And then once I was out and pregnant, a lady I worked with was like, I saw a lady wearing that badge the other day and she didn’t have a bump. And I was like, she’s probably feeling awful.

Jo [00:17:44]:

Exactly. Give her a seat, give us a.

Rebekah [00:17:47]:

Ginger lemonade or something.

Jo [00:17:49]:

Give us something. So yeah, I found that work was supportive. I worked in quite a male dominated department within the charity I was in. So there was a bit of a knowledge gap there that was more prevalent for me than for colleagues in other departments in terms of things like trying to explain how tired you are and there’s no way to explain how tired you are in your first trimester or second trimester. I had one guy say to me, oh, well, everyone’s tired. I was like, not like this, really, this is horrifically tired. So it was a bit of a struggle in terms of things like that, but it was fine. What I found harder and you’ve touched upon already, Caroline, is the expectations. I don’t feel like my expectations were managed. I’m not sure who I was expecting to manage them, but getting my expectations managed when I had my baby, because suddenly I had everything in my life changed. I took a year or eleven months off work and I was at home with this baby. I wasn’t seeing many of my friends and there’s a lot had gone on with my body. I had quite a difficult birth. I had a huge baby. She was ten pounds.

Caroline [00:19:11]:

Oh, wow.

Jo [00:19:12]:

There was a lot of kind of residual effects from that, so I didn’t feel right in my body. I couldn’t fit in a lot of my clothes, and that psychologically makes a big difference. And then emotionally I was different. Your hormones are very different. And sometimes I’ll be crying about things that I never would have cried at before. And then from a social point of view, that’s the thing that I wasn’t expecting. People just kind of then are like, oh, she’s got a baby, so I’m not going to bother asking her. I didn’t get invited to the work Christmas do and things like that, and I was just like, oh, I found out about it after the fact. And it’s just things like that that you feel kind of a lot more isolated than you thought you would, or I did anyway.

Caroline [00:19:56]:

Yeah, I can relate to that heavily. It’s not hard to send an invite.

Jo [00:20:00]:

Exactly, but I look back and think, and a lot of people have said this to me as well since they’ve had babies. I look back and think, oh, gosh, was I one of those people before I had children? Because I just didn’t know. I thought I’ll give people the space that they need. They’re probably really tired when sometimes all I wanted was for someone to come around with some dinner for me or something.

Caroline [00:20:22]:

Yeah, I think especially if I think we all have done early times in lockdown between our babies and you really realise how much you just want someone to pop round, make you a cup of tea and check you’re okay and then go, that’s all you need. Yeah, I really relate to that. And like you said, with the hormones, I think it’s that understanding that in those early years, I don’t know, one of my friends said it was when her youngest was two, she was finally felt she was out of it. And I didn’t get to that stage until recently because I got pregnant again with my next and I was like, yeah, after two is when you start to feel like you’re levelling out again, or at least I did. It’s something that, I mean, I don’t know, with all the menopausal talk, we will start to talk more about the hormones related to pregnancy as well. That it’s not just you walk around with a bump and you’re all glowing and looking fantastic.

Jo [00:21:13]:

That’s another thing that I think funny when people say, oh, you’re glowing and I’m like, I’m sweating.

Caroline [00:21:18]:

I definitely had that with a summer baby. And so we haven’t touched on yet. How did you guys meet? Rebecka, how did you go? Well, first off, let’s start, like, how did you come up with the name Happy Marlo and define what you were going to create with Happy Marlo?

