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Louise Deverell-Smith on fashion, flexible working and the future of employment

Louise Deverell-Smith is a former fashion professional who gave up her career in wholesale for the likes of Diesel and G-Star to set up an alternative recruitment agency which matches flexible employers with talented parents who are looking to ditch the traditional 9 to 5 approach to work. With a new and expanding fashion division led by industry head Katie Mene, The Daisy Chain is rapidly expanding and is looking to add more candidates – and especially companies – to its roaster. Isabella Griffiths gets the low-down.


Isabella Griffiths: What is your background and when and why did you set up The Daisy Chain?
Louise Deverell-Smith: I’m a fashion graduate and have worked in retail at Selfridges and wholesale for G-Star and Diesel. I began working in recruitment when I fell pregnant with my first child and realised that my current wholesale role wasn’t going to work for me – mainly the travel and entertainment – once I became a mum.

Eight years and another two children later, I found that it wasn’t only me, but many of my candidates whose circumstances were changing. People wanted roles that could enhance the balance between their work and home life and so The Daisy Chain was born. I wanted to create a platform that puts employers willing to consider flexible working in touch with some of the best talent out there, so businesses can keep experienced, highly capable parents in their industries.

IG: What is the concept of the Daisy Chain and what differentiates you from other, more traditional recruitment agencies?
LD-S: The Daisy Chain is a matchmaker, not a recruiter. We introduce forward thinking employers to talented, driven parents keen to find roles that fit around their childcare responsibilities. For businesses, it’s about having a flexible approach to hiring, thinking outside the nine to five box in order to find that extra special someone to enhance their workforce.

IG: How does the Daisy Chain system work?
LD-S: Simply put, we match parents looking for flexible work opportunities with employers keen to find exceptional and experienced talent.

Parents tell us what they want – position, sector, salary and location – and our system matches them to relevant employers. Those who receive mutual ‘likes’ are matched and this hopefully sparks the beginning of a lasting relationship.

IG: Which industries does The Daisy Chain cover already?
LD-S: Everything from fashion and retail to property, finance, law, digital and marketing. We like to make sure we cover a breadth of sectors in order to help get as many parents as possible back, or into, employment and enjoying the work/ life balance that is so often a little elusive.

IG: You have recently expanded to include a fashion division. Which companies are already onboard, and what are your plans for this arm of the business?
LD-S: We work with brands including Jojo Maman Bebe, McArthurGlen, London Personal, Mih Jeans and Jigsaw. And we’re keen to continue to grow our portfolio even more.

Katie Mene, who heads up this division, has over 20 years of experience in the retail and wholesale market and is the driving force behind this arm of the business. As a working mum herself, she’s keen to help other talented parents connect with brands willing to offer flexible working opportunities, be it on a freelance, part- or full-time basis.

IG: What are the benefits for employers registering with The Daisy Chain?
LD-S: Parents are valuable to businesses; they are driven, bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and transferable skills – not to mention loyalty. If an employer is willing to think about flexible options and can design a role that will fit around existing childcare commitments, then they open themselves up to some excellent candidates that will benefit their existing workforce.

We have found that The Daisy Chain attracts parents who have been pushed out of the economy by companies unable to consider alternatives to the staid nine to five, five days a week working model. As such, they don’t want to use a traditional recruiter, which means we have a rich pool of talent that won’t be found elsewhere.

What are the benefits for candidates registering with The Daisy Chain?
LD-S: The Daisy Chain is powered by parents. It’s about being totally clear and upfront about your needs in order to find roles that fit you and work around your childcare. Hopefully candidates will view this as a refreshing approach, because it is parents who are in complete control of who sees their profile and what message they want to put across to a potential employer. There’s no recruiter, no ‘middle man’ getting in the way and pushing roles that aren’t of interest.

IG: How many candidates have you currently got signed up, and what is the portfolio and calibre of candidates?
LD-S: We’re a young company with currently over 1,500 candidates on our books – a number that is growing daily. I’ve been blown away by the talent we have at all levels and across sectors as diverse as property and fashion.

IG: Do you feel flexible working is the future of employment?
LD-S: Yes, without a doubt. Developments in technology have had a huge impact on the way we all work and nine-to-five – for most – is not a necessity. I often work before the kids are up then drop them off at school before heading to yoga and working for the rest of the day. If needed, I’ll log back into work once the kids are in bed and asleep. I personally prefer it this way – I am happier and more productive because of it. And I know that I am not alone.

IG: What are the benefits for employers to allow flexible working conditions, especially parents? Does it help retain talent?
LD-S: Absolutely. Employers able to offer flexibility attract and retain the best possible, most experienced talent. It fosters loyalty, better performance and promotes a happier workforce. The benefits are well established and research has shown that it can improve employee engagement and motivation. To me, it makes business sense to offer flexible working as standard, but we have a way to go before that approach is widely adopted.

IG: What are your criteria for employers seeking to register with The Daisy Chain?
LD-S: We want to showcase employers who embrace the flexibility a parent needs. It’s simple really, employers just need to prove they have roles that would work around childcare in order to join The Daisy Chain and connect with some of the most driven candidates available.

IG: How are you finding attitudes among employers towards flexible working? Are some industries more receptive than others?
LD-S: Attitudes to flexible working are not down to different sectors, but the decision makers within individual companies. For some there is a nervousness around flexibility – a lack of trust or control – that is stopping them from embracing a modern and hugely beneficial approach to hiring. Yet in reality, currently all employees can ask for flexibility after six months of employment anyway. We are finding that it is those open to an upfront and honest discussion, those willing to try implementing flexible roles, who are reaping huge rewards.

IG: What are your future plans for The Daisy Chain?
LD-S: As the conversation around flexible working continues, I hope The Daisy Chain can go some way to persuading a growing number of businesses to create roles that break from tradition in order to attract and retain talented parents in order to build a truly flexible, motivated and happy workforce.


Image: Louise Deverell-Smith (left) and Katie Mene.



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