Member Feature: Celia Hodson, Hey Girls
Sometimes I just need to speak with someone who's been there and done that. Someone who can say, yes we tried that and this was the result, or even watch out for X, Y and Z. I'm all for learning by doing but sometimes I'd rather take on board someone else knowledge if it's going to save valuable time and save us from costly mistakes
Last year, Celia Hodson won Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the Summit Entrepreneurship Awards, we caught up with her a year on for a quick chat to see how business is going.
Celia how’s business going?
Gosh, where do I start? It's going great guns. I find it hard to believe we only set out to do something about Period Poverty in January 2018. Feels like a lifetime ago as I've taken on board so much great learning. We recently moved to a new home so it feels wonderful to have our amazingly talented team of ten under one roof at Hey Girls HQ in Musselburgh.
We now have product listings in Asda, Waitrose, the Coop and Scotmid with a pharmacy chain and national health store offering us listings later this year. Those, independent retail stores and online sales are very important but still a very small part of our turnover with the majority of our activity coming from public sector Period Poverty and private sector Period Dignity contacts. We support most Scottish schools and public sector spaces with products and our B2B Period Dignity initiative sees corporates signing up every day to put free period products in their washrooms because its the right thing to do - just like offering hand soap and paper towels - team members need period products when they are at work.
The best part of this is that all sales are matched box for box with local donation partners. So whether its H&M, Xero or Hamden Park putting products in their washrooms or Waitrose stocking up 290 stores, its all matched to a local partner who receives the donations. Though customers buying our products, together we have been able to donate over 5.6 million products in just 18 months. That quite a lot of tampons!
What do you see as your biggest challenge for the year ahead?
Going from just me and my kitchen table to a new HQ in Musselburgh has been an interesting shift. Not only in the way we work as a team but for me to understand I have to let someone else in our fabulous team lead on areas of the business if I want it to scale. Not easy when you are a perfectionist with a ridiculously high bar around brand and quality - and if I'm honest just about every other part of the business.
The biggest challenge I guess is the same for every start-up - cash flow and stock projections. We've been trying to build up extra stock as who knows what Brexit is going to mean to us all but given our speed of growth we are moving through stock very quickly. We've recently moved from ordering 20ft containers to 40ft containers each month so that should bring some comfort around volumes available. We've recently brought our product packing in-house and expanding our team to meet demand. It feels great to be able to offer roles to local parents who want a job that fits in around schools drop off and pick up. Its very important to me that we are able to build family friendly working patterns into our business model.
You are part of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Community – What’s the biggest value in a peer – network?
Sometimes I just need to speak with someone who's been there and done that. Someone who can say, yes we tried that and this was the result, or even watch out for X, Y and Z. I'm all for learning by doing but sometimes I'd rather take on board someone else knowledge if it's going to save valuable time and save us from costly mistakes. I feel fortunate to have been introduced to several seasoned entrepreneurs though ES who have all been extremely generous with their time and expertise. That kind of 'money can't buy' knowledge you only gain from someone who has set something up isn't always that easy to access if you're not sure where to start. It would appear that ES members emotionally sign up to supporting those who reach out for specific advice and guidance. Hugely valuable.
Tell us what Scotland needs to do to become the most entrepreneurial society in the world?
I'm under no illusion that Hey Girls would not have got off to such a flying start had we decided to set up in England. The enterprise support infrastructure and business networks across Scotland are amazing and there is a clear route map for all stages of growth. Our social enterprise culture is particularly strong in Scotland with a willingness to introduce enterprise leaders to other agencies who are better placed to support them in the next phase in their journey is a winning recipe. So I guess more of the same and finding new ways to showcase that Scotland is a superb place to set up or grow business. Access to business support, talented team members, office and creative space to grow in to and financial support all set out a compelling case for relocation.