Rebekah [00:21:37]:

Yeah, so I decided that I wanted to bring breath work, emotional freedom, technique and sound healing to children in a fun, accessible way. And I knew with my background, I knew that the brand piece was really important. I looked around and I saw a lot of children’s focused branding that perhaps wasn’t as sophisticated as it might be or it felt that it really kind of dumbed down kids. And these kids, these digital natives, they are highly sophisticated. And so that was really important to me to get the branding piece right in terms of the visual identity and then in terms of the name. I had originally wanted to call Happy Marlo, Felix, because Felix in Latin means happy go lucky and Felicity is Aura’s middle name. So that’s the girl version as an aside, but there was a stress management company in London called Felix and I just felt it was too much in a similar space, even though we had a different audience. And so anyone who has named a business will know it’s an absolute nightmare to try and figure out a name that resonates with what you’re actually doing. Even if it’s an abstract name, it’s not directly linked to your offer to what’s available domain wise, what’s available at Company’s House, and all of these things, the journey that you go on. And while doing my research, I came across an Arabic name that meant best friend. And I’d always felt that Happy Marlo should be every child’s best friend, a place that they can turn to whatever they’re feeling. But I didn’t want to have an Arabic name, so I wanted something that perhaps felt a bit more universal. And so then when I started Googling names that mean best friend, of course, Google starts talking about dogs as man’s best friend. I was like, that’s not what I mean. So I just kind of gave up for the day and then went to bed that night. And we have a Whippet called Marlo, who at that time would get into bed with us every night in the middle of the night. And she did, and she woke me up, and I was like, oh, of course, because there’s a few things to that. We chose a whippet specifically because they’re a breed that’s known for loving children. Marlo is an adorable, gentle dog. She is also, at that time, she was more of a puppy, so they’re incredibly playful. They always say the best thing about Marlo is how sensitive she is, and the worst thing about Marlo is how sensitive she is. And so it just felt that she completely represented everything that I wanted Happy Marlo to mean to children. So that’s how he came to the name.

Caroline [00:24:04]:

I love that it’s a case of Google around and then you’ll get your ah ha moments when you leave Google.

Rebekah [00:24:11]:

Peter, who I mentioned, who was my coach at the start of all of this, he would often say, follow the breadcrumbs. And I think that’s a really good kind of adage for of. It’s very easy to feel pressured and that we don’t have enough time. I can certainly feel this way. And when I first met Peter, I was kind of a bit like, I need a change. It has to be massive, and I don’t know what to do. I was feeling so much pressure and kind of creating stress around this. And his attitude just kind of like, first, I need to just calm down. Secondly, just focus on doing the meditation. Like, don’t worry about the other stuff. And that was a game changer for me. I know it’s not for everyone, but it did make such a difference. Thirdly, let things just unfold follow, take a kind of step by step. And I really value that more now, particularly as I get older. I recognise that things do need space to breathe. And also, regardless of how you see life, whether you’re kind of spiritual or not, it’s just a fact that we all rely on other people for stuff to happen in our lives, and other people are on their own journeys and doing stuff too. And so there is this thing around timing being everything, which segues really nicely into how I met Jo. I was working with another coach because I’m completely addicted to coaching and I do actually think it’s really valuable thing.

Caroline [00:25:36]:

How many coaches have you worked with now?

Rebekah [00:25:40]:

