Hillier Hopkins – Inspiring women leaders: Jess Dollimore

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International Woman’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. This year’s theme, #breakthebias, looks to raise awareness of bias and take action to forge women’s equality.

This year, we want to inspire and encourage woman across our profession and in our client organisations.

We will, under our Inspiring woman leaders series, interview and profile some of our clients, celebrating their achievements, sharing their stories, and inspiring others to achieve the very best they can in the workplace.

Whilst these interviews will focus on International Woman’s Day (8 March) they will continue throughout 2022. Do please share these stories and do get in touch if you would like to share your own experiences.

#BreakingtheBias – Jess Dollimore

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre first opened its doors to customers in 1964. Led now by the fifth generation of the Evans family, cousins Andrew and James, it is a thriving destination for families living in and around Sidcup, Kent.

Hillier Hopkins speaks to its Head of Finance Jess Dollimore on the challenges young women face when taking on senior roles.

Ruxley Manor is much more than a garden centre. It has a thriving restaurant, the Mulberry Tree, the site is home to three day-care nurseries, and at Christmas it turns into a winter wonderland with a popular Santa’s Grotto, resident reindeers and an ice rink.

The garden centre site is also home to many independent businesses including a fine dining Italian restaurant, swimming pool and hot tub supplier, garden and leisure buildings, and a car wash.

Jess Dollimore joined the business in 2020 just before the pandemic gripped, as its Head of Finance. “It was,” she said, “a tough time to join.”

“It can also be tough joining a family-owned business in a senior role,” explains Jess. “Family dynamics can make for a very different environment to other businesses.”

Jess’s move was made easier, having joined Ruxley Manor from another family-owned garden centre led by six family members.

“It helped that I had known the cousins for two years before joining,” explains Jess “I knew we would work well together, that I would fit in and that I would be accepted as it was about my skill and what I could bring to the company – my age and gender never came in to it.”

Now, her role extends beyond finance to include aspects of HR and compliance, and all achieved before her 31st birthday.

“Being young and female makes it a challenge in any business,” says Jess. “The odds are often stacked against us. The support of the business owners is essential, and I have had that from day one.”

Jess grew up surrounded by strong women in her family and friends. They have, she says helped inspire me in my career. Jess took her first head of finance role aged just 26.

“I was lucky to have good teachers and mentors in my early career,” says Jess. “My previous CEO said he took a leap of faith putting me in a leadership role at 26 but he recognised my talent.”

That talent is matched by a confident personality, never allowing herself to take no for an answer.

“Things are improving, but I do still find there is a bias whether it be in meetings or when interviewing,” says Jess. “It is nipped in the bud straightaway.

“But it shows that women still have to work harder to prove themselves. There is still some way to go before women’s’ voices are heard in the same way as men.”

Learn more by visiting https://www.ruxley-manor.co.uk/.