Celebrating women in business, International Women's Day, IWD

International Women's Day: Meet the women behind Mr Lee’s

Author: Mr Lee's Team

Women in business are not celebrated enough and this week, to mark International Women’s Day, we sat down with some of the brilliant and talented women at Mr Lee’s to talk about their life, career, goals and values. From the operations and finance team to the marketing department, Mr Lee’s has a group of brilliant women that deserve recognition for their hard work and amazing achievements.

What does International Women’s day mean to you?

Francesca, Business Support Executive - It’s a day for women to get the recognition they deserve. It’s a celebration of how far we have come and, at the same time, it’s a reminder that there is still a long way to go. It helps us realise, as a society, that equality is essential and that gender shouldn’t define us. 

Kasia, Marketing and Communications Director - It’s a day when we celebrate the amazing social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women. It is a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on how far women have come, in terms of business particularly, but also to highlight some of the challenges that we face.

Ginny, Marketing Manager - A day to celebrate the achievements of women all around the world, past and present, and revel in the amazing things women can offer.

What do you think it means to be a woman today? 

Francesca - Being a woman is something very complex. For me it means not giving up and fighting to have a voice and a say in important issues not only in the professional world but also in my personal life. Being a woman also means being true to myself, celebrating other women’s achievements and empowering them wherever I can. 

Kasia - Being a woman today means overcoming adversity, using your voice to empower others to create positive change. It is strength and empowerment. Women today realise that helping other women to achieve their aspirations is just as important as achieving their own. 

Ginny - Being a woman is exciting, and I’d like to see a world where more women are proud to be who they are. We are powerful beings, we can create life! I think being a woman isn’t always easy, particularly in business, but everyday I’m heartened by stories of women all over the world achieving amazing things.

How did you start your career?

Francesca - It wasn’t until I was at university studying Journalism that I found something that motivated me, that one thing I truly saw myself choosing as a career path and doing for the rest of my life. 

I was fortunate enough that there was a cross-pollination between the courses of Journalism and Marketing and Public Relations at my university which allowed me to discover and fall in love with corporate communications. When I finished my degree I knew I wanted to specialise in this and I started working full-time teaching English to children in order to save up money to do a master’s. In September 2018 I moved to Bournemouth from Spain to start an MA in Corporate Communications. After two years of full days at work, followed by long evenings working on assignments and many weekends stuck at my desk I completed my course in August. I joined Mr Lee’s a little over a year ago whilst I was still studying and I am now working full-time in the marketing team. I’m so grateful to feel like I have just started my journey in the communications world, I’m eager to learn new things and have big aspirations for my professional career.

Kasia - My dream as a kid was to work with animals and becoming a vet was my dream job (just slightly ahead of paleontology), but I soon realised that this didn’t involve playing and cuddling animals all day and I also had to accept the sad truth that I’m not great at science. 

Not really knowing what my “new” dream job was, I went on to study Marketing and Management. During my time at university I did a Tour Leader course to follow my dream of travelling around the world but in order to do that I needed to improve my English so, in 2005 I moved to the UK from Poland. This was only supposed to be for a few months, but those months turned into over 15 years and I now call England ‘home’. 

I had a few admin jobs which made me realise I needed creativity and a bit of unpredictability at work to feel fulfilled and in the end I found a job advert for Online Marketing Administrator in a digital marketing agency. During the interview I was introduced to the term ‘SEO’ and learnt that you can actually influence Google rankings! Search Engine optimisation became my love for the following 7 years.

Four digital agencies later, in 2014 at a charity event I organised, I met Damien Lee and fell in love with the idea of working on a new brand of healthy noodles. Two years later I was one of the first employees of Mr Lee’s Pure Foods and it was more fun than I had ever imagined!

Ginny - At about 16, I thought I was going to be an actress in Hollywood and my life would be one of fame and fortune, it was a great dream but a little unattainable! I was convinced I wouldn’t go to University but applied anyway, at the last minute I was told I had a place on Bournemouth University’s renowned TV Production course and decided to take it. Three years meeting new people and playing around learning about TV, what’s not to love? It was an absolutely fantastic course and I met some amazing people who will be with me for the rest of my life. 