Well, I’ve just started working with a new one, actually. I don’t go to the gym, but a lot of people do and might have a personal trainer. For me, I think it’s a similar thing. I think we can all get value and support from a coach and there’s so many around. Some are good and some are not so good and they approach things in a different way. But I personally, I think I thrive when I’ve got a coach in some capacity. And this particular coach is the fantastic Cheryl Clements, who is fairly well known, particularly in the London female founder scene. She works with a lot of female founders, so I’m sure some of your listeners will have heard of Cheryl and she really helped me last year kind of to kind of move Happy Marlo along and start to get some momentum. And one of the things I was discussing with Cheryl, was I really need help, but I need senior help because I had a couple of junior people who’d helped me along the way, but I really kind of needed someone to get on this bus with me. But I’m bootstrapping and kind of self funding at the minute and at that point I wasn’t ready to fundraise. And I kind of said to Cheryl, I don’t know how I can hire this person. And she said, well, you’re kind of looking at this through your lens or through a very traditional hiring process lens, so why don’t we just take a step back and actually just write the job description? Who is this person? What do you want them to do? What’s their job title, perhaps, or what’s their background? What are all of the kind of characteristics that you’re looking for? So that was a really helpful exercise to kind of get clear on, well, if this person exists, this is what I’d love them to do. And we did that and then I was like, well, now what do I do? So don’t feel I can put this on LinkedIn because it’s not a kind of traditional, as I said, setup. And so I did what I always do, which is basically just talk to people and tell people who I met or who I know that well, I’m looking for somebody who might be interested in what Happy Marlo is about and come on board in this capacity. And nothing really happened until one day I was walking home with my daughter from nursery and she innocently asked if her friend Nora could come and play one day, which was interesting because she’d never done that before and she hasn’t really done it since. I knew that Jo was Nora’s mum by sight, but we’d never spoken before. Aura started nursery in lockdown. I didn’t know anyone at the nursery, really, and so I asked Jo if the girls could play and Jo very kindly invited us to her home. The girls played and I took cakes. And I remember sitting, having a chat with Jo and her husband. And just the conversation, it just felt destined because quite quickly, Jo, do you remember you started talking about the school you’d chosen for Nora and the reasons why pastoral care was a really strong emphasis because of the experiences that Jo’s spoken about before. And I’d been looking at schools and well being was really key to me above everything else as well. So that was the first kind of little nugget and then talking about the fact Jo had worked in a children’s charity and all of these things. I remember sitting there thinking, maybe there’s something here. And then when Jo said that she was on extended maternity leave and was looking for something new, I was like, oh, maybe this is my and so, as I was telling Jo this recently, I kind of played it cool for a couple of.

Caroline [00:29:10]:

Don’t put your thoughts out there. At first.

Rebekah [00:29:15]:

It’S like dating these things.

Caroline [00:29:19]:

I love this. There’ll definitely be people here that will be like you and need their person, so give them all the tips.

Rebekah [00:29:26]:

Yeah, well, I feel really grateful to Aura and I also feel like I said that it just felt a little bit destined. And it is. It’s all these things coming down to right timing, right people, and it’s just been fantastic to have Jo on board since she joined in September.

Caroline [00:29:43]:

Yeah, and it’s so true, like, what your coach has said, you can sometimes feel in a place, I just want to do something big, I just want to do this. And it’s like if you want to make a huge change, no matter what it is, it takes time, the process to get there. And actually, like, on my own journey of trauma recovery, because our child, our second child, we almost lost him, and it was recovering from that you realised, I don’t think I don’t know. I’d love to hear your guys thoughts. But it wasn’t that event that changed me. It was then my recovery afterwards and how I chose to. Like, for me, similarly, I did meditation and EMDR. So it’s the journey you go on. And so it’s like you go through that event and then it’s all the time afterwards that puts the motion into place. And I think it’s the same with a positive change as well. It’s just not going to happen overnight kind of thing. So, no, thank you for sharing. I love how you guys start together and you mentioned also a little bit there about bootstrapping, so something I’m really keen to talk about is fundraising. Well, you are going through that process. Is that right? And so what’s your journey with that? Because the statistics for female founders is quite horrifying right now. So it’ll be interesting to hear your experiences and how you’re going around it.

Rebekah [00:31:00]:

