After Circle In co-founders Jodi Geddes and Kate Pollard both experienced feeling isolated, misunderstood and overwhelmed after returning to work from having children, they felt it was time for a change. It was through this shared experience that their business Circle In was created.
This mumbitious pair strive to address the concerns of parents working in the corporate world with Circle In, which is now gone global.
Jodi chats with Carrie and Lucy about how, as a business owning parent, certain areas of your life will need to be prioritised over others at different times and how learning to say no isn’t a reflection on you as a woman or a business owner. If you find prioritising is a challenge in your life then this episode is going to give you some strategies to work through this.
00:00:02:20 - 00:00:15:22
When did you get your idea for your business for 42% of business owning women in Australia? It was when they were on maternity leave, 9% when they were pregnant. The concept of parenthood can expose the limitations of many things.
Sometimes our parents and sometimes our employers, we can discover a stark contrast. Hmm. Is this how my life is going to be versus this is how I'd like my life to be? Today's guest created her business Circle In to address these concerns from a really different perspective.
Jodi, together with her co-founder Kate Pollard, worked together and then shared an experience of feeling isolated, misunderstood and overwhelmed when it came to returning to work, presumably, after maternity leave. Going through these corporate and motherhood rites of passage has led to the creation of Circle In and now a global company that exist to support working parents in the corporate world.
00:01:02:10 - 00:01:15:14
Our first question to any business owning mother is always to hear her pitch, women should embrace every opportunity. They have to make introductions, connect with customers. So please, Jodi, we would love to hear your pitch.
00:01:15:16 - 00:01:39:22
Oh, thanks for the opportunity and look at Circle In. We work with progressive organisations globally to better support their working parents and caregivers, and we do this by developing a customized platform that supports parents and caregivers at every life stage with practical support, advice, inspiration and expert advice to really better navigate parenthood and having a career.
We work with over 70 progressive organizations globally and really excited that in the short space of time, we've been able to grow the company so quickly.
00:01:51:05 - 00:02:12:17
Amazing. You got such important work that you're doing at the moment. I've been following your journey from its very inception, so huge that it's gone global. Huge that you're working with 70 organizations and we love that you're creating that world where, you know, similar to us, you don't have to choose between your family and your work.
00:02:13:04 - 00:02:25:23
Yeah, it's been a crazy journey. I think for any business owner, we launched four and a half years ago and throw on top of that, a global pandemic. Sometimes I think, what are we doing like this is crazy.
But in saying that we have been able to get through the last couple of years and you know, last year we brought on board 23 new customers. We hired eight new employees. I think we got to the end of the year and we were burned out.
But it's one of those moments you stop and think, Wow, as business owners, we did that and we've navigated the pandemic and hopefully will come out of it much stronger as a result.
00:02:49:20 - 00:03:00:14
Jodi, you touching there and your phenomenal growth, particularly over the last couple of years, and I'm just wondering what is it that you've had to stop doing because we know also that you're a mum of two young children.
What is it that you have to stop doing in order to make home work and obviously facilitate this incredible growth of the business?
00:03:09:06 - 00:03:26:16
I have to laugh because what do I have, what if I stopped? It's almost like I feel like I've started so many things, you know, intensive. I'm busier and crazier than ever. But in terms of stopping, I think for me it's believing that work-life balance exists.
It doesn't. It really doesn't. And we'll probably touch on that at some point. It's tough being, you know, a full-time business owner. We're now working globally, so I'm doing early morning calls, late-night calls, managing a growing team.
Plus, I've got two small kids that need me right now. So Work-Life Balance doesn't exist in saying that there is a way to find it, so we'll no doubt talk about that. I think the other thing I've had to stop doing is saying yes to everything.
There was a point there where I felt compelled to say yes, but I'm getting much better at prioritising and being a lot more precious with my time. And I think you have to be. It's about prioritisation and not being afraid to say no. So that's definitely been something that I'm committed to this year and trying to say no.
