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Portrait of young businesswoman in eyeglasses looking at camera

Challenging the Entrepreneur Stereotypes

By: Hazel Reynolds, founder of Gamely

Entrepreneurship is crucial for a speedy economic recovery. Now, more than ever, we need the untapped potential of women-led businesses which represents as much as £250 billion of additional value for the UK economy.

A 2021 UK Start-Up Appetite Report found that 42 percent of women surveyed has always wanted to start a business. However, their ambitions may be held back by a range of barriers – some are financial, while others come from attitudes, a lack of confidence and possessing the know-how to run a business. One of the biggest challenges for many women, may be balancing family life with the pressures of a new business.

Speaking to 34-year-old Hazel Reynolds – mother-of-two and founder of the Brighton-based card game company, Gamely – she believes that telling more diverse entrepreneur stories and celebrating positive female role models are important steps to encouraging more women to pursue their own businesses.

Why do you think female entrepreneurship is important? 

In a nutshell, because half the population is female! Without female entrepreneurship the world would miss out on half the good ideas, insights and creativity that bring new businesses to life.

What do you think is the role of women entrepreneurs in today’s society? 

For me, I feel it’s important to share our experiences in order to breakdown the stereotypes that still live on around entrepreneurship. Before I set up Gamely, I imagined that running a business meant working 80 hours a week, sacrificing quality time with my friends and family and being ruthless in the pursuit of growth. But in fact, the reality has been very different! Instead, I joined a brilliant community of people doing things differently – entrepreneurs growing value-driven businesses that put people before profit, care about the wellbeing of their team and genuinely have a positive impact on the wider world.

Running my own business has given me the flexibility and freedom to spend more time with my husband and my children. There are so many different ways to run a business and I think that if more people knew about the choices they have when starting something new and felt free to decide on their own measures of success, then we’d see a greater diversity of people starting businesses.

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How did you get started with Gamely?
I came up with my first game, Randomise, to lure my 12-year-old sister away from her iPad and help us reconnect. The game was extremely well-received by both her and other members of my family. However, it wasn’t until a year later in 2015 when I was experiencing serious job dissatisfaction that I decided to set up my own business and turn Randomise into a real product.

After eliciting the help of my family and friends, we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and manufactured our first batch of Randomise in time for Christmas that year. Knowing that people wanted to buy my game really boosted my confidence so soon after I joined the Amazon Launchpad programme to access the sales tools and promotional platforms that helped more people discover our product ­–Randomise went on to become a bestseller on Amazon the following Christmas! Since then, I’m proud to say that Gamely has grown into a thriving business which has seven games in the product line, employs four people, exports globally and has turned over more than £1 million last year!

Has the pandemic impacted your business?
We found that with families being stuck at home during the lockdown, people were looking for new ways to have fun, and the demand for our family-friendly range of games soared! In the first month of lockdown alone, on Amazon, we sold 3,477 games (up 472% from the previous year!). By the end of 2020, we’d sold more than 100k games on Amazon (up from 42k in 2019). Thankfully we had a well-established process in place using the Fulfilment by Amazon service to handle storage, delivery, customer service and returns. Amazon proved to be a saving grace in helping us safely and efficiently manage the influx of sales while keeping our customers happy.

Any challenges or opportunities that you have come across as a female entrepreneur? 

I found out that I was pregnant the day after I set up Gamely, which in some ways was a big challenge as it meant I had only 8 months to do as I could before my baby arrived! But in fact, this actually proved to be a bigger opportunity and I genuinely think that having a baby did wonders for my business.

The main reason is that once my son arrived, I had just 30 minutes a day to work on average (while he napped!) I was forced to do some extreme prioritising and focus on the tasks that would have the biggest impact for my company. This practice was invaluable and has stayed with me since. I now work three days a week but I’m still super focused on spending my time wisely – prioritising the work that will do the most good for our customers, our team and the wider world.

Then, after my second pregnancy, I took five months off to spend with my new-born daughter. This time, I learned to hand over much of the day-to-day running of the company to my team, giving them the opportunity to step up and allowing me, on my return, to focus more of my energy on developing new ideas.

Finally, are there any female entrepreneurs who inspires you? 

I’ve been extremely lucky to have spent time in several start-up accelerators, surrounded by inspirational entrepreneurs doing brilliant things. One woman who really stood out as an inspiration was Tobi Oredein. Tobi is the co-founder of Black Ballad, a media organisation for black women and she is doing amazing things. We spent time together as part of the Kings 20 start-up scheme at Kings College London and I was hugely inspired by her focus, passion and complete dedication to her audience.

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Hazel Reynolds, founder of Gamely
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