With roots in the early 20th century, International Women’s Day has been fighting for women’s rights for more than a century. Now an annual initiative, it continues to battle for gender equality through its yearly campaigns. To mark 2018‘s theme of #PressForProgress, we caught up with sisters and entrepreneurs Rebecca and Clare Hopkins who are challenging female stereotypes through the work they have done and continue to do with their skincare brand, Balance Me.
In a world where many businesses are controlled – and financed – by men, it is refreshing to see one doing things differently. Step forward natural skincare Balance Me. Founded in 2005 by sisters Rebecca and Clare Hopkins, they have pooled their collective experience (Rebecca has worked for big names such as L’Oreal while Clare was previously at HSBC), to start, run and oversee something that not only incorporates their joint interests of natural skincare and wellbeing but also plays to their strengths. ‘We have very different skills that complement each other,’ notes Rebecca. ‘Clare is the ‘publisher’ and I am the ‘editor’ in our business relationship. It’s a true family business and even our parents play a role!’
Despite this familial support, Rebecca and Clare are still very much at the forefront of Balance Me, which not only allows them greater control but puts them on the frontline of what’s happening in the world of business. ‘Since 2005 we’ve seen a huge surge in female entrepreneurs,’ observes Clare. Some of this increase will have been down to each woman’s sheer determination but large corporations also have some part to play. ‘Our bank, NatWest, has been particularly proactive in supporting our business journey. We’ve benefitted from their Focused Women’s Network Programme and participated in a digital advertising campaign last year, created by M&C Saatchi, which was very focused on supporting female entrepreneurs.’
Their success has also enabled them to give back over the years, as Rebecca explains. ‘We’ve taken part in mentor programmes, networking initiatives and industry seminars to share our journey and support fellow working women.’ As well as supporting other women, both are very aware of what their daughters are up against in terms of gender equality. ‘We are very open with our daughters, who range in age from seven to 13,’ comments Clare. ‘We feel they are very inspired that we run a successful business and they enjoy popping into the office so they can meet our team and appreciate the fact we have a diverse workforce who are extremely dedicated and hard-working.’
Both women are also aware of the importance of initiatives such as International Women’s Day. ‘It is extremely significant,’ emphasise Rebecca. ‘The fact that we are sisters and women who have founded and built our own successful business makes us very proud. It takes guts and patience and a whole lot of enthusiasm to face all the challenges that running a business can throw at you!’
As Rebecca and Clare know, challenges never cease to exist, especially for small businesses. ‘One of our greatest challenges is being heard in such a crowded market,’ says Rebecca. ‘The key is to focus on our customer and ensure we are where she is when she is shopping and we are communicating where she is consuming.’ Despite this, Balance Me’s core values are still the same as they were 12 years ago. These include harnessing powerful natural ingredients, never using sulphates, parabens or microbeads and being honest with the customer. ‘We were one of the pioneering brands who were confident enough to put the natural percentage of each product on the front of its packaging and we continue to do this today,’ states Rebecca. It is this confidence and willingness to take on and overcome challenges that makes Rebecca and Clare truly inspiring. Happy International Women’s Day all.
Photography by Michelle Beatty