In this blog, we got the chance to have a chat with Sarah Moore, Juggling Octopus Owner. Discussing her career, her inspiration and how she overcame adversity. “I love my job and am very honoured to be able to do something that I love irrespective of my gender.”
What’s a typical day like in your career?
This has changed hugely; from structured corporate roles where every day was different, but only within a structure dictated by someone else, to running my own small business. Now I can say that every day really is different – and I love it. I do try to have an element of consistency and structure as it helps me to be focussed and get done what I need to do. I’ve found the key is that we do what our clients want – and so even when a day is planned out, things can change at the last minute; it’s all about planning and preparation but having the flexibility to adjust plans and prioritise if needs be.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I believe in playing to and maximising, your strengths, and not worrying so much about your weaknesses; we all have them, and – certainly, for me – they tend to represent things that I’m not so keen to do. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone, but I don’t think it’s productive to spend all your time there! When I left the corporate world I needed to do something that would pay my mortgage and bills, but wanted something that I could be passionate about over the long term; it needed to be something that I enjoyed and could continue to enjoy. Not just through the easy times, but also through the tough times that I knew were inevitable when setting out on my own. My strengths lie in organisation, and I have a lot of experience in both sales and admin, as well as a passion for working with and helping small business. Juggling Octopus seemed an obvious business to set up.
How did you get to where you are now, and did you face any challenges along the way?
I fell into Banking when I left university and what was intended as a stop-gap whilst I found my ‘ideal’ career ended up lasting nearly 5 years! I became a Bank Manager at 24 and was shocked to find customers, as well as a new employee, that wasn’t willing to accept a female Bank Manager. These were customers who weren’t just subtly unimpressed, but who were rude to my face, and refused to accept my position. It taught me to stand my ground and to fight for what I had earned. Over time, it also made me realise the importance of ignoring people with small-minded views and not letting them knock me off course. They will always exist, and it’s important to be proud of who I am and what I’ve achieved without always needing external validation.
I have also had 2 breakdowns over the years; the first was caused by pride – taking on too much, and being too proud to ask for help, and the second was the result of issues at work. Both of these have been tough times, but have given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and to understand myself much better. I realise now that I’m not indestructible and that it is important to look after myself!
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends who are always there for me and have helped to pick me back up when I’ve struggled. I never underestimate the value of spending time with them; although setting up my own business has been incredibly demanding on my time, I try to make sure that I see them all regularly and that I maintain some form of work-life balance (and actually, my business benefits from these breaks too!) The other key has been learning to reflect. I like to look at a situation and understand what I could have done better. It’s certainly not about having regrets but is about always learning, and always wanting to improve.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
I feel very strongly about collaboration in the business – we are a small team and it is our business, not mine. I might have had the idea for Juggling Octopus, but it wouldn’t be any more than another good idea without the input of my Business Partner, Beth, and my amazing team. We are all in this adventure together, and I value highly the different approaches and suggestions that they bring to the table. It’s great to talk through things together and to find solutions that are perfect for the business but that I might not have thought of.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I suspect that for me, as for many people my drive was born from necessity. I needed to pay the bills, but I also felt passionately about doing something that was meaningful and helped other businesses, not just lining the pockets of faceless Corporations. I also recognise that my mental health isn’t the strongest, and it’s important to understand my own limitations. I wanted to create something that fitted who I was and reflected what I needed.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I love my job and am very honoured to be able to do something that I love irrespective of my gender. One of the most inspiring things about living in the UK in 2020 is the opportunity for anyone to be an entrepreneur – no matter how old or young, the colour of your skin or nominated gender.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
Being able to say that I work for myself and can be truly independent is something that I have aspired to for a long time. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have been able to do this. I’m also incredibly proud to be able to help others to fulfil their ambitions through Juggling Octopus. In the words of one of my team;
“My children are happier because your achievement gives me what I need”.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Learning to be able to say ‘no’. Within Juggling Octopus, particularly when we started out, it seemed the right thing to do to say ‘yes’ to any work that we were offered. I now understand that that isn’t the way to build a successful business – it’s important to know what you want and don’t want to do, and to stick to your guns. I’m always polite and don’t believe in burning bridges, but I do believe in honesty. If I’m honest with them, then hopefully they will be honest with me and we can build business relationships, even in situations where it might not be the right thing to work together at that particular time.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
I mentioned above some challenges that I faced early in my career in Banking; it was a challenging role early in my management career working with, and managing, a number of colleagues who had significantly more experience than I did and I hadn’t expected to face prejudice on top of everything else. However, I didn’t let it get me down, and worked hard to focus on what was important. Later in my career, I spent time in a Business Development role in a team as the only female. I was always happy to be addressed as a group, but it was interesting to watch how management would address “the guys and Sarah” or “the boys and Sarah” for a long time before including me. It wasn’t that they were prejudiced against me at all, just that I felt that it was harder for me to become part of the group then it would have been for another male.
Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
One of the reasons for setting up Juggling Octopus was to give me more time to spend with family and friends. Spending time with the people I love is without a doubt how I choose to spend time away from my desk. I love to eat out and catch up with friends over good food and good wine, but I also love to be out walking in the fresh air on my own with a good podcast to listen to (I’m obsessed with TedTALKS at the moment – how can I only just have found this!?), or just chilling out at home with the cat and a good film on Netflix.
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
There is nothing you cannot do! I have it written down and stuck up by my desk, and I read it out loud to myself every day; even just to say it makes me smile. I listened to a podcast about an amazing businesswoman in the US called Cathy Hughes – she just never gave up and had complete faith that she would achieve her goals.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Do something that you enjoy; we spend a huge amount of time working and I never understand those that are doing something that they don’t really like. Listen to what people tell you, but learn to ignore those that have nothing nice to say; they are only jealous and don’t merit a second thought. JFDI! (Just f*ucking do it) – life is too short and too precious. It’s easy not to try something, or to spend too long planning. Sometimes you just need to ‘go for it’ and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, then learn from what happened and move on to something else – at least you gave it your best shot.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
Life is for living and is both short and precious; this isn’t a dress rehearsal so live every day to the fullest.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
One of the most important role models in my life has always been my Gran. A remarkable woman who drove trucks in the Army when she was younger, and who was one of the few women with a driving licence at the time. She stood as an independent councillor in Leeds in the 70s and was instrumental in ensuring that a swimming pool was built in the local community. It was important to her, and so she fought for what she believed in until it became a reality. Gran taught me that I could do anything that I wanted and that the world was my oyster. She encouraged all of my crazy ideas, and although she is sadly now living with dementia, she remains the biggest impact in my life to date and I know how much she would have loved what we are doing at Juggling Octopus.
What are your key motivators?
Independence is absolutely key to me – I am passionate about building something that gives me the freedom to do what I like without depending on others. I want to be able to provide enough for myself to live the lifestyle I choose to live. I also want to ensure that Juggling Octopus can do this not just for me, but also for those that work alongside me.
Do you think that enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
I think that gender imbalance is still a reality that we face. However, I don’t believe that there should be quotas to ensure that the ‘right’ number of women are in prominent / leadership roles. For me, true balance will be achieved when the right person for the role is chosen each and every time irrespective of anything other than the skill set that they have for the particular role. However, more needs to be done to address the skills gaps that exist in society today. We need to look at how we can attract and train women to have the skills that are needed to make them an equal in the recruitment process.
What are some strategies that you can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
Just always strive to do your best and never stop learning. There is no strategy unique to women, except the desire and the drive to be better and go for the opportunities that present themselves.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Anyone aiming for a leadership position should speak to their leader and express their interest. I think that everyone has the right to fulfil their potential and should be encouraged to do so. Ask what you can do to put yourself in a position to be considered for promotion, and then work hard to do what is suggested. Never be afraid to stand up and say that you want to progress – it isn’t arrogant or cocky, but shows ambition. However, also recognise the need to earn the right for promotion and always work hard at whatever role you are currently in; it’s a great way to show inherent skills that are required in leadership; tenacity, resilience, patience, initiative etc.
What’s one key leadership lesson that you’ve learned along the way?
Listen to your team and don’t presume that you are right. It’s rare that I don’t have an idea of how something should be done, but I will always try and ask my team what their thoughts are. That way, we build a culture of teamwork and I get the opportunity to learn from them and to look at situations from different viewpoints.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
There is nothing you cannot do. Travel is a gift – the opportunity to experience different countries and different cultures shouldn’t be taken for granted. Finally, JFDI – if you don’t try, then you’ll never know if you could have succeeded. If something doesn’t work out then that’s ok, and you can always do something else, but don’t live a life of regrets.
Anything else that you would like to add about your career/story?
Just to say, change is inevitable. Even when you think you have found success and the right way to do something, it can all change. Don’t be afraid to evolve and to make changes when something isn’t right. Juggling Octopus has already undergone several ‘versions’ and this is key to ensuring that we are relevant not just today, but also tomorrow.
Thanks for reading! You can check out Sarah here!