HR specialist Laura Callahan, who set up her own business Willow HR four years ago as a single parent, has been shortlisted for the national Family Friendly Business of The Year award.
Since making the huge decision to go it alone in business, Laura has encountered the challenges of bringing up children alone, reliant on a single household income, as well as building her own business.
Now her commitment has been recognised by the national organisation Single Mums in Business Network.
“I’m delighted to have been nominated in this category for this award as it means a lot to me," said Laura.
"Being a single parent is hard work for anyone however there are particular challenges when you are also building your own business.
"There is constant pressure as you cannot rely on a regular income initially.
“The experience has been so deep that now I actually make it a priority to work with professional people who seek flexible employment, for any reason. We find ways to support each other to deliver professional growth and interesting work, whilst demonstrating excellent time management, flexibility and loyalty.”
When Laura started Willow HR, based in Shrivenham yet working with clients UK wide, she was a single parent.
“I started Willow HR to enable me to work more flexibly when my children were just one and three, after I decided to end my marriage. Now I’m supporting myself, my children and other women to do the same.
"My HR consultant team are women with children, and my freelance designer, photographer and social media consultant are also women with children.
"We flex our work around our children, we have business and planning meetings at times which suit our lives including in the evenings over dinner and a cheeky glass of wine, and we work at times that suit us and our lives. In the modern world of work, we feel part of the future and definitely not stuck in the past.
"We are modelling a way of working that we promote to our clients and genuinely practice what we preach.”
Laura (37) joined the Single Mums Business Network last year to support other women who are trying to run businesses and care for children on their own.
The network was founded by entrepreneur Julie Hawkins who was shocked when she found how difficult life became when she couldn’t combine her previous job with caring for her daughter.
“Many women are forced to make difficult ‘choices’ around their careers and caring for children – and as a society that needs to change," said Laura.
"These are often choices men do not have to consider, and it’s not really a ‘choice’ at all when work and childcare end at the same time.
"I created the SMBN to support those women who are trying to build their own businesses because they want to continue working but are locked out of the workplace in line with their salary and skillset.
"Benefits would not be needed if presenteeism, for the sake of an hour overlap between work and childcare was tackled.
"The network is aimed at supporting those women and tackling the stigma they often face due to misconceptions, whilst raising awareness of the companies that prey on them to work for free.”
The SMBN awards recognise the achievements of women who are single mums, and both men and women support the awards.