Pledge 1%’s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way.

What is your name and title?

Jen Bayford, Co-founder & Marketing Director at Growth Animals.

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your current role.

My role at Growth Animals is to understand each client’s goals, situation, customers, challenges and opportunities. I work with each unique business to develop the best growth marketing strategy for that organisation, including identifying key ‘growth accelerators’ to focus the business on plans that will make the most difference.

How did you get here? Please share any quick stories from past work experiences.

I started my career journey 20 years ago with a marketing degree, and worked my way through growing several different beauty and luxury skincare brands, before moving to the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex to grow the motorsport businesses. That’s where I met my brilliant two business partners Chris Thornhill (our tenacious and clever CEO) and Jerin Micheal (our digital and content marketing wizard). We set up Growth Animals to drive our ethos of ethical marketing practices as we are determined to make marketing that informs, helps and inspires, rather than manipulates, the industry standard.

In your opinion, what’s the #1 decision or move you’ve made that has helped advance your career?

Hands down it was the decision to take voluntary redundancy during lockdown 1 (or was it 2?!) with Jerin and Chris, who were my two colleagues (from jobs at Goodwood we all loved I might add!) to start our own marketing company. I’ve learnt so much and have been able to make such a difference and help so many businesses grow.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned this past year?

I’ve learnt to embrace the at home working to create a work life balance and enjoy the flexibility. I’ve learnt that to make the most of that I need to be disciplined and have boundaries. I have always worked in house throughout my career, office-based in companies with standard ‘hours’ and therefore have relied on my parent’s support for helping me raise my son who is now eight. But now I feel I can proudly be both a mum and a businesswoman (although I would never call myself that!)

What’s the number one challenge you face as a woman in your industry?

I am very lucky to have two business partners who I feel very much equal to and who both feel passionately about equality for everyone. We actively promote diversity and inclusion and have it as a core value to guide our business. I find it challenging to hold my own in certain older, male dominated networking settings and therefore gravitate towards more gender balanced opportunities. I therefore feel I am missing out on building relationships with more senior, exec level people who are often the decision makers within the businesses we aim to work with. I tend to leave this level of chat to Chris, knowing he can command more respect and have more “business” conversations. This is perhaps in my head, but I am not an unconfident person in other settings, so need to overcome this.

Do you have any mentors? What does mentorship mean to you?

Yes I have a fantastic mentor, Sara Jamison, who was my first ever director back in my first marketing job. Sara has been an inspiration to me, I admire her business style and presence and she has helped me hugely overcome confidence challenges during my career. I have her to thank for the progress I’ve made where I’ve been gently encouraged outside of my comfort zone. We have met regularly for a good number of years and I appreciate her time and effort so much. I have started to give back by volunteering for Young Enterprise as a business advisor for an all girls school’s business studies cohort, with a view to empowering young females to know they can achieve what they want to in their careers.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

Please be yourself. Identify your super strengths and dial them up. Pepper all your bios and profiles with your personality and what makes you brilliant and unique. Write these in a place you can see them and play to your strengths. I wish someone had told me this when I was starting out as I spent years being mediocre, trying to fit what I thought was expected of me. My career and progress really took off when I started to identify what I was good at, and sing that proudly, and turn up each day as me.

What is one thing companies can do, big or small, to help create an environment that advances women into leadership positions?

Creating a culture where flexibility is absolutely the norm for everyone and where trust is high. So that everyone can fulfil their role at home and in their work on their own terms. Working long hours or making unacceptable sacrifices should never be accepted or be considered a badge of honour. We should nurture each other to get to the position we want to get to, and not put obstacles of working hours, compulsory office working, guilt tripping and competitiveness in the way.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the next year?

Our goal is to create a thriving business where we are helping our clients grow on an ongoing basis.

Is there a cause that is particularly close to you? If so, why this cause and how did you get involved?

Myself and my fellow Growth Animals feel very passionately about ethical marketing. Our founding principle is to help businesses sell more, but the key thing is that we’re not willing to do that at any cost and to the detriment of others. Ethical growth marketing, at its core, is a mindset and process, tenaciously focussed on sustainable growth, in which everybody wins. It means that the growth we create for our clients is not short lived and instead creates the platform for long term sustainable growth, and that our activities are human first and our team is always conscious of choosing methods, media and partners that are socially responsible too. Ultimately it has to be Win, Win, Win, whereby our clients, their customers and society all win. We support marketing that is inspiring and informative, not manipulative or misleading.

When did your company join Pledge 1%? What does your impact program mean to you?

We’ve only just joined Pledge 1% in the last quarter. We were already considering donating our time to support not for profit organisations and the Pledge 1% gave us a way of focusing on that goal and celebrating each other’s efforts. It is extremely rewarding to use our marketing skills and experience to help organisations grow in order to create bigger impact in their chosen area, for example, dementia support, music therapy and young females in business.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Any interesting (or unique) habits or interests?

I love running and yoga. I have run three marathons and too many half marathons to count. But I’ve ditched my GPS watch and now run without agenda, focused on enjoying being outside in nature, moving my body and getting fresh air.

Are you reading/listening to anything interesting at the moment? Please share your most recent favorite book or podcast!

I listen to the AmazingIf podcast, created by two empowering women Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper, who developed the concept of the squiggly career. They release regular content which discusses ways to grow, develop, overcome and thrive in our not-so-linear career paths. They are entertaining and leave me buzzing with inspiration and drive.

What’s been the one (or two!) things that have helped you navigate this past year? Any tips or tricks to dealing with remote work?

Yoga on Zoom. HotPod yoga thankfully put all their classes on zoom so we can all unite virtually from our own living rooms. It has been a god send and has helped me remove myself physically and mentally from my home office, making me a calmer, more focused mum, partner and Growth Animal!