Yeah, I mean, those stats are shocking, aren’t they? And they don’t seem to be getting any better. I mean, the reality for us is we’re building out a tech platform, and for us to do that, we need external funding because I am not a millionaire. And so if they do send kind of say, with tech funding sorry, with tech startups because you need quite a big chunk of money to get going, that’s when you start looking at external investment. So, yeah, we’re raising our pre seed round at the minute. I had an investor pitch meeting this morning. I’m seeing another investor tomorrow, just kind of doing the work that everyone talks about to bring investment in. And I think we’re both doing quite a good job at remaining positive because I go to a lot of founder events and even the investor I spoke to this morning, there’s a lot of doom and gloom around how difficult it is to raise at the minute. But I think female founder Amy Thompson, who’s the founder of Moody, told me this years ago, you’ve just got to keep going. You just have to kind of be really resilient and determined in what you’re doing and find your people, whether it’s people that you’re working with, collaborating with, or investors who are as excited about what you’re doing as you are. And those people do exist. I think it’s remembering that. And also, one thing I would say, just in terms of tips, like I said, I’m going to a lot of events, there’s a lot of information. And as Jo and I have laughed about this, there’s a lot of conflicting information. You can hear a hundred different things in a week and end up really, really confused. And I was talking about this with my new coach last week, about if I’m going to network events, why am I doing that at the minute, what is the purpose for me being there? And the purpose for me being there is actually meeting potential investors or speaking to other founders who could potentially introduce me to investors. That’s my priority. And so we decided I wouldn’t actually take much notice of, say, the panel discussions or the other kind of information that’s being shared, just because for me, in this moment, that creates noise and a distraction and a confusion that I don’t need right now. I need to focus on raising this money. And I think I just found that really that framing really helpful for whatever it is, because there’s so much going on all of the time. How can we find a way to what is important to me right now? And just focus on that and achieving that outcome.

Caroline [00:33:36]:

That’s like, fantastic advice for anything, really, is kind of, what’s your purpose for this? And then you’re not wasting time. We are limited with time and where to find that.

Jo [00:33:46]:

I think for me as well, coming from a female perspective, funding, as you said, the stats are absolutely terrible. I think it’s something I don’t know the UK stats, but in the US. It’s like 39% of new startups are run by women, and they only get 2% of the funding available, which is shocking and not forward thinking in any way. And I think it’s really important to look at the framework around us. We do have these limitations, and they are limitations structurally around us. And I think it’s important that we recognise what they are and work out how to get around them, rather than just saying, well, I need to be treated like a man. I know that Sheryl Sandberg got a lot of attention when she wrote the Lean In book, and I’m not sure that I 100% agree with that, because she’s basically advocating behaving like a man to get men to take you seriously is how I read it. And I don’t think that’s the right way to go about things. I think we kind of need to change the system. Getting on my radical feminist soapbox, but I just think it’s really important to understand. There’s a person who did a Ted Talk. She’s called Dana Kanze, and she did a Ted Talk. I think it’s called the real reason that female founders don’t get funding. And she analysed the questions that people were asked in pitches, and men, like male founders, overwhelmingly were asked what she called promotion centric questions. So how are you going to grow your customers, for instance? And women were asked preventative focused questions, so how are you going to maintain the customers that you’ve got? And I think that’s really important to acknowledge that that is actually the world that we’re living in. And she actually found as well, that female VCs were also asking those questions as well, that the bias was there within both male and female investors. So I think with examples like that, it’s all about knowing that that difficulty is there for us. It is a hurdle for us as female founders, as female fundraisers, and we need to work out, we need to answer the questions that we wanted to be asked. Someone asks us how we’re going to maintain the customers. We’re going to say, well, what I think is important is us growing our customers in the first place, and this is how we’re going to do this. So recognising the structure that surround us, for me, is really, really important. There’s also a really good book called Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, which I also found really interesting. It’s all about data bias and how the world has basically been created for men. And again, it’s just kind of acknowledging that we are in a difficult position. We are fundamentally disadvantaged compared to male founders and male fundraisers. So we need to be able to acknowledge that and work out strategies to get around it.

Rebekah [00:36:39]:

Whilst also, I think everything that Jo said is absolutely true and I like to kind of balance that with just believing in humanity because, yeah, there are some investors who I’ve spoken to who have completely kind of followed what Jo has spoken. I’m like, why am I on this call when you’re just going to tell me for half an hour why my business is going to fail? I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation, because you clearly don’t want to invest. But we could have just wrapped this up five minutes into the conversation.