00:04:42:15 - 00:05:05:11
Yeah, it's those boundaries and those parameters are so important because everyone has an agenda. You know, everyone is excited and they want to perhaps work with you. And I think that, prioritizing your focus is so important during that sort of rapid growth phase. What do you love the most about your business right now?
00:06:05:03 - 00:06:17:16
I think the thing I don't love is our strong social purpose. You know, I had an 18-year corporate career and that was fantastic, and it really set forth quite an eye out for success, I think, in running a startup because we launched the startup Early Forties, so very different to most people watching a startup in their twenties.
So I think it really set us up for success in that way. I think though, what I love is that I genuinely feel like I'm making a difference every single day. And, you know, I just came into my inbox in four comments from a partner that we've just launched this week and that just it feels like it makes me feel so proud to know that we are genuinely changing lives. And I think the other thing is I I love our team. You know, we've grown from two now to 25 and we work with exceptional people that again, share it, share a shared similar social purpose in creating a better world for parents and caregivers. And I think the other thing I love is that every day is a day of firsts. You know, we’re four and a half years into our journey and I have to say that there's not a day that goes by where I don't sit in front of my computer and think, Oh my goodness, how am I going to do this? What do I do?
There's always some new challenge that I'm navigating, and I do like that. I like the thrill of trying to find a way to do things and to learn new things. And the other thing is definitely building a global footprint.
I get genuinely excited by the global pace, and our big focus at the moment is launching in the US. So, you know, that in itself has just been the biggest learning curve. I mean, California is bigger than Australia.
And you know, you think of it like that, and it's just they work differently. We've just appointed our first employee in the US. Understanding employee rights and legislation like it's just there is so much to get your head around, let alone launching a new product there.
00:08:22:12 - 00:08:42:16
I can see that sense of, you know, every day there's a new challenge that's thrown at you, but being able to work through that challenge is brings its rewards and, you know, that sense of achievement. And you know, it's always that sort of nice, nice conflict in some ways, but amazing to see your growth, especially taking Circle In global.
00:08:46:11 - 00:09:05:05
And just on that point, Tony, obviously when you started out, that might have been the dream or, you know, it might have been a goal. And that growth has happened. What are the types of things that you've had to do within the business to protect yourself from risk as you've grown and now you're taking on international markets?
00:09:06:02 - 00:09:22:16
Yeah, it's a great question. I think first and foremost, you can't be a successful founder unless you have an appetite for risk, like you have to be OK with taking risks. And that's something that Kate and I definitely share.
I will say, though, it's about taking calculated risks. So I think one of the things that we've been really good at from the beginning is not being afraid to jump in and make decisions and move quickly. I think we've got fire in our belly and we want to be successful and keep growing the business.
But it's about being really clear as to what's a negotiable versus a non-negotiable. And for us, it's been about having an amazing CFO and a legal counsel team right beside us to support us on our journey. So we really use them for advice and a very clear now on when we need to use them from a risk perspective or versus actually we can make this decision ourselves. So risk is key, you know, making sure you have a risk management plan and that everything you do, you really looking at it from a risk perspective and making sure that you're prepared if something does go wrong.
00:10:25:11 - 00:10:43:13
Yeah, I particularly like what you said there about the importance of being okay with the risk as a founder, as a startup founder. I think that's so, so important and it isn't something that everybody's comfortable with. So I guess to have that in your back pocket as you're growing something like this has probably most obviously been a massive strength for you and Circle In.
00:10:46:21 - 00:11:01:24
Yeah, I think you are spot on. I mean, for us, you know, we decided early on to go down the investment path. That was a huge risk. We jumped into it and now we're just embracing it. You know, we decided to go global.
That's a huge risk, you know, hiring our first employee overseas. But you've got to take these risks to move forward. So again, it's been calculated with them and making sure that you're doing it in the right way.
But I truly believe that it's one of the key values that you need to have to be a successful founder.
