Our flexible company ethos reflects who our customers are
“Flexible working isn’t an afterthought. Supporting parents is what we’re all about, and that goes for our employees too,” says Cat Gazzoli, founder of Piccolo baby foods.
I grew up with a big Italian family in which food was at the core, and I strongly believe that the traditional Mediterranean approach to food and life is not only great for adults, but also brilliant for our babies. This belief inspired me to create Piccolo, a family-focused company with a simple aim: to offer parents the opportunity to be part of a baby food brand with social and educational values.
Working with the NCT, the UK’s largest parenting charity, I heard parents across the country talk about how having a baby affected their careers. It made me much more aware of the flexibility issues that were causing so many women to drop out of the workforce, and I wanted to find out more about it.
I read lots of studies about why women felt that they had to choose between a fulfilling career and children. And I realised it wasn’t because it’s impossible to have both and do well, but because there are so few employers who offer the kind of flexibility that fits around nursery runs or school meetings.
The flexible ethos at the heart of our company
So when I started thinking about the market place and what was missing, I knew I wanted to create a company that parents, our core customers, could relate to from a flexible values perspective, as well as liking our products. And I carried out some kitchen-table research, discussing the type of food and ethos I wanted to create with two close mum friends.
They had both made the decision not return to work after having children, largely because it had been difficult to balance working hard and delivering results to a company they cared about with raising their children in the way they wanted. Childcare was expensive and their salaries weren’t high enough to make up for the time they were spending at work. They agreed with me that a company which included flexibility as part of its vision would really appeal to people like them – and asked if I had any jobs going!
Taking my vision to a company level has meant finding women who share my aims. Like Clemmie, our PR manager who has a 15-month old son and works three days a week. We worked together to plan a working day that fits in with her son’s timetable; she arrives at Casa Piccolo early in the morning, straight after nursery drop-off, and leaves early to get back in time to pick him up.
Of course, there are times when he isn’t well and can’t go to nursery, but I trust her to get the work done at times that work around him, such as during his lunchtime nap, or after he goes to bed. We are both really flexible and make it work together.
Our shared vision for flexible success
Working at a start-up is a real adventure, and getting the people-fit right is so important. I have been fortunate to find people who appreciate my flexibility and are flexible in return; it works well for all of us. We all bring complementary skills and are able to take Piccolo forward with a shared vision around giving back and teaching parents about nutritious baby food.
I am honoured everyday to be working with a team of committed individuals at Casa Piccolo, who all love engaging with Piccolo parents and customers about our core values as well as the range of pouches we’re making.
I am really glad I took the leap to encourage flexible working, and I suggest that any founders who are thinking of starting their own business should just go for it, and build flexibility in from the start.