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5th March 2018 | 5 min read
International Women’s Day (March 8th) gives us a chance to celebrate the female powerhouses within the LABS community. Their hard work and passion for what they do have brought them to this point in their careers – women who continue to push the boundaries and inspire others to do the same.
Camilla Marcus-Dew is Head of Commercial of The Soap Co. Ahead of our International Women’s Day event, Spoon Meets: A Female-Only Panel, coming to LABS this Thursday, featuring Camilla – we chat about her success, her influences, and the best thing about being a female founder in 10 quick fire questions.
1. Please describe your business in one sentence.
The Soap Co. exists to create employment for people who are blind, disabled or are otherwise disadvantaged by crafting beautifully designed bath and beauty products.
2. What was your first job?
My first job memorable job – for all the wrong reasons – was working at a major supermarket chain handing out copies of men’s magazine, Zoo.
It didn’t take me long to realise that the content was pretty sexist and perhaps an inappropriate job for me at age 16. I think these magazines have come a long way from openly objectifying women in ways that I feel very uncomfortable about. I suppose it was a bit of a wake-up call as to what I felt about myself and the way women are represented in society and where I draw the line for a paycheque.
3. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Get yourself out there and have as many inspirational conversations as you can, particularly with people that you don’t agree with or who seem like they are from a different planet. Those moments are great and they shape who you will become.
4. What does ‘success’ mean to you?
I think we are finding the balance now between a social business and a traditional business, but I think we have a bit more work to do to get there. So success, in one way, is in being able to keep an eye on social and an eye on commercial with both of them growing at the same time. It’s very natural to want to scale quickly. Imagine if John Lewis came to us tomorrow and said we want 2,000 of your soaps bars by next week, we would have to tell them we couldn’t meet that deadline and that it just takes us a bit longer. We need a bit of help to level the playing field, but every member of the team I hire really gets it – we are pulling in the same direction and you will see more and more of us.
5. What inspires you to get out of bed every morning?
My motivation is fairly clear, I have a couple of disabled relatives, they are teenagers at the moment, but what are the opportunities for them in say five years’ time? Right now those opportunities just don’t exist. Some people also have very dated stereotypes about those with disabilities, and challenging those is what it is really all about.
I’d love to think that what we are doing here is actually creating hope for people with disabilities. On the employability side we are doing something magical, the wider charity has 114 staff but there are well over a million people with disabilities out there that don’t have the opportunity to work.
I can’t deny it also a buzz to see how well The Soap Co. brand is doing both with businesses and consumers. Every day is an opportunity to work with my team to find ways to sell more and so to create more and more social value hours of employment.
6. How do you manage stress?
Chocolate, cheese and wine…but, maybe not all at the same time. Getting some good exercise also helps and the East London hockey team I play for are so much fun, it doesn’t take long to take my mind off work.
7. What do you look for in employees?
I think it would be integrity. By that I mean if more of us said we were going to do something and then actually did it, I think the world would be a pretty awesome place. I don’t think it takes much, we meet a lot of people who say things like, ‘Oh yes I am not going to buy plastic bags anymore’, if they just remembered what they said at that moment and stuck by it, then it would be pretty epic. So integrity of words into actions, I think it’s something I really look for when I am hiring staff and in the people, I choose to spend my time with outside of work.
Beyond a proven ability for the job in question, I think being motivated by social action and not salary level is key to success in this line of work.
8. Give us your number one tip for how to be successful in an interview.
I would suggest being thoroughly prepared and knowing all you can about the organisation you are meeting with is critical. Other than that simply being yourself and being honest is the best way.
9. In your opinion, who’s a girl boss that’s killing it right now?
It would have to be Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, water with ethics. She is a formidable force in the social enterprise space and has done well to balance social value and financial growth aims. Belu, Divine, Rubies in the Rubble, From Babies with Love, all doing awesome work!
10. As women, how can we support each other to achieve our goals?
Do. Your. Thing…. and build a great team around you, of friends, family, and colleagues; if you have big plans, you will need some help!
Camilla will be one of the Female Founder panelists at a one of a kind event at LABS Holborn for International Women’s Day, Spoon Meets: A Panel of Female Founders. This Thursday, 9-10:30am, 136 High Holborn. We’d love for you to join us! Interested? Save your spot.
Photograph taken by Louise Haywood-Schiefer