00:11:24:02 - 00:11:44:05
I agree not being risk-averse. Bring it on. It's a bit like parenting, really, and that's kind of my leads nicely into my next question. Circle In was actually born after you became a mum. What would you say are the three transferable skills that you found to be most useful between running a business and motherhood?
00:11:45:04 - 00:12:02:03
Well, let's face it, I think mothers are the most productive workers and can juggle more balls than anyone I know. But, you know, I think it's about being OK that some balls will drop sometimes, and that's OK. But knowing which balls can drop and which can't.
In terms of transferable skills, I mean, they are kind of the common ones multitasking. It's one of the biggest challenges of motherhood, and I think that's really what set Kate and I up in that. I do believe that they're one of our biggest strengths and that we can multitask.
And you know, there are times in the day where I move between doing and admin tasks right through to talking with the US investor and being able to juggle all of those balls at the same time, probably thinking about school pick up.
So definitely, you know, the multitasking pace, I think prioritisation, what's important, what's not? What can I control? What can I control? I think as mothers we're always prioritizing that we're always thinking about prioritization. And so that's definitely a skill that I use every day and I start my day with a list. I still write in an old school notebook in my list and prioritise what's important. What are the things I have to do versus what can move to the next day? And I think the last skill I will say is passion. I think as a mother, we're passionate about our children.
We want what's best for them, and I think it's no different when you're running a business, it's like my other baby. I'm passionate about Circle In and I want to see it succeed and give it everything. I give it 100% just like I do to my kids because I want it to be successful, just like I want them to be successful.
00:13:35:10 - 00:13:47:13
That's amazing, passion is a beautiful answer.
00:13:47:18 - 00:14:05:17
Passion is a beautiful answer and obviously also fundamental to the undercurrent of parenting as you've said. So you've talked beautifully there about the way that you're trying to balance those parental responsibilities with work life.
And that's obviously very central to the work that you're doing at Circle the support that you providing other parents at mums. And we like to call that striving toward some kind of balance as harmony. So how would you describe the shape of a perfect life for you?
00:14:25:13 - 00:14:43:23
I don't think there is a perfect lot. And I truly believe that Work-Life Balance doesn't exist, so, you know, it's something with something that I personally struggle with, like I'm a Virgo I have that perfectionism nature. So I ultimately want the perfect life, but I'm getting much better at knowing that it doesn't exist.
I think it's about for me, first and foremost, putting my family first. And, you know, one of the things that I really strive to do as a founder, you are working nonstop. You always working. There's always something to do.
But I try not to let my kids say that. So, you know, when I'm with them, I try to be present. So my husband and I, you know, one of the great things that have come out of Covid is that we're now a little more present and being able to do school drop-offs and pick up.
So, you know, it's about having that quality time in the morning. Likewise, pick up in the afternoon and take them to school activities, get them to bed, and then I might be logging on and doing more work. So for them, they're not seeing me working constantly. In saying that I don't shy away from being a working parent. You know, I think it's a really nice thing for them to grow up and see me as a proud business owner and working full time so that is something that is important. But mum guilt is real, and I've had an episode this week where I did cry.
I missed the first school drop off for my daughter on Tuesday. I had a US pitch. But the reality is I can't do everything. So you know, I think that really brings us to the point that there is no perfect life.
I think what I would say, though, it's about, you know, whilst I say Work-Life Balance doesn't exist, it's about thinking about what's important to it at that particular point in time. There are times when the career is a little it's going to take over maybe family for a little bit because you might be in the middle of something really important. So it's about working out at what points are the roles that different aspects of your life play. I often think of it like a circle or a pie chart, and kind of each of them are going to expand or decrease at certain points.
So knowing sometimes career is most important, other times family and the times it's friends, it's okay. It's not that they're all the perfect size and playing an equal role.
00:16:51:20 - 00:17:03:13
Yes, every time I hear someone describe it as I feel a sense of relief and I've heard Carrie describe it that way too, it's being okay with the flow of it in the flow of things and knowing something's come up and something's come down.
