Jennie Riding, founding Director and Shareholder of Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd, and winner of Downtown’s Women in Business ‘Environmental and Sustainability’ Award spoke to The Women’s Organisation as part of our Thought Leader Series about her experience as a woman in business and the exponential growth Ancorra have achieved so far…
Jennie Riding is a founding Director and Shareholder of Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd, which is based in Merseyside and provides a full range of services in waste management solutions and environmental sustainability throughout the UK.
Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd began trading in March 2013. Previous to setting up her business Jennie worked for a waste management company progressing through the ranks from Waste Transfer Manager to Compliance Manager and then Special Projects Manager, before being promoted to Operations Director, with a shareholding in a multi operational site responsible for over fifty operatives.
After a successful strategy of growing and developing the business the company was sold, in early 2010, to a large American company after which things began to change. Jennie says; ‘I worked there for a further year but did not flourish under the new corporate regime with its boardroom politics.’ and she says the company, like so many others, discriminated against women with unequal pay, which she of course found extremely frustrating. Upon deciding to resign with no firm future plans there was a final incident, which cemented the decision firmly in Jennie’s mind;
‘I knew I had made the right choice to leave when in a final meeting with the Managing Director I expressed that I may set up my own business. He replied that he could imagine me “with a nice little shoe shop or florist somewhere” There is nothing derogatory about owning either of these types of businesses but it was clear from his inference what he thought a women’s role was in the workplace and it certainly wasn’t at the top of a multi million pound turnover waste company.’
Instead of letting this discrimination affect her Jennie used it to fuel her determination to succeed. After a gap year spent traveling she, along with a team of six others, went on to establish Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd with huge successes. Ancorra has grown massively and turned over £1 million in its first year of trading and are on target to achieve sales of £1.5 million in their second year. Jennie says that customer service is the key to their success;
As well as exceeding their targets Ancorra has been succeeding in other areas of business, with the company being nominated (and winning) in the Downtown Women in Business Awards, for the Environment and Sustainability category. They were also shortlisted in 2014. Ancorra has achieved accreditation from the British Standards Institute for Quality, Environment, and Health & Safety standards. This is an impressive accomplishment for a Company to achieve with 12 months of start up and is testament to their professional approach to their industry.
As well as leading Ancorra to great successes Jennie has also been simultaneously dealing with many changes in her personal life, including the birth of her first child which has made her re-evaluate her approach to business and indeed life in general.
Jennie says; ‘I have spoken with many women who make out that motherhood just slotted right in with their careers, maybe it did for them but I don’t have any shame in saying otherwise. Before the birth of my child, I was able to have a single minded approach to my career and I would often work long hours to meet deadlines and complete projects. Now my passion for my work has been split with an overwhelming love for my daughter. At first I found it very hard to balance the two without the feeling I was fulfilling neither.’
This is a paradox that many women business owners may come across in their lives but Jennie is keen to speak out about this issue and has been able to overcome this difficulty with the help of a good support network; ‘Becoming a Mum has been a great leveller – it is the first role in my life that I haven’t been able to fully control. But it has taught me the benefits of routine, improved my organisational skills and taught me not to take myself too seriously.’
Thankfully Jennie can see the funny side of mixing parenthood with business; ‘The first meeting I had after going back to work was, unknowing to me at the time, conducted with a generous spit up of mango puree on my back!’
The Women’s Organisation have supported Jennie throughout her business growth over the last two years and she says; ‘I had no idea how invaluable the Organisation would become to me.’
‘My regular meetings with Maggie are a chance to take some time out for myself, to assess where I am with the business, to put some order and priority to the thoughts running through my head and to make a plan on how to achieve my next objectives. We have also done extensive work on developing my marketing skills, an area where I have not had much previous experience and yet is an invaluable expertise for any budding entrepreneur to have.’ Jennie has also been taking advantage of the networking opportunities from The Women’s Organisation which she has used to forge valuable relationships with other women in business.
A surprising lesson from Jennie’s experience of setting up in business was people’s perceptions of what she was trying to achieve. She says; ‘In the beginning there was a large amount of preparation work but not a lot to show for it and a surprising amount of people, including some of my own family and friends, clearly thought I had merely extended my gap year, despite me giving them regular updates to the contrary.’ She began to find those around her putting her forward for voluntary roles or sending her job advertisement’s, with the thought in mind that it was about time she got a ‘proper job’. She goes onto say; ‘I choose to see the funny side and carried on regardless. These same people must now be surprised to find that my success has seemingly come from nowhere!’
Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd is a fantastic example of a new business with a planned start up strategy that has grown and grown, despite the obstacles that were facing both Jennie and the business. And her advice for anyone thinking of setting up their own business? ‘Test the market and evaluate the figures – if they are favourable then take the leap!’
Contact details for Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd
0151 546 3012 www.ancorraenvironmental.co.uk
As well as her commitment to Ancorra, Jennie also owns and manages Artlegarth Country Lodge Breaks Ltd with her husband Neil. These are three holiday let log cabins with hot tubs on a beautiful seven acre site in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria. They are planning to build three more lodges in 2016.
Contact details for Artlegarth Country Lodge Breaks Ltd
07960 351 421 www.lodgebreaks.co.uk