As many of you know Dr Zigs is run by myself, Paola.
Whilst I run a manufacturing company making some of the best giant soap bubble toys in the world, I am also a daughter, a mum, a cook, cleaner, a driver, a fixer, a chief family-cuddle-giver – and these are just some of the roles I have as a woman.
For International Women’s Day was honoured to be asked to talk on the Dot Davies Show on BBC Radio Wales.
Interview with the wonderful Dot Davies for BBC Radio Wales
Here’s a little excerpt from the questions I was asked pre-show, and my answers.
Wishing you all a very happy International Women’s Day. Let’s CELEBRATE!!
“So basically, we are speaking about how to inspire and empower the young generation of women on the programme to celebrate International Women’s Day! What are your thoughts? Let’s start with a quick introduction.”
Dr Zigs is run by myself, a woman and a mum. Many people assume Dr Zigs must be run by a man – I think it’s the ‘Dr’ bit. Yet, we now have a PhD in Chemistry on our bubbles, and our candidate, Anna is also female!
Getting the best cuddles from Ziggy, now aged 10, and 'The Boss of the Business'
“I just wanted to find out a little bit more about you and how you started Dr Zigs”
I started Dr Zigs at our kitchen table when my youngest son Ziggy (the inspiration) was literally a toddler in nappies. Now I run a business that manufactures some of the highest quality bubble toys that are also world leading in ethical and eco credentials. Quite an achievement!
One of the drivers for this is that from the very beginning I really wanted Dr Zigs to be sustainable, not just for the planet, but also for my family.
“What is the work that you do now?”
When I started Dr Zigs I had to work around Ziggy (18 months at the time) and my elder two, Gatto who was 13, and Branwen, 11. Festivals and events made sense at the beginning. And the business scaled quickly. BUT parenting and the family also has had to take an important role – as a woman I think you simply HAVE to balance these challenges out. To do this I’ve had to adapt Dr Zigs.
Great pic with the kids. Gatto and Branwen are now both in Uni, and Ziggy is 10
We now focus mainly on manufacturing our fantastic - and award-winning bubble toys – rather than events, which gives me more time with the family. We are now sold in really cool outlets across the UK and have some further super exciting export plans.
Not only that but we are now proud holders of two Guinness World Records using our giant bubble toys, records that we achieved with the help of our local community, and some amazing international bubble artists.
Our Guinness World Record - one of the best days EVER
“How have you come to have an only female staff? “
At the moment it’s kind of by chance, not something I have purposely set out to do, although in 8 years of running the business we’ve actually always been a majority female (and transgender!) staff. I employ people for being the best at what they can do, and the best fit for Dr Zigs, and for now at least, that means we have a strong team of talented women.
I think that as a female business owner I am keen to champion women, I like working with women, but I also am passionate to promote and celebrate diversity.
Beata, who heads up our production, testing one of our display wands.
“What are the challenges that you face as a woman in your business? How do you overcome them?”
Well, I’ve been told I’m not serious about business, I’m not focused, and I have been put down – it’s ‘just a small business’, and it’s ‘just a girl working in a shed in North Wales’, and it’s ‘just bubbles’. It’s hard not to take this stuff to heart.
Also, I think it’s a girl thing, but we don’t always celebrate what we’re doing enough. I’m trying to change that, but I do think it can be a more difficult thing for women to be bold and proud about who they are and what they’re doing.
Whilst I don’t always shout about what we’re doing, occasionally I step back and I think, wow, this is pretty cool! Last year for example we were finalists in a Welsh award for Environmental Leadership in business. Which was amazing enough – but then I found out we had come 2nd to IKEA! Not bad for a ‘girl in a shed in North Wales’.
I also think it is important for me to create a business that gives back. We have a fantastic project called Bubbles Not Bombs, where we collect and ship aid, and send bubbles out to kids who really need a break across the world. And I know this is making a difference to many women out there as well. This is maybe not a lucrative ‘hard business’ decision. But it makes me feel that I’m doing something to help, and it means that everyone who buys our bubble toys is also contributing to something pretty awesome.
Article about some of our work with Bubbles Not Bombs project and a local charity Pobl i Bobl
“What advice would you give to young women today?”
I am a mum to two fabulous young women – one of whom is also transgender. I want them to embrace life and really do what makes them happiest. I want them to let their voices be heard. I benefited from the battles for equality that my mum’s generation fought for, and I want my battles to count for my kids. I would love the world to be equal and ready for them, but I know they have plenty of their own battles on their hands. Their battles are those of a new generation, pushing for further equality, and creating a space for their own diversity. A battle that is certainly worth fighting, and one that will without a doubt make the world a much happier, richer, and bubblier place for absolutely everyone.
One of my favourite pictures, of me and my eldest on an early Bubbles Not Bombs event in Trafalgar Square
May every day be Women’s Day!