We had the pleasure of sitting down with the inspirational Mompreneur behind one of Dubai’s business stars, Hopscotch.work, Helen McGuire.
Mompreneurs WW: Tell us about your company
Helen: Hopscotch is a women’s careers platform that supports professional women by connecting them with forward thinking employers, creating back to work initiatives, and hosting events and training to move them onwards and upwards. We currently cater to women in the MENA and APAC regions.
Mompreneurs WW: How did the idea of starting it come about and who inspired you?
Helen: The idea came whilst on maternity leave with my first child back in the summer of 2015. I’d taken an 8month break from my role as Head of Digital Content at an international advertising agency and met many women at that time whose careers had been put on hold due to having children themselves. All were previous professionals in their chosen field and none could find suitable opportunities to return to work. From my own experience, I knew there was a need for part time, flexible, work from home or freelance talent in my industry and after a conversation with my husband (Founder of international recruitment company, MCG&), the URL for Hopscotch had been bought and research into the viability of a platform that connects the two began.
I returned to work a month later, fell pregnant with my second baby and left a couple of months before he was born to launch the business in April 2016. All the research, our own experience and my gut feeling told me there was a huge gap in the market, but as the first to market with such a new idea for the region we had no idea how it would be received… Thankfully, it’s gone from strength to strength since and we now have over 75k women in our community with huge plans for growth regionally and globally.
Mompreneurs WW: What is the best part of what you do and the toughest?
Helen: The best part is by far that every morning, no matter how tough it can be, I have a very good reason to open my laptop and get going. Hopscotch started with a feeling of sheer frustration at the number of talented, outgoing, smart women who were ‘left out’ of their own careers because employers had no access to them or simply weren’t thinking outside the box enough to include them. That feeling is still there. In fact, the day it’s not is the day I no longer have to open the office doors in the morning, metaphorically speaking. I will have done my job and effectively lost it at the same time!
The toughest is one of commitments: I have two children under four and expecting a third in January and this year we moved to Singapore to launch the brand here across Asia, as well as running it in MENA. My take on this is that I don’t see why I should have to compromise on either front – this is the time for the opportunity and if you want something to happen, you can’t expect other people to do it for you; it’s hard work and not the time for excuses. I am lucky that my husband is also entrenched in the brand and the work it’s taken to get to this stage, and also that I’ve built a good support system around me so that I can delegate on both the home and work front; that has been key for me.
Mompreneurs WW: How many kids do you have and how old are they?
Helen: I currently have two – Clementine who is 3 and Arlo who is 2.
Mompreneurs WW: How do you juggle work and life balance?
Helen: I do what’s necessary! We have a great helper, Juliet, at home who takes care of all the housework and also is excellent at keeping the kids amused when I’m working. They are at nursery Tuesday to Thursday, which helps give me the space for meetings and running the day to day of the business. I tend to work a full day on a Monday and try to keep Fridays flexible, but in terms of hours I work around the kids, which can mean daytimes, evenings, weekends – whatever it takes to get the many, many jobs done whilst also making time for them, their routine and their hobbies.
I’m also a great planner – I love a list and have six-month to five-year plans for both myself, the family and the business. I tend to find writing these down gives me something to aim for and acts as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy – I rarely don’t achieve the broad goals I’ve set and stick to what I love rather than what I feel I ‘should’ be doing.
Mompreneurs WW: What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Helen: I’m not a huge ‘self-help’ type when it comes to books, but I mix up my factual and fictional reads as often as I can get to read anything! Two books that stand out are ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell (and in fact any of his work) and ‘Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite’ by Paul Arden. They both demonstrate the power of being ‘different’ in a world that likes the well-trodden path and the in-line thinker.
Mompreneurs WW: What advice would you give a Mompreneur who was just starting out?
Helen: Don’t overthink it. If I’d have had any idea the trials and triumphs awaiting me when I’d hit send on a pile of press releases in April 2016 to kickstart the business…well, I might have been slightly afraid of the commitment in store! You can neither anticipate nor solve every issue or question at the point of planning; so answer what you can, get your plan in place and just go for it. You might be surprised where the journey takes you…
Mompreneurs WW: Your favorite quote is…
Helen: Winston Churchill’s ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’ has to be up there! It’s both sardonic and accurate – nothing bad (or good!) lasts forever and the only person who can change your circumstances is you, so just keep putting one foot in front of the other til you get to the other side.