Inspirational Woman: Joy Parkinson | Chief Executive Officer, Faith In Nature

Joy ParkinsonAfter studying Management Sciences at UMIST (1988-91) Joy went on to work for a number of FMCG companies including Mars, Coca Cola Schweppes, the Dixons Group and United Biscuits.

After becoming Group Marketing Manager for United Biscuits, Joy was appointed managing director of McVities Cakes in 2001. During this time she had three children.

Joy took a career break following the birth of her third child, and in 2012, keen to get back to work, she was introduced to Faith in Nature by one of her business contacts. Joy took the role of CEO and has grown the business exponentially in the past eight years. It has doubled in size in the past two years and the plan is to do the same over the next two.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

This is an exciting year for me as I turn 50! Outside of my role at Faith In Nature I have three teenage children and a Cockapoo which I adore. Keeping fit is a big passion too, so I run a few times a week – in fact I was due to run the London Marathon this year for the second time.

At Faith In Nature I’m responsible for all aspects of the business at our site in Manchester where we make all our own products.  That includes overseeing a team of 75 people, sales, marketing, finance, new product development, 24 hour-a-day operations and technical.

To ensure Faith In Nature continues to flourish – the business will double in value this year – I work on strategic vision and planning, brand stretch, and of course crisis management. We have been working really hard on keeping staff safe and adapting the business during the current Covid-19 outbreak.

It’s a really thrilling role for me here, as Faith In Nature has been leading the sustainable beauty movement since 1974. Using 100% recycled and recyclable bottles since 1999, the brand has a refillables collection, is 100% organic and vegan, and all ingredients are ethically sourced.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Sort of!  Whilst doing my A-Levels, I felt a career in management was for me so I deliberately applied to do a Business Management degree at Manchester University.  It was there that I realised planning ahead and being at the front of the queue was a good idea, so I applied to go on a Mars graduate course. I got the job, so by Christmas of that year, I had secured my graduate job starting the following September.  Beginning my career at a company with such a recognisable name as Mars has held me in good stead ever since.

As part of the Mars’ graduate scheme, you move around the entire business to experience different departments. As a result, instead of starting in Sales & Marketing, I actually spent my first year in manufacturing at the Pedigree Petfoods site running one of the dog food lines on the night shift!

This was a far cry from the glamorous start that I had assumed – but it gave me such good experience and meant I moved seamlessly into general management later in my career.  Having run a production line I understand far more about the challenges that wanting to change packaging or launch new products, brings to the broader business.

From Mars I joined Coca-Cola and managed various different brand portfolios, such as Schweppes Adult Soft Drinks, including managing the launch of Oasis, and I was responsible for the Coke brand through its sponsorship of Euro ‘96.  Fun times!  Later I joined United Biscuits, first into Marketing, and then I moved into General Management, running the business in Ireland and later being promoted to Director of the McVities Cake Company.  Several years and three children later, I left United Biscuits and joined Faith in Nature, where I’ve been for 8 years. I love my role as CEO running an amazing business, in an exciting category.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Getting my voice heard at United Biscuits to get a dream job was definitely a memorable challenge. Lots of other more experienced and “on paper” better candidates, applied for the role of MD at McVities Cake Company when the position became vacant. In the end tenacity and a continued plea to “give me a chance!” won out. Ultimately the main board at United Biscuits felt I could grow and learn more in the role the other further experienced candidates.

Another huge challenge was juggling motherhood with a senior career.  This is VERY tricky.  I had three children in 2-and-a-half -years – so being a mum of three under three, whilst running a business unit with 300 staff, commuting from Lymm to Halifax four days a week, plus one early flight down to Heathrow a week was completely exhausting.  In fact it was just too much so I took a brief career break – after quickly realising being at home full time with three small children is harder than anything else!. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, and not always to move your career onwards and upwards every step of the way – but in the long run that’s OK!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Our business has grown exponentially in size during the past five years as more and more consumers are driving a huge increase in eco-conscious purchasing. We expect that on the current run rate we will be posting sales of £9m in 2020 – almost double our £4.6m sales in 2018.

When the first Boots lorry went out full of Faith In Nature products, that was very exciting and cemented our position into the mainstream.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My determination, stubbornness and tenacity in making a business thrive. I’m also good at building and motivating teams – if you set the bar higher than you all feel you could reach, you’ll get there together. Faith In Nature has a fabulous brand name, it’s a business that’s always been way ahead of its time in realising that consumers want great products without harming the environment – that was trailblazing in the ‘70s. The whole proposition delivers – all products are natural, excellent quality, have delicious fragrances with an accessible price point.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

An important part of my role is to mentor, motivate, inspire and get the best out of my senior leadership team. People really are the most important asset of any business. I believe it’s key to mentor with good humour – we laugh a lot as a team together.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I personally have never experienced an issue related to gender equality – if anything being a woman and standing out in the senior management crowd has been a good thing. Working for a woman– Rivka Rose the founder of Faith In Nature – for the past 8 years has given me even more empathy for females in business, as we’re both mums who have juggled careers and family lives. I think it’s important to encourage other businesses to recognise what great assets women in senior positions can be.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Count to ten! Be a bit ‘less bull in a china shop’, as its much better to sleep on a decision before taking action. You can still be hungry for success and act with pace, but taking a brief pause is a good idea.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Well, we’ve doubled the business in just two years so we plan to do that again over the next two by moving the brand into new categories and conquering markets like the US. We’ve made some changes to staff working and product lines during the Covid-19 crisis, so we hope to take all the positives from that.

Personally I will celebrate my 50th birthday with a BIG BASH (a year late), and, if it happens – run the London marathon in October.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

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