She admits the business didn’t have much planned for last week’s International Women’s Day.
And I have to admit, I’m relieved to hear it.
Instead of focusing on one day to celebrate and support women, Irene is taking advantage of the untapped potential of women – particularly mums of school aged children – to help her business tip over the $20 million turnover mark this year, a massive 355% increase in revenue year on year.
It’s an impressive result for a business that’s less than four years old – as is the workplace policy that “no parent is allowed to miss a child’s sporting event.”
Irene tells me how a few years ago she got fed up with working the standard nine to five and feeling like she was completely missing out on seeing her children grow up.
Meanwhile, as a working mother feeling constantly exhausted and struggling to find genuinely organic, sustainable and cruelty free products, she saw an opportunity to start Nourished Life as an online store. The mum of four quit the corporate race shortly after having her second child.
“I had to sell my house and quit my job to do it,” she says. “I got out of my mortgage and ended up with $20,000 left over for rent. I sold my car to buy some stock and built the business up from nothing.”
She believes the business has grown so quickly first and foremost because of what it sells – organic products that are difficult to find anywhere else. It’s also Irene’s passion for purchasing sustainable, organic products that’s helped build an audience — something she initially proved through the popular blog she started prior to launching the store.
Irene recalls crying the first day she was able to collect her eldest child from school shortly after starting the business, and decided she wanted to build a workforce that gave parents the same opportunities.
“I deliberately wanted to set up a business that employed mums who could work between 9:30 and 2:30. I wanted to stick it to the corporates,” she says.
Around 15 mothers work permanent part time hours with Nourished Life – such as during school hours in the warehouse or three full days a week in the office, depending on their commitments outside of a work. Irene also has an “army” of students who can further assist out of hours and during school holiday periods.
“It’s about finding the right person – who is often a mum – and then finding a position that enables them to thrive. We don’t specifically hire women, but most of our customers are women, being a shopping website. Our audience is women. Our women help in recruiting other women. It just makes sense.” .
Irene is particularly proud of the fact she, and her employees, can make it to their kids’ sporting events. “You can just say, ‘I’m at the swimming carnival tomorrow, call me with any urgent messages. And you don’t have to have the guilt, and therefore the begrudged feeling that comes with your job.”
Concerned generally about the restrictions placed on working mothers in Australia due to the cost of childcare, inflexible working hours and the gender pay gap, Irene’s happy she’s able to successfully prove that offering flexible work hours and actively hiring working mothers generates results.
As she says to other women juggling multiple priorities, “Follow your gut and never be afraid of changing direction if it feels right.”