But as with many graduates, despite my best efforts, I struggled to find work in the area of my study, so I decided to learn business. I started my career at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme and quickly learnt the world of business, sales and marketing but more importantly - hard work! After a few years, I wanted to take forward my Marketing career and move into an area of interest for me - food! So I joined Petty Wood & Co, it was there I really cemented my knowledge of marketing and completed my CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing. I have worked in food and beverage since, and love it!

What motivates you to be successful?

Francesca - The possibility of growing both personally and professionally is what always pushes me to take up new challenges. Another aspect that really motivates me is seeing that my work is having an impact for the better. 

Kasia - There are a few things that motivate me, but the top 3 would be: making a difference - working towards the “better good”, success - knowing the fact that my hard work and perseverance pays off and is appreciated, personal development - the very fact that I am adding to my knowledge base is a big positive for me.

Ginny - My future self, I work hard to make the best opportunities for myself and my family, not just for now but also for the future. In 10 years time, am I going to look back on what I’m doing now and be proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished - I hope so!

Are there any positive role models who have helped you in your career?

Francesca - Both my parents. I have always admired their work ethic, strong sense of independence and fearless attitude. They were never afraid of new experiences, they both moved to a completely new country on their own and they built their teaching businesses from scratch. My father always supported me in everything I did and encouraged me to chase my dreams. He taught me that, above all, the most important thing in life is to be a person. 

Kasia - My parents had a huge influence on me, showed me that everything is possible and always supported me in everything I wanted to achieve, even the craziest ideas. Also my friends and colleagues who I saw succeeding, who were fearlessly following their dreams - they really inspire and motivate me.

Ginny - I’ve had some incredible mentors throughout my life, and have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people. But my parents have always been there, always there for mock interviews, to spell check my CV and encourage me to do what I feel is right for me without judgement or question. They’ve always been hugely supportive and I’m so grateful to have that.

Are there any women in business you look up to?

Francesca - I admire all those female public figures who speak out for women’s rights. I have been following Rihanna’s career closely and I’m amazed at what she has accomplished, not only has she built successful makeup and lingerie businesses, but she uses her platform to advocate and promote body positivity both for women and men and makes her clothes and makeup accessible to all types of people no matter their gender, age, size or colour.

Kasia - I’ve met a lot of amazing women over the years. They all had some common characteristics which I admire the most in people: integrity, authenticity, honesty, “to do” attitude, ambition and last but not least - caring for the team. The last point is particularly important as we can rarely achieve success on our own. The person who comes to mind here is Sunny Bird who not only runs her own successful PR agency, but has also recently started a Perfect Dress company and written a book while taking care of her young daughter. She shares all the glory equally with her whole team who have been helping her every step of the way in her projects, including them in all the celebrations, and giving kudos and appreciation for all the amazing work they are doing. There is a real sense of family and partnership in the team she created, heavily sprinkled by passion and great fun. Creating this kind of environment should be on the top of the agenda of every leader and for me is proof of success much more than any profits, and Sunny has perfected that.

Ginny - I’ve always looked up to the women around me, there hasn’t ever really been one woman in business who I’ve aspired to be as every woman in business that I’ve met manages their career differently. I suppose one person who I admire for what they’ve achieved (if I have to pick one) would be Holly Tucker, Not On The High Street founder, after a really difficult time she chose creativity as her healer, and through that experience found an opportunity to offer thousands of other creative souls a chance to get their product to market.

What advice would you give to young women growing up in today’s society?

Francesca - You are worth much more than your body and appearance. Never be afraid of trying new things and always be up for a challenge. Work on those skills and aspects that you think can stand out and add value to your job and don’t be afraid to speak up and have a say in the things going on in your business and your personal life. It’s important to have confidence in your abilities and know that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

Kasia - Dream big and don’t be intimidated because you do not have the right credentials, connections or come from a certain background. Be brave and don’t let anyone plant any insecurities in you. Surround yourself with people who empower you and believe in you, who inspire and appreciate you. Keep learning and trying things, be open to new experiences - you never know what you may like or what you may be good at. Don’t be afraid of change - embrace it!

Ginny - Don’t stop chasing your dreams, manifest them and believe you can achieve them. There may be a period in your life where all you think about is ‘fitting in’ or how you look, this is a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things and life is to short to put other experiences aside because of what you believe people think of you - 9 times out of 10 they don’t think those things anyway! Just be true to yourself and you will go far.

Mr Lees Team