Business Heroes - Mumpreneur: Women Like Us (winner)

Women Like Us is a recruitment agency which specialises in placing women in part-time positions. There couldn't be a more fitting recipient of this gong...

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Women Like Us was founded by Karen Mattison and Emma Stewart in 2005, after they realised there was an untapped pool of highly skilled workers, who wanted to work part-time - fellow mothers at the school gates.

It is an ideal period to be in the part-time recruitment game. After the past few turbulent years, many businesses are recruiting, but they may not be able to afford another member of staff full-time. 'Right now, companies are thinking very carefully about what they can afford, especially small businesses. If they've only got five people, to take on a sixth, five days a week is a big leap. But they could probably afford to take an extra person on 16 hours a week,' explains Stewart, a mother of two.

That's not to say it's just SMEs which are finding use for the 30,000 women on the books at Women Like Us. It has just started recruiting for Tesco and also works with many of the major banks, financial services firm Towry and even the London Fire Brigade. Alongside its recruiting arm, it also offers consultancy work to help big companies get women into their organisations. 'We work with them to try and help them attract and retain really good women,' says Mattison.

At Women Like Us, they don't just talk the talk. Of the 60-strong team in its London office, 95% work flexibly and for a variety of reasons, not just because of childcare commitments. 'There are some we never see,' says Stewart, who job-shares the role of CEO with co-founder Mattison, mother to three boys aged four, nine and 12. 'Some of our staff are out in the field constantly. But we have a very clear policy here. We've learned how to manage staff through KPIs and measuring outputs. And we trust them.'

It's a strategy that's paying off. The company - which was founded as a social enterprise - turned over £1.6m last year, and national expansion is on the cards for 2011. We weren't the first to spot Mattison and Stewart's heroic efforts though - they were awarded MBEs last summer. In fact the only people who seem surprised at their success are the two entrepreneurs themselves. 'When it was just the two of us, we could have all these dreams. But we didn't imagine it would take off in the way that it has,' says Stewart.

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