Charlotte Pearce on how to be a founding CEO and brand new mother… can you really do both?
The CEO putting human connection back into the centre of the business world whilst proving that business success and motherhood can most definitely work hand in hand.
You may have previously heard of Charlotte. Forbes 30 under 30 listed, CEO & Founder of CRM company Inkpact and all round good human doing good business.
Sounds pretty impressive already, but the last 18 months have seen Charlotte take the business world by storm and now she welcomes her baby boy into the world.
So the question is, can you really do both? We interviewed Charlotte Pearce to find out.
Well in the past 18 months has been challenging for Charlotte, that’s the only way to describe it. Inkpact was completely turned upside down by the pandemic but looking back, “it was the best thing to ever happen to the business.”
“You’ve got to kind of run at it and not run away from it and actually a lot of growth
and a lot of happiness can come out of what can be a really horrible time to begin with.”
…We could have all looked at the pandemic and gone, oh my god, I just want to give up.. And no one would have judged you. But, I have learned in the past 18 months that the best growth comes from obstacles.”
What changed for Inkpact?
90% of Inkpact’s revenue came from technology business and they sent to offices and offices were closed. That was 90% of business gone, almost overnight. But this was not to stop Charlotte and Andrew who zones in on the 10% that remained, retailers.
“We had to go, okay let us look at the 10% here which is really hard having just lost a lot of our revenue and said how do we turn this around? So we got to be creative. We got to put ourselves out there. We got to take some bold moves and we got to reshape the business
as we wanted.”
whilst we were figuring out what we were doing is we wrote like 2000
letters to care homes and people that were isolated, lonely.
It kept our scribes busy, it was this lovely
amazing, wonderful thing to do
when people were at home and isolating
and we just try and think of that first and the responses we were getting from that
really lifted us up and I think if we hadn’t have been so lifted up,
we might not have taken that angle of the business to really double down
on retail and work with some of those clients that we did.
It just felt really good and from the place of feeling good,
we can make really good business decision.
What changed for Charlotte?
I think I was a pretty empathetic person before,
but I’m even more empathetic person now, like people say,
like, it cracks your heart open and it totally does,
but I also am a bit more like no BS, more than normal.
I’m a lot more direct about things in a nice and caring way,
but simply 1. because I don’t have the time
and 2 because I realised that all that other stuff is not really needed
and a lot of just personal things as well around my purpose here in the world
and what I’m here to do and wanted to leave a legacy for this little one
I can’t work as I did, in the way I worked before and I’d made myself a huge part of the business.
And in hindsight, that’s not a good thing for a founder to do.
If I made myself, the only salesperson,
if I make myself the only person doing brand and marketing,
I’m not actually starting a business, I’m just doing things myself,
it’s not very scalable, it is not a sustainable for anyone.
I’m not actually building a business there,
and I think my opinion on what a founder and CEO has to do,
has changed. My job is,
I’m chief coach. That’s my job
but there has to become a time where you’re working on the business
and not in it and I was in it too much.
I’m definitely a lot more fiery at the moment
and a lot more passionate and all of those things.
Which is actually a fear I had that I wouldn’t be like that after having a baby.
I thought I’d really like super more mellow
and not as ambitious and not as fiery.
That’s not the case at all
The future for Inkpact…
I think it was such a good, partly,
accidental move for us to focus on retail because you know all of us on the team,
myself included, love brands,
love consumer brands.
And just get the human psychology of the consumer brands
and I don’t think we realise how much of an expert we were already in that field working
with the clients we were.
But now we’ve doubled down on it. We are like, we’re superstars Annie, in retail.
We understand what customer journeys
need to look like, we understand those human touches
and to see some of the results that people like Sweaty Betty and John Lewis
and BrewDog are getting
one of John Lewis’s campaigns got them
multi-million pound revenue that they wouldn’t have got
if you know, if we hadn’t been involved
and they’re just such a great brand to work with and I love that we’re doing that.
But also just and I think it was one month we gave over 50,000 pounds to scribes for doing that work.
That’s 50,000 pounds in the pocket of scribes
that wouldn’t have gone there.
We’re going to take all of our expertise from all of the brands that
we have been working with over the last 18 months
and hopefully work with more and more and more brands.
What I love about Inkpact’s model is that means we get more and moreand more scribes,
we get more mothers, we get more artists, we get more
like people that have struggled to get an income, have lost their jobs.
We get more people that are trying to start their own business,
and need more than income.
