"It can be really isolating working for yourself and loneliness is something that people don’t really talk about that much but it’s so prevalent in people who work for and by themselves. I wanted to provide something that would help with that, something that would allow people to feel surrounded by others in the same boat, even if they were thousands of miles apart."
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of individuals deciding to take the plunge and start up their own business. However, it has been a tough time for many seeking employment this year, as furlough and redundancies have made the job market increasingly competitive. Being a small business in 2020 was tough, especially with isolation heightened by the pandemic and a lack of financial support from Government.
Coven Girl Gang is the online platform that seeks to make this process a little less daunting, providing a community rich in advice, support and sisterhood for the women who are wanting to set up their own businesses. We caught up with Sapphire Bates, founder of Coven Girl Gang to learn more about the importance of female freelancers and creating an inclusive and accessible space for them.
Hey Sapphire! First things first, I would love to know what prompted you to take that leap of faith and start your own business?
I ended up starting my own businesses because I’d been travelling around Thailand and was running out of money. I’d quit my job to go and I couldn’t bear the thought of having a boss again, I wanted more freedom! So, I decided (with a nudge from my mum) to open a flower studio as I’d previously trained as a junior florist and I couldn’t think what else I’d start a business in!
Why do you think it's so important to offer support to female freelancers?
Because it can be really isolating working for yourself and loneliness is something that people don’t really talk about that much but it’s so prevalent in people who work for and by themselves. I wanted to provide something that would help with that, something that would allow people to feel surrounded by others in the same boat, even if they were thousands of miles apart.
The Coven Girl Gang works as a bit of a social media connecting self-employed women, are you aware of any great collaborations that have come out of your platform?
Yes! Tons, our members collaborate with each other daily. We have a segment called Love Letters where members can leave a love note for another member. We read loads where people have worked together on a project or teamed up to do something. Connecting and collaborating is a huge part of what we do.
What exactly do you offer freelancers in the gang? And what do you think is the most beneficial for members?
We offer many different things. We have online workshops (a library of them and live one’s every month), business worksheets, virtual think tanks, an online directory, virtual coffee mornings, an online book club and most importantly what we offer is community. The whole point of The Coven is to make people feel less alone so what we provide is community, a space where you can feel accepted, make friends, meet business partners, and share the highs and the lows. We bring people together.
What advice would you give to those struggling with feelings of isolation during the process of running a new business?
Well, of course, top of the list is join The Coven, that’s what we’re here for but all jokes aside, find other people, either virtually or physically, who run businesses too. Support is everything, having a community or even just someone you can WhatsApp to say wow today is a lonely one and to receive a comforting response can mean so much.
How do you tailor your network and brand to ensure that it is accessible for everyone?
This is a really important thing for us at The Coven. When I built the platform, I really wanted it to be a place where anyone and everyone who identifies as female could come to gain support. We do this in several ways, firstly we don’t say who can, and who can’t join, if you identify as female and you like the look of our community then you’re welcome. Secondly, I work with a diversity and inclusion coach, the incredible Vanessa of High Fifteen, who is an absolute legend and has taught me so much about improving our platform to ensure it’s accessible to everyone and everyone feels safe inside our community. I also often ask our members to tell us how we could do better, we have an anonymous survey twice a year where we collect feedback from all of our members. What we’re doing well, what we aren’t, how we could improve, how we could make them feel a bigger part of the community - our member’s feedback is the most important thing to us. I’m constantly learning day on day how to make the community a better space for everyone, it’s constant work but so worth it.
What would be your advice for those thinking of going freelance?
A difficult question because the journey is so different for everyone. I would say remember that there is no right and wrong in business. When you work for yourself you make up the rules, be brave, take calculated risks and try your best. You really don’t know until you try. Running a business is all about making mistakes and then learning from them. It can be a rough ride but it’s a fun one for sure.
What are your hopes for the future with The Coven?
At this point in time I don’t really know what the future holds for The Coven. I don’t always plan really far ahead, at the moment the team and I are just working really hard to improve what we do, make it more inclusive, accessible, and refined. We just want to keep creating a space for people to come together and feel supported, no matter where they live or what they do.
For those tempted to take the plunge and start their own business or go freelance in 2021, belief in yourself and your brand is essential. The process is so different for everyone and it is this belief and faith that will help you on this journey. As we all remain so far apart it is even more crucial to create a support system where women can collaborate, gain valuable advice and uplift one another which is what The Coven Girl Gang aims to provide and will continue to strive for and advocate in the future.