We’re shining a spotlight on our amazing majority-female team as part of Women's History Month, and International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March.
Helena Hills, Founder of TrueStart Coffee shares her insights on the professional challenges she’s overcome, and her work to #BreakTheBias
Who is TrueStart? ☕️🌈
Founded by husband and wife team Simon and Helena, TrueStart launched their first product in 2015. The now-legendary Barista Grade Instant Coffee was the first coffee in the world to provide a boost with no crash thanks to a reliable, stable caffeine content. Working with independent suppliers, sustainable packaging and a family-owned logistics team, TrueStart’s vibrant, healthy, hyper-sustainable approach to coffee helped them become a proudly Certified B Corporation in 2021. They’re committed to making the world a healthier, happier place through delicious, uplifting coffee and by providing opportunities for disadvantaged communities through the Bags of Good initiative and food bank donations.
Meet the woman behind the beans
As a co-founder alongside your husband, what does your half of the role entail?
Our skill sets are completely different, which is lucky because they complement one another. I think this is what makes it possible to work together! I’m much more outward facing, leading on sales and marketing while Simon is much more focused on product, operational efficiencies and ensuring the best possible customer experience. We do pretty much all the overall strategy, direction and brand work together, though.
I want to change the world by lifting traditionally feminine characteristics up and spreading more positive energy and emotion. Helena - Co-founder, TrueStart
Have you found that you and Simon have been treated as equals throughout your journey?
I have found that Simon and I are generally treated as equals. But I believe that this is because we have the privilege of being largely surrounded by people who believe in what we’re doing, lift us up and give us confidence in ourselves.
The coffee industry, like most industries, still has a culture of bias and inequality. What bias have you faced during your career?
Generally speaking, I see such a huge gap in the confidence levels between women and men. Often, it is the women with stereotypically masculine characteristics that are able to rise up and be heard. In Western society, these characteristics include assertiveness, logic, low sensitivity and independence. By contrast, characteristic traits that are stereotypically viewed as feminine – such as expressiveness, sensitivity, empathy and modesty– have been viewed as weaknesses for as long as human memory goes back. Stereotypically feminine traits are so crucial to the world becoming a better place, and we need to start recognising their value and importance. We need to listen to women more, and recognise that they may not have the confidence to voice their opinions. This means we need to create more opportunities and platforms for women and their ideas to be heard, valued and acted upon. We also need to make sure that men and boys value and nurture these traits in themselves too. The importance of this, and the reality of inequality has become even more obvious to me since having children. Instilling confidence starts on day one – if we’re shaping children to conform to particular stereotypes and not giving them the confidence to be their true selves (especially girls) then it’s no wonder we have such a confidence gap in adults. We have such a long way to go. I think maybe I come up against fewer barriers than many women because my outward personality is quite confident and assertive, although I am extremely sensitive which perhaps is not immediately obvious to others. As I’ve got older I’ve become more confident in asserting my empathy, sensitivity and excitement, which feels like an oxymoron. I want to change the world by lifting traditionally feminine characteristics up and spreading more positive energy and emotion.
What advice for navigating the workplace as a woman would you give your younger self?
Know that there is nothing wrong with you. You feel emotions to an extreme extent, and I promise this is a good thing even though it is often overwhelming, confusing and frustrating for you. Right now it might feel like your energy levels are out of control, particularly in your brain, and coupled with your frustration this can make you feel angry and aggressive, mostly towards yourself. Don’t worry. Your brain is just wired atypically, and through experience and the support of others you will learn how to use your energy to lift people up, including yourself.
What’s important to you as an employer of women?
To unlock the potential of each individual by ensuring that their unique talents, characteristics and desires are uncovered, seen, heard and acted upon with opportunities. Regardless of what they are, it’s important to view these natural traits in a positive light so they can be developed. It starts with proper mutual respect, an understanding of each other and aligned values. Our Commercial Director recently got the whole team to do a personality assessment and it has helped me so much to have a deeper understanding of how each of us work, which definitely improves team happiness and dynamics. I’ve been getting my family and friends to do it, too!
Thank you for reading!
Helena was interviewed by our fantastic parters, Huggg for this blog post. You can read the full article here: https://www.huggg.me/blog/international-womens-day-with-truestart