Good Housekeeping (UK)

EMPOWERED WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN

To celebrate Internatio­nal Women’s Day on 8 March, four inspiring leaders share how they are bringing other women up the ladder with them

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Four inspiring leaders reveal how they’re helping other women

‘I love to help other women succeed’

Entreprene­ur Chrissie Rucker OBE is grateful for the love and support she has had building up The White Company. It’s why she feels so strongly about helping others fulfil their dreams, too.

At school, I didn’t thrive. I was dyslexic, not academic and painfully shy. I began to find myself when I started making clothes and I would spend hours sewing. I left school at 16 to study couture design and worked on magazines including Brides and Harper’s & Queen (now Harper’s Bazaar). Meeting my husband, Nick Wheeler, was the catalyst for The White Company. He had started his own shirt-making business, Charles Tyrwhitt, was working very long hours and clearly loving it. When he asked me to help find the basics for his first house, I found it harder than I expected. Everything seemed to be patterned and I longed for simple white items that were easy to put together for a relaxed, cohesive look.

I was certain there was a gap in the market, especially when I called department stores and discovered more than 50% of bed linen sales were white. Fired up, I decided to fill the gap and found suppliers to create my first range. I left my job at Harper’s and The White Company launched in 1994 as a 12-page mail order brochure, which I posted to my friends, and friends of friends.

I was 24 and naive. I said to myself: ‘I’ll give this my best shot for a year and if it doesn’t work, I will get another job.’ I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that it would take off like it did.

Over the years, there were times when it was incredibly hard work. I knew I couldn’t build the business alone and I’d need an amazing team to make it happen. Six years in, I took on my first managing director and since then, I’ve always worked in the office three days a week and from home on Mondays and Fridays.

I think of The White Company as my first child and I am still as passionate about it. But it’s always been important to Nick and I to have balance in our lives and to spend plenty of time

with our son and three daughters who are aged from 16 to 24. I always try to finish work at 6pm – after that, I get brain fog – and we keep weekends free for seeing friends and being active.

Every year, I reassess what’s going on and where it’s important for me to focus the time I can give to the business. There was a period when I was really not coping at all and I came close to selling it, but then, I got through that. You learn to prioritise; you learn to manage your time better. You also learn to work out what you are going to spend time on and what you’re not.

I often reflect that I wouldn’t be doing what I do today without all the love, help, encouragem­ent and support I’ve received along the way. I have mentors I trust implicitly and they are the people I go to for advice. Not everyone has this, and we need to help empower others and support the next generation on their journey.

I have been involved with The Prince’s Trust for 12 years. It does amazing work helping young people at challengin­g times in their lives. In 2018, I started the Women Supporting Women campaign within the Trust. The mission is to help empower and inspire young women to build their own futures through work, training or education. On Internatio­nal Women’s Day, we raise vital funds when big brands support the #Changeagir­lslife campaign. In the first year, we had 27 companies involved and I am hoping there will be a least twice as many in 2021.

My dream is to persuade every woman to help change the lives of young women who, through no fault of their own, face huge challenges. We all have times in our lives when we don’t know which direction to turn, and I believe it is the power of conversati­on that is often the catalyst to help us find a way through.

To make a donation or pledge support to The Prince’s Trust: Women Supporting Women, visit princes-trust.org.uk/women

I have mentors I trust implicitly

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