Caroline [00:37:09]:

Just worry you are a tick box for them. Oh, we spoke to them and now it can move on.

Rebekah [00:37:14]:

I don’t know, because these have been angels, so it’s not like they have the same kind of metrics. No one has to take the call, particularly if you’re not a VC. But I will kind of balance that with there are some incredible male allies out there too. I spoke to a male investor recently who said, I can completely appreciate how difficult it must be for you because he gave the insight that you were creating a product where your primary purchaser is female, he said, and that’s the product that he created and very successfully exited. And he said, and even as a white man, I struggled to raise our initial funding because our primary purchaser was a woman, which I just find absolutely mind boggling when you think about the purchase power. And also to Jo’s earlier point about female businesses not being funded. It’s kind of laughable when you look at most successful businesses are female run, or you look at the metrics where you have underrepresented founders in leadership and they’re going gangbusters. So it make it make sense the system is broken, but I am encouraged. One of the solutions that’s often spoken about is having more female investors who can choose to invest in different ways, having more female founders who are successful and in turn can then become investors. And so I think particularly some of the communities the three of us are involved in, we’re seeing this happening, we’re seeing it as it’s unfolding. And so I do think there’s an exciting future ahead. It’s just, as Jo said, there are real and valid hurdles that we have to overcome in the meantime.

Caroline [00:38:59]:

Yeah, and that excellent point, Jo, of identifying that they’re there rather than listening to, sorry Sheryl, but listening to Lean In and being like, work like a man. And I think we briefly touched on maternity leave and being scared to take it that’s simply because the workplace wasn’t built for women. So if you’re working like a man, you are going to go back to work potentially before you’re ready and full on in a way that doesn’t suit you or help you thrive. And no, that’s really interesting and I love that positive note on it. Perhaps we’re in a really exciting time by acknowledging that and encouraging founders. I was listening to a panel recently, they’re trying to encourage more female angel investors because there’s this conception you have to be rich to do that and you don’t. So that’s really interesting. For people like myself, I’m a bootstrap business, but if I can stay profitable in things, where can that be invested potentially? It’s really interesting conversations to have. Thank you.

Rebekah [00:39:59]:

I’ll do a little quick plug there on the accessible investing. So I’m part of a community called Alexandria Angels, which you can look up online. And essentially the mission there is to get more women hearing pitches, having access to decks and understanding that there are special vehicles that you can put together around investment where you can invest as little as 500 to 1000 pounds as part of a wider group and just really start your investor journey. So I’m glad that you mentioned that, Caroline, because it’s true. You kind of think, well, I don’t have a spare 10k or 25K, but there are opportunities like Alexandria Angels and there’s platforms like Odin where you’re able to invest at a smaller level and start to really begin your journey that way. And I think more and more women kind of getting access to the education around that as well. These are the things where we’re going to start to see real change.

Caroline [00:40:56]:

Thank you for sharing that. That’s fantastic. And we were talking before we started this, so something our audience had suggested they were really interested in is how mothers structure their week. And we had some interesting points on this and what should we be working on our businesses? What’s too much? What’s too little kind of thing. Not that there is too little, you’ve got to do what works for you, but I think when you’re a mother, there’s this added hurdle of, like, am I spending too much time on this real passion project business I believe in, and what’s the balance between that and motherhood? And I think it’s a really interesting conversation to have. So if you guys have any insights into what your working week can look.

