Best Friends Jodi Geddes and Kate Pollard started Circle In as a resource to help parents and organisations to better navigate the juggle of working and parenting in tandem. It’s no secret that parents struggle to transition and adjust to a new way of working once they have children, and organisational structures, policies and cultures still haven’t yet changed enough to reflect the needs of career couples, single parents or in fact much of a departure from the traditional male breadwinner model.
Across industries, research highlights that the ‘leaky talent pipeline’ of women from corporate careers is caused by a lack of flexible work, forward thinking job design, supportive organisational culture and leadership and systems that adequately support this life transition.
Circle In is a valuable resource and supportive community for new parents, and particularly new mothers transitioning between work and parenthood, and then back to work. Jodi and Kate have also developed innovative partnerships with organisations including Medibank, L’Oréal and Cotton On Group, who want to redefine how they support working parents.
Tell us how Circle In began.
Circle In was born from frustration at not being able to find smart, insightful and practical advice affecting working mothers. We both both held each other’s hands through two babies each and full-on careers, and we were always talking about big and small questions around work and family. When we returned to work, our confidence suffered big time. We knew the need was real and we wanted to help women coming after us. 3 years on and over 1,000 conversations with working parents and experts, our online community has now become the go to platform for working parents.
Based in Melbourne but working across Australia, we have a growing team that is passionate about driving real change. We have BIG plans for 2019!
How did you approach building an online community for women juggling work and family?
We spent an enormous amount of time researching our target market to ensure the need was real. To us, this is critical to ensure you are not only meeting the right need, but that you are also providing the right solution. Our research told us very early on that 76% women are worried about their career when going on parental leave. That was enough to really get us moving! We tested various models and landed on the current model which has proved a real success.
In terms of building a community, we have always focused on organic growth, a strong social presence and word of mouth. We have a strong brand and always stayed true to who we are and what we believe in. We receive a lot of comments on our brand and it is something we are proud of and worked hard on.
What is the feedback from Circle In’s community on the biggest issues facing parents at work?
Where do we start? Guilt, self-care, resilience, understanding the parental leave and child care system and the list goes on. Our community is very engaged and very vocal, so we are fortunate that they really tell us what they want to know and what they feel. Parents want to see change and are right there beside us in driving that change. We are very passionate about moving the conversation from working mothers to working parents, so let’s hope we can can see some real change soon.
Aside from the big topics, parents find strength and motivation from reading our real stories. Stories about everyday working parents and their tips and advice around different topics. This is the biggest driver to our site and what we are best known for. We profile all types of working parents and you have no idea how many times we have heard parents say ‘I just so wish Circle In was around when I had my young children.’
Tell us about your program partnering with corporates to redefine parental leave.
With a strong and credible brand recognised by parents, we launched Circle In For Business in June 2018 to help organisations radically improve how they support working parents. Our unique “stay in touch program” includes a customised portal for employees with updates on company information. It includes many different elements including online masterclasses, employee real stories and practical resources.
The response has been incredible and we now partner with forward-thinking companies including Medibank, L’Oréal and Cotton On Group.
Your greatest challenge?
Scale. It’s the tension between staying small or growing too quickly. When it was just the two of us, things were in some ways easier but the workload was intense. We worked every weekend all year. Now that we have a team, the workload has obviously eased but we now have greater pressures in other areas.
For us, our business is growing so quickly and we are working hard to keep up with the pace. What we have learnt is the value of strong advisors around you to help you address your blind spots, ensure you stay focused and support you when needed. Our advisors have supported us the entire way and we owe so much to them.
What are you most proud of?
Everything! Growing Circle In and achieving the numbers we have. Launching with high profile partners that we just love working with every single day and seeing real results from our program. Receiving new emails daily from women across Australia thanking us for what we do. And finally, for genuinely doing something some meaningful and driving a positive change for working parents. Fair to say that we go to work each day feeling pretty lucky and thankful that this has all happened.
Advice for future female leaders?
As a start up, you are often nervous to put yourself out there and ask for something. Whether it be media, collaborations, investors or asking someone for a coffee.
We were given advice by a senior journalist early on who told us to not be afraid to ever ask the question. As she pointed out, what is the worst thing that could happen? They say no! And so, from that point we have not been afraid to put ourselves out there and ask for what we want or need. We have asked for everything including working with new partners, asking advisors or investors for a coffee, emailing CEOs directly, presenting new ideas to media, engaging collaborators and so on.
The impact it’s had is huge. It has enabled us to start new conversations we never thought possible. It has also given us confidence in so many ways. Not just confidence in our product and vision, but in ourselves personally.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.
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