The future for Charlotte…
“one of the things that I’m really committed to
moving forward is trying to share those ups and downs.
Because if for somebody else like me,
who started a business or wanted to start a business
or is struggling having started a business and wants to have a family and doesn’t know how to do it.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m clearly still very new it and getting lots of things wrong,
but I’m very happy to share
what it’s like and some of the sacrifices you have to make on both sides
but also some of the sacrifices you don’t have to make,
but you think you do?
we help businesses make their customers significant,
and by doing that, they’re helping scribes and it creates this round circle.
So anything I can do to make more brands and more scribes,
you know, have that experience, make people more significant, do the right thing
then the other side of it is just honestly and like vulnerably sharing my journey as a founder
and my journey as a mother
and a founder and you know a really crap windsurfer
and a really bad gym-goer and all the stuff that comes with life as well,
because everyone that knows me knows that I truly,
truly believe, more than anything that we all create our own lives.
I’m trying things out. I’m trying to be bold with things,
I’m being honest and open about when I do things wrong or I get things wrong.
Then actually, I might just help one person, one woman, one young woman,
do things differently and live her life you know in a more powerful way
and that’s really what I’m all about, is living life is a powerful way, the way you choose things,
you’re not a victim to things and you can create things
and from that place that amazing businesses can come, amazing relationships can come.
So yeah, it’s kind of twofold. It’s the showing the mirror to brands and explaining and storytelling.
Can you do both? – Charlotte’s biggest learnings
Well, Charlotte Pearce is certainly making it seem like it. Although, that does not mean it is easy. There are not many stories out there which openly discuss balancing work and a family and Charlotte was shocked by this as she seeked helped from fellow founders and entrepreneurs.
“I was actually really shocked because I’ve been a part of a lot of female groups…. I wanted to try and get some inspiration, how to navigate it, and what people do and there wasn’t much out there.
It really shines a light for me on the fact that it’s hard to run a business as it is,
they say it’s one of the most challenging things you can ever do, the ups and downs are crazy. The other challenging thing you can do is have a baby, the ups and downs are crazy.
So you put the ups and downs of a business with the ups and downs of a baby, it’s a lot of ups and downs. “
I was very disappointed in a way by the amount that’s out there
but I’m very hopeful that the more and more,
you know, women feel they can speak up about it and be vulnerable
with what’s happening, it’s not always plain sailing
I think more women will see that and hopefully it will get better and better.
people do say that how can you give a hundred percent to both and it’s like,
but actually, I’m just going to re-shape, re-focus what 100% looks like.
I was telling various different investors and stakeholders in the business.
I did get that, oh okay,
what are we going to do about this? Whereas if my male co-founder
Andrew had said he is having a baby,
he wouldn’t have got the same line of questioning
and that just is how the world is and I just, I didn’t let that go.
I did stand-up for that and said no, this isn’t a problem.
This isn’t an issue.
In fact, you watch, this is the best thing to ever happen to the business.
in the first couple of weeks,
I’d said, I’m doing take three months off maternity leave full-time,
and then I’m probably gonna take another couple of months flexi time,
but after five weeks, I was feeling more anxious,
not doing anything, than I was if I was to dip back in again.
And there is potentially some stigma around that like,
oh my god, I can’t believe she’s going back up to work after only like six weeks.
I was in like a board meeting after like, six weeks,
You know, I was coming up with strategy after four weeks I think it was.
But it was making me more anxious by not doing that.
So I just had to, I had to have a real kind of good chat with myself and go.
Who cares what anyone else thinks? If they think I’m going back to work too early, that’s up to them.
I know, for me,
I’m the most empowered self, I can be the best Mum to Iroh if I’m being creative,
if I’m building things and if I’m keeping an eye on what’s happening in the business
and I’m creating the future for it.
I have been more careful about who I am meeting
and what I’m doing and where I’m spending my time
So we had a board meeting the other day and I was like,
got to feed Iroh and I’ve got to get to this board meeting at this time,
and I’ve got to preview this and I just went,
okay, I’m a planner, I’m quite good at planning, I’m quite good at just making things happen.
So I got here, I fed him in the office, you know.
I was like I don’t care what anyone else thinks,
this is the way I’m going to be able to make this happen.
Literally like moments before
the board meeting I was breastfeeding him in my arms.
You know, and then I passed him back to Luke, I did the meeting
and then I kind of took him back and I think that day where I’d gone,
I’m just going to make this work and I tried it and it wasn’t perfect, but I did it.
And then I was like, oh my god, I can do this