And that's just, I think if we can embrace that as a collective group of women, as business owners, we're encouraging each other to be OK with those moments when, yeah, we do have conflicting priorities.
00:17:16:01 - 00:17:30:16
Yeah. And we're always going to have conflicting priorities. So again, it comes back to prioritisation and working out in that particular day or even that particular hour. What's the most important thing for me? I block three to four every single day I do school pick up.
That's important to me and my team know that you know, it's blocked out. We don't do meetings over that time. There's sometimes when I don't get there, you know, there will be a meeting, but I try my best to get there as much as I can.
00:17:46:14 - 00:18:12:21
And I love that. I'm always reminded of what we call harmonizing our ambition, livelihood and well-being because all those parts are really important to us. And it's like that orchestra when you're trying to. Blend sounds like some instruments have to be louder at some points, and some instruments have to be softer at some points and throughout the whole musical piece, you're looking for overall harmony.
00:18:17:21 - 00:18:21:06
Oh, I love that that's a much better way of describing it than a pie chart.
00:18:22:06 - 00:18:42:19
No, I love that too. And it's just something that always resonated with me. So I think we all play a great role in being OK with prioritising things when something needs to be more, prioritize embracing ambition when it's right in front of you.
Embrace those weeks where you've got an occasional sick child or you've got, you know, important milestones at school and you need to be there.
00:18:51:23 - 00:19:05:14
And being OK with some people's drop. Like, you know, we can't we're juggling lots of balls that are going to be balls that drop, but working out which balls can't drop and which ones can.
00:19:07:01 - 00:19:26:03
And not being too hard on ourselves, which I know we can get stuck into now, I did. This is probably why we did have a question here because I'm really, you know, I've known how you and Kate show up with grit and tenacity and professionalism and warmth all the time.
And it's co-founders of Circle in what would be your number one piece of advice for business-owning women who are actually considering teaming up with a friend or a colleague?
00:19:36:22 - 00:19:58:01
Do it, do it. I will say, though, look, to be honest, I could not do this journey on my own with Kate, and I say that all the time. We feel very fortunate that we found each other and we've started the business together and we're best mates, we’re fantastic colleagues.
She is such a huge part of my life now and I feel very blessed for that. I think that there are a couple of things, though, that make our partnership successful. I'll share with you a couple and I've seen others try to go into business together and it has worked and it's because of some of these things. So the first is that our values are aligned and we were very, very clear from the outset as to kind of what we wanted to achieve with the business and what our values were. So for us, there is alignment there.
The other thing is we have a shared vision. We are absolutely on the same page with everything we do. We often laugh because we'll write the same email. We'll say the same thing at the same time. So we're very aligned in where we want to go with the business, what we want the business to be in the type of culture that we want to build. And I think the last thing in this is to me, I think one of the most important things is we have a similar work ethic. So I've seen, you know, women go into business together and it does not work because of that reason in that. I've had someone come to me before and say, I'm struggling because I feel like my business partner isn't doing as much or isn't as committed as I am. So I think that's really important that you have values, vision and work ethic all aligned.
If you've got those three, I think you've got the ingredients for a really strong partnership. So for women considering it? Absolutely. Do it. But make sure you have those really honest conversations upfront and be really, really clear as to why you're doing it and the type of partnership you want to have.
00:21:44:04 - 00:22:06:17
No, I think it's great advice. And I would strongly agree. I'm a bit whilst I'm not a, you know, I've sort of led one business solo as a sole founder and the other one. We've had a great sort of investment backing, but it is those values that so need to be aligned.
And if you can find that co-founder to do with that business partner to jump in with you, there's going to be such high highs and lows lows. Sharing those moments together keeps you going.
00:22:21:07 - 00:22:39:01
I know, and a little tip even could be, you know, do a personality test the free online? Jump on in and actually say, do your traits align? So Kate and I did one recently with that team. And it was so interesting because we both had perseverance come up as one of our top traits, but no one in the team did. And I think that's a key trait that you need to have as a founder. Like, we never give up. We've got fire in our bellow and we always find a way to make something happen. So I think that could this some really simple things that you can do that are free online to really test if you are compatible? It's almost like dating. You want to make sure you find the right long term partner.
