On the up · 29 August 2018

“I’ve received positive discrimination because I’m female” said Papersmiths co-founder

Papersmiths is all about celebrating paper and stationery and they now have retail stores in Brighton, Bristol and Shoreditch, with a fourth store opening in Chelsea this September.

As part of our Women in Micro Business series,We caught up with Sidonie Warren, the co-founder of Papersmiths to find out what opportunities have come her way through being a female business owner.

What challenges can women expect to face in business?

There can be all manner of problems to solve in business. Regardless of gender, if we have a positive attitude and have high expectations, that’s what we’ll experience more of.

Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?

I don’t know, and perhaps we need to be asking, how do we increase the number of women on this planet who are doing what fulfills them?

And to that question, I’d say that the number is increasing but it needs a lot of work and I’d like to be involved in finding ways to increase this figure and empower women to do what they love.

What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?

We need diversity as individuals, as businesses and as markets in order to evolve.

I think the current understanding is that having more women in business results in a more feminine-centered model for business. This includes bringing receptivity, intuition, empathy, reflection and compassion into the world of business.

However, these qualities needn’t be limited to women. All humans have the capacity to use these skills. Just as women can draw on their masculine qualities and bring fire, assertiveness and action to business, men can be intuitive and receptive.

There’s also an expectation that women in business need to be masculine in their approach in order to succeed in business. I behaved in this way in business at the beginning of my career. I hope that a greater female influence in business will increase the presence of these positive qualities, fostering change in the way businesses are run.

Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?

I’ve found I’ve received positive discrimination because I’m female. PR opportunities come because women in business is a big conversation right now. My business partner is male and we have a laugh about it.

How do you handle knockbacks?

I reflect. I ask myself questions. Why isn’t this working? What am I trying to achieve here? Is there another pathway to achieving this goal? If I find myself fighting it, I ask myself why.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?

It’s the most incredible experience! It’s challenging, exciting and fulfilling. It can be stressful and difficult.

I would advise getting to know yourself and what you like. I’d recommend starting the business with a plan of what you want to achieve and structuring the business in a way that works for the lifestyle you want to have including when to exit.

I’d advise being very careful about finance and how to fund the business, considering options and how financial commitments will impact you.

What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?

Crucially, mentorship and advisory programs for school-aged children would be beneficial to plant the seed that running a business is an option.Early stage startup advisory services which are informal and easily accessed would be wonderful.

Sharing of contacts is always useful. Crash courses in finance, investment and options for growth, especially for women. We’ve been exploring the investment route for the past six months and I’ve yet to meet a single female investor.

How do you hope your business to develop in the future?

I hope to develop the business to have an increasingly positive social impact, to continue to be a platform for our whole team to express their creative ideas, for our purpose to be more important to us than the numbers game and for us to continue to be successful so that we can create jobs in a happy environment and enable our customers to work on their own creations with inspiring products.

Who are your business heroes?

Alex Chung, founder of Giphy, whose mission is to make everything move.

And Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. My friend Sim lent me Chouinard’s book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ about a year ago and I dip into it a lot. In it, Chouinard expresses his belief that a vital role he plays is going out and gauging the temperature of the world, and bringing that experience and insight back to the business. This wisdom that made me rethink my value in the business.

Travelling, researching and experiencing the world inspires me and I bring back ideas. I love to collaborate with other business and see how they do things.

Most recently we collaborated with Xero on a range of stationery their Accountex expo stand. We worked together to create a mini Papersmiths shop so that Xero could showcase how their software works.

We’ve collaborated with them a few times over the past year and they’re also my business heroes because they support small businesses like us and are fun to work with. They are really turning accounting on its head!

What are you reading at the moment?

The Energy of Emotions by Emily Maroutian.

Which one song is always on your playlist?

I make different playlists all the time. My favourite album at the moment is Green Twins by Nick Hakim.

Where was your last holiday?

I’ve spent a lot of time in New York state this year for a mixture of research in the city and chilled time and studying upstate. I took a mini road trip in the Catskill mountains with one of my best friends.

When are you happiest?

In nature. Whether I’m staring at the sky while lying on a blanket in Highbury Fields or watching the sunset on Chesil Beach, connecting to the bigger picture makes me happiest.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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