Rebekah [00:41:36]:

Like for me, I think we need to kind of turn the concept of time on its head and actually start to think about what works for you, us as individuals. So Happy Marlo operates on a four day working week, for example, and I truly believe that we’re going to start seeing that become more and more mainstream in the years to come. And so, okay, so now we’re already working on a four day working week, and we have young children and we have all these other things going on. It’s very interesting. Again, personally, me coming to this kind of tech startup, well being startup world. In my forties, I am not. I’m in a completely different place if I were doing this as a 20 something. And I really see that with some of the communities that I’m in where you just have different priorities. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t work every hour that God sends to make this business a success if I want to maintain my marriage and I actually want my daughter not to be subject to the problem that Happy Marlo is trying to fix. It’s like, so bizarre for me not to be spending time with my child because guess what? Mummy’s too busy trying to help all the other children not in this house. So all of that, I guess to say is my working week looks different every week because I manage on a day to day basis. I know my longer term goals and priorities are what do I need to do today to get there? And as Jo knows, I love time zoning. I really find that helpful. I don’t know if you’ve come across that I list everything I want to achieve and then by half hour segments, I will split up my day. And I’ve found that’s really helped with productivity. But I just think there’s this thing we need to take some of that pressure off because no one knows what other people are doing. And yes, of course you need to spend time on your business to grow it and to help it be successful. But you also need to balance the cost of me not spending time with my daughter. I think it’s deeply personal as to how you want to do that and how you can do it. Having spoken about childcare and all the other stuff that goes with that too.

Jo [00:43:45]:

I think there’s one thing that’s really worked for us, which is real intention from the start to work smartly. Something that Becka encouraged me to do when I started was to complete a ‘working with me’ document that was basically just a little bit about myself, but also what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I feel really comfortable doing, what some things that might make me feel less comfortable. And then we’re both playing to our strengths and we both know what each other’s strengths are. Luckily, we’re actually not that similar. Becka is very good at going out and talking to people. Like she said, she’s having all these conversations with investors at the moment. If you put me in front of an investor tomorrow, I think it would be a car crash. I really get very stressed in those situations. And so we both know what our own limitations are and we both know what our own strengths are, and then we are working towards those. So we aren’t throwing all the hours of the day into things. We’re working smartly with the time that we’ve got. And the other thing about doing a four day working week. We do different days off as well so that we’ve always got cover throughout the week, which is important for me. It was a big shock when I first started work for my family because I’d had three years off, my daughters hadn’t really seen me go to work, which I actually hated. I really wanted them to see that both of us could work and it was a shock to me, it was a shock to my husband because suddenly the dishes were piling up and the laundry was piling up and the dust was piling up. So it’s been a really big conversation over the last few months. We’ve had an open conversation going about the challenges that we’re facing now and what we need to do to get over this hump or that hump or that thing that’s now come up because I’m doing this work. So there’s things that I started delegate to my husband that I hadn’t previously. So he’s now completely in charge of child one, getting her out of the door to school and that’s it. I have nothing to do with that anymore. And that’s been the big difference. And the real game changer for me recently is that a few weeks ago we agreed that I would have a day a week where I am not responsible in any way for drop offs or pickups on that day. So I can leave the house early and go and work somewhere else, or I can just work here, it doesn’t matter. Although I prefer to work somewhere else because if the kids know I’m in the house, that’s quite difficult. And then this sounds like a really small thing, but not having to do the pickup at all on that day is a psychological game changer for me. It really is. And it’s been five years since I ever said to somebody, oh, do you want to go for a drink after work? I’ve just not done that for five years. And that’s something that seems so small, but it’s such a big deal. I just feel like I lost my freedom a lot because I’ve always had to go before I worked. If I wanted to go and meet somebody, I had to sort out childcare or wait for my husband to get home before I could go out and try and get ready while I’ve got two kids crawling over me. And just being able to do this is a big game changer. So advice that I would give is find those little wins. For me, them being on a routine helps, so I know that every Thursday that’s going to happen and that’s really helped.

