We sat with Helen McGuire, who founded Hopscotch.work with an aim to make the world of work a more accessible, better place for professional women across the Middle East and Asia.
Read her story below to learn about how she started her career in communications and built a very strong and admirable reputation in the Middle East and Asia.
On her journey establishing Hopscotch.work
I had taken an extended maternity leave break with my first child, Clementine, from my role as head of content for an international advertising agency in Dubai. During that time, I met many women who had stalled their careers for the sake of children or moving countries with their spouse and had consequently found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t find suitable openings to fit around their commitments. All were talented, experienced and rather frustrated by the position they were in! I was lucky enough to return to work four days a week but was very aware that the option of flexible, part-time or contract work in the UAE and indeed across much of MENA simply didn’t exist. After a conversation with my husband (Justin McGuire, Founder of MCG Group and Co-Founder of Hopscotch) over that summer, the idea for a career platform for women had been born. I subsequently commissioned a survey in August 2015 and undertook substantial research. By April of the following year, and pregnant with my son, Hopscotch was ready to go and we launched two months before he was born!
On her journey as an entrepreneur
The issues are the same for any entrepreneur – Where do you start? Who do you hire? How do you find your audience and your client base? Having worked in communications for my entire career since leaving university and being part of MCG Group (an established international recruitment and L&D specialist), we found many of these issues relatively easy to overcome.
Of course, the more personal challenge was one of commitments– we had to balance two very young children, businesses and a start-up. But it comes down to the delegation and careful organisation for me, I don’t feel I should have to make a choice between my career and having a family – they need to work in harmony and I feel that ethos provides a very firm understanding for what Hopscotch is and our community, too.
Helen’s advice to young entrepreneurs
My main point of advice would be to not overthink the journey. If you have a smart idea, talk to the right people and ensure it’s viable and could be profitable in the long run. Get a plan in place but be ready to adapt endlessly, particularly if it’s a truly unique idea, and don’t be afraid to move the goalposts if you see something isn’t working.
On reaching her personal and business goals
Yes, I am a saver at heart and even when I was living in London on very little money as a graduate, I would still put aside something every month. That habit has continued and I now take charge of all our family finances on a day to day and future planning basis, keeping track of spending, investments and savings. With our current expansion into Asia for Hopscotch, we are balancing books between MENA and APAC and will be expanding our offerings in 2019. This requires careful planning and pitching for investment to ensure we have all bases covered, whilst maintaining our monthly budgets.
Five pieces of advice for young employees who just entered the workplace
- Try to save around 30% of your income from the moment your wages hit your account and ensure your bills (monthly/rent/mortgage/household) don’t exceed 30% either. Even if it’s only a small amount, it adds up over time and will be a safety net at the very least
- Don’t leave big sums of money in the bank – in today’s climate, in real terms cash loses value over time and you can be hit by currency devaluations, depending on where you need to move your money to
- Make sound investments – property would be my go-to, but pensions and long-term savings can also be a good back up for the future
- Cut up your credit card – if you can’t afford it now but buy it anyway, you’ll be paying it off forever!
- Use price comparison sites to ensure you’re not overspending on stuff you don’t have to – water, electricity, travel – and don’t be afraid to move banks or suppliers if you find better deals.