00:23:03:06 - 00:23:15:20
Yeah. And you've spoken beautifully there about the support that you and Kate provide to each other. And our support networks are so much a part of what we do here at Mums and Co the end co in our name.
That's what we refer to there when we're recognizing the support of our community. And that's like you have a business partner or our parents, our spouses, our friends and our clients. Aside from Kate, and I've heard you mention your husband, too.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Co that supports you and Circle In to do the amazing work you're doing?
00:23:36:20 - 00:23:52:24
Yeah. Well, I mean, our Co is is huge and it is our everything. I think you can't be successful if you think you to do it alone and not rely on people out there to support you. I mean, we're really fortunate we met Carrie years ago early on.
And whilst you know, it's not like we're talking every month. She's part of our Co and we know we can lean on one another and even being here today is a testament to that.
I think I'd kind of put it into three buckets and that is, you've got your cheerleaders, which I'd kind of put Carrie and others into, you know, amazing females out there that are cheering and so on and are huge fans.
But you're not really connecting with them, but you just know they're in your corner. We've got advisors and they're just people that you know in our networks, again, applying a bit more of a supportive role, whether it's a mentor or a sponsor, they're really there to support and guide us.
So we've got a number of advisors. They will play different roles throughout the journey. And I won't lie it's I think why we've got to where we have today. You know, we've been able to show a level of vulnerability to them, go to them in the hard times they've lifted this up and we'll go to them in the good times. And then last year, our investors, we decided to go down the investment path at the end of one. It's a big step, and that's probably a whole nother discussion, which I'm happy to do around raising investment as a female.
Once we took that step, we've never looked back and our investors are our family now, and we are very fortunate that we've got the right investors behind us again. Kate and I went a little bit of a different approach to finding investors for us as it was about finding investors that shared our values.
So we were very careful as to who we spoke to in making sure that they embraced us as family and not as a business to churn and burn. So we go to them now. They often say to us, we want to be the first person you call with good news and the first person you call with bad news. And that's exactly how we approach them. They're there to guide us. So for us, you know, pur Co is our everything, but I think it's about knowing who falls in which bucket, how the role they play and importantly, not being afraid to ask for help when you need to.
00:26:15:18 - 00:26:37:01
Very wise. There is those sort of different tiers like I hear that you sometimes need, you know, the CO that supports your personal life and the Co that supports your professional life and you've given the sort of even more segmentation in terms of the different co within that professional running your business.
I love it and I love being your cheerleader because there are lots to cheer about what you guys are doing and the impact you're making for working parents across the world.
And speaking of supporting women, women, supporting women, we have coined the term mumbition, which is the unapologetic blending of ambition and motherhood. Who would you like to see who the ambitious, would you like to say hello to and give a bit of a shout out?
00:27:09:11 - 00:27:28:07
Oh, there's a couple. Liz has kind of been cheerleader of Al since early on, and I think they're the people that you can't forget. Sheree at OneRoof, who's building a lovely online community and is just such a huge supporter of women, and she was instrumental.
We had our first co-working space at One Roof. And she's been in our corner ever since Ali from Feather and Noise. It's an online clothing store. But again, Ali is the biggest cheerleader and has the kindest, most generous heart.
She has over 100,000 now in her community, and what she does for working parents, for moms is extraordinary. And yeah, I feel very grateful that she has again supported us early on, and the last would be Sheree, the Digital Picnic.
I think she's doing amazing things. She now has a community of over 50,000. She's recently rented a unit and is providing that to women who are experiencing domestic violence like that is extraordinary. So she's just going over and above just to do amazing things every day.
So there are three women that Kate and I are very proud to say, are cheerleaders of ours and vice versa.
00:28:45:01 - 00:28:53:03
Gorgeous, gorgeous, strong women.