Friday interview: Alice Rowen Hall on starting businesses during lockdown and advice to her younger self
North East entrepreneur Alice Rowen Hall, spoke to HLN's Helen Bowman to share her background, experience and advice for other female business owners in this week’s Friday Interview.
Tell us a bit more about you and your background
I graduated from Sunderland University with a degree in journalism, but my graduation coincided with the recession in 2008. The recession made it very difficult to get a job in journalism, so I went into teaching instead.
After teaching for three years I felt a strong urge to have my own business but didn’t know what type. At that time, I struggled to buy clothing I liked online, so this felt like the perfect opportunity. My businesses now are all a response to frustrations I have had in my life.
After building Pink Boutique for eight years, I’ve now set up three new businesses in lockdown! There’s Lowkal, a low-calorie online food store, AllergyBox, an online store especially for allergy sufferers who struggle to shop, and Rowen Interior Design, a design agency. I have always loved English, marketing and psychology, and I think my ventures in business have been a combination of these three elements.
As a young woman in business, what is life like? What challenges do you face and are the opportunities different from those offered to men in your opinion?
Life is a little chaotic as we have a young family and are both Directors of our new businesses, but we take it in shifts!
I’m sure there are barriers for women in other sectors, but I can honestly say I have never come across any difficulty in business relating to the fact I’m a woman.
What is your advice to other young female entrepreneurs?
Lean into your intuition and teach yourself as much as you can. We have access to so much information now, I recommend learning all the functions in your business in order to be able to delegate and oversee them at a later date.
I’m also a massive fan of coaching, counselling and mentoring. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely and incredibly intense, so having someone to talk to each week that’s impartial can help you avoid burnout.
What’s it like running a business in the North East?
It’s great! I’m a member of the Entrepreneur’s Forum and I love that community.
We’ve noticed that you’re active on LinkedIn – what benefits do you find from doing that?
I’ve only really started this recently and I’ve found that so many opportunities come through the platform! It’s amazing that you can reach so many people on LinkedIn – if there’s someone who really inspires you or you’d love to do business with, you can just pop them a message.
What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time?
I’d tell myself that it doesn’t matter what other people think, do what makes you happy! I used to love computer games and never saw the value in them – but now I see that all those hours playing on them helped formulate my e-commerce strategy skills.
I also think it’s great to lean into your weaknesses. I have many – but I have strengths too. Young people nowadays might feel like they’re repeatedly told their weaknesses – lateness, lack of organisation, being too assertive with their parents or teachers, not concentrating. I had all of these too as a young person – and only in later life do I now understand how to get the best out of my time.
For example, I’m not a naturally organised person, so I delegate that to someone who loves organisation! I don’t concentrate for long periods of time, so I ensure I have freedom to move between tasks freely and ensure I’m giving myself tasks that I love to do.
I would encourage young people not to judge themselves against their peers. You are you, with your own interests, and that is your superpower. The world would be boring if we were all the same!
And your North East favourites – could you share them with us please?
Going for food is a massive passion of mine! I love My Delhi in Newcastle for Indian food and Fuego in Fenwick for lunch (we like to sit at the bar and get a prosecco and picky dishes!)
I’m also a massive fan of Everyman Cinema – it’s such a luxury sitting on sofas and being served food while watching a film.
If you’re a mega busy person and need some serious R&R, Seaham Hall is where it’s at. Massage, hot tub, and sitting in your dressing gown to eat oriental food?! I’m there! (Can you tell eating is a major theme for my favourite destinations?!)
We love a day out with our little girl on the weekend, and our go-to places are Alnwick Gardens, Whitehouse Farm and Seven Stories. They’re all brilliant days out with little ones.