Caroline [00:47:14]:

And I think an important point to highlight from all of that is the communication you’ve had with your husband throughout that and you’ve come up with that routine and structure together because I think you’re a team at home, so you’re a team with how your work schedules are as well. So I think that communication is such a valuable takeaway. And thank you for sharing how the four day week works for Happy Marlo as well, because actually, I kind of didn’t even think about that with the four day week because I’ve always been a bit like, four day week is great, but does it work for everyone? Kind of thing. And how would it work, say, for my business with Upsource, I’ve got plenty of people on four day weeks, including myself, but as a business, we need that cover for five days to cover a variety of businesses. So that’s a really interesting insight as you have the four day week, but you’re just not on the same four day week. I like that a lot. Amazing. So we talked a lot about networking and has this really been it’s been so key in your fundraising journey and things? Do you think that peer support has been really valuable as well for your founder journey with Happy Marlo?

Rebekah [00:48:21]:

Yeah, I mean, it’s been absolutely everything. And I would say in the early days of Happy Marlowe, I was getting a lot of advice, a lot of advice from white men, which it started to become paralyzing because it was, as I would say, it’d be conflicting, too, and you will laugh. I was working with my mentor, Rachel Neiman, who’s also fabulous if anyone’s looking for a mentor. And I remember speaking to Rachel about this, being in tears, frankly. Like, I’m overwhelmed. I haven’t even started this, really. I don’t know what I should be doing for the best. And so we decided together that I would stop speaking to men and only speak to female founders, which at that point I hadn’t really done. And it was mind blowing to kind of the generosity that I experienced, the kindness, the support, and I’m talking about back in early 2020. So in the early days, to, I spoke with a female founder friend yesterday, who has generously supported us with something that she’s gifting us, that has a financial tag. These examples happen all of the time. And so the community for me has actually been everything, just the cheerleading. There’s just so many fabulous people and I feel really lucky and I’m mindful we’re in London, there’s a lot of opportunity for this type of thing. And for me, like I said, it’s been an absolute game changer. And it’s nice at this point, we’ve got a long journey ahead, but we’re a few years down the line now. To be able to pay that back and all pay it forward when people are kind of coming to us and asking for advice or introductions or whatever people might need. So, yeah, I absolutely love it. It’s one of the parts that I really, really enjoy and appreciate.

Caroline [00:50:13]:

That’s a great one about paying it forward. And it’s like also the same periods, like lift as you climb as you’re on your way. I like that one a lot and I think that’s very true of the female founder community. So, as we tie up today’s podcast, I’d love if you can share what’s next for Happy Marlo, what we can expect from you next, what we should keep an eye out for.

Rebekah [00:50:34]:

Well, as we’ve said, we’re in the midst of fundraising and we’re hoping to close our round by the start of summer because we’re really keen to get our first digital experience out into the hands of six to nine year olds before the end of this year. So that is very exciting. We’re also doing a lot of work with corporates at the minute, actually, so it’s looking like we’re going to have some in real life person events happening in London, some family wellbeing events, partnering with a client in the capital here. And then thirdly, I wanted to share, hopefully you can see, but this is our Happy Marlo Love manifesto. If anybody wants one, Caroline, put it in the show notes, please, and we will happily send one out. And really, it’s a reminder for all grown ups about some of the things that we can do to support the little people, our children, in our lives. But at the same time, it’s a reminder for how we can support ourselves or look for other adults around us to support us, whether it’s through compassionate listening or sharing our vulnerability or just validating our feelings. So, yeah, we’re excited about having that out in the world to help people.

Caroline [00:51:49]:

Amazing, honestly. Ladies, you guys have so much on with Happy Marlo and your little ones, but thank you so much for taking the time today and sharing your journey with us. I know you have given us such handy recommendations. I’ve got a book and a Ted Talk to go and listen to and a few coaches to go look up as well. Thank you so much, ladies. Thank you.

You have been listening to Bump to Business Owner, the podcast for mums running businesses, aspiring to run businesses, or simply supporters of mums who go on this crazy business journey. I’m your host Caroline Marshall and I run a virtual assistant agency called Upsource. I started it in lockdown 2020, I’ve seen it through maternity leave and it is growing alongside my two growing boys. Thank you so much, please connect me at Bump to Business Owner, my name is Caroline Marshall.