Passion Pioneer: Meet Caroline Newte Hardie, doing her bit for gender equality in the UK

Launching Peace and Riot, the first credits based, ad-hoc, co-working space with integrated childcare, has been an exciting journey

Peace and Riot is a workspace with childcare on site,” says Caroline. “It has a big purpose. It’s creating an affordable solution to parents struggling to juggle the work-life balance. I’m trying to do what I can to contribute towards gender equality in the UK.”

And that’s what she’s achieving successfully with the launch of Peace and Riot; a space where parents can come to work, and bring their children to benefit from on-site childcare. It’s blended childcare at its best. Here, Caroline shares how Peace and Riot came to be.

What inspired your business?

The idea for Peace and Riot came about through my own life experience and the experience of my friends and social circle. The same problem kept coming up again and again. Childcare is too expensive, it’s inflexible and you can’t rely on it. And the responsibility generally lies with women.

At the moment, men are completely disincentivized to be a larger part of childcare, but unless companies change their parental leave packages, very little is going to change. So many women’s careers are damaged by having to work around childcare.

I had quite a few years of pretty poor experience of childcare and managing work at the same time, and this was an experience shared with friends and colleagues at work. I just thought it was mad that society was still in this situation, so I wanted to look at a way we could do it differently; I wanted peace of mind.

So, how did Peace & Riot come about?

It stemmed from that sentiment around finding peace of mind, actually. Childcare is a really difficult problem to solve, but I wanted to try. I decided to do a lot of research, looking at other businesses. I went from London to Harrogate, and Edinburgh to Windsor to find out what was working and what wasn’t.

I looked at different price points, from the lower end of the budget to the very top-end, luxury models. I found nothing was really solving the problem; you couldn’t get childcare last minute, babysitting and creche environments created separate anxiety and a lot of parents just felt immense guilt. And most businesses were leisure options, opposed to anything work related.

Photography: Noor and Zee

We decided to operate across three areas: hospitality, childcare and workspaces; a space where parents can work, enjoy a cup of coffee and catch up with fellow parents, and a space where their children can play and learn, alongside them.

It sounds like this was a passion project for you?

Peace and Riot is definitely my passion in life. But it’s also the customers and hearing their feedback. We know we’ve changed peoples’ lives – we’ve had people who’ve had postnatal depression and we’ve pulled them out of it; they said that without Peace & Riot, they wouldn’t have gone back to work.

We’ve had people whose relationships have been saved, and we’ve changed people’s lives in terms of community. People have moved here but they don’t know anyone in the area, and now suddenly they’ve got all these connections. 

Photography: Noor and Zee

What was the point where you realised “I’m a business owner. This is real”?

The first time was when I had to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to ask permission to do things. I’m a sole founder and it’s quite a tough role, but there are pluses and minuses. A minus is that I can’t double check with somebody, but the plus is having the confidence to think, ‘right, I think we’re going to do this,’ and then doing it without having to have 5000 meetings to get there!

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

That’s a difficult question because it’s actually probably not to do with my business. I’d say it’s having children and being responsible for another human being. But I suppose with Peace & Riot we are responsible for other human beings and that’s quite a big deal as well. 

Have you ever felt discriminated against as a female founder? 

I think being a female founder has been really challenging and, yes, I have felt discriminated against occasionally. There was a report done called the Rose Report Review, which was about female entrepreneurship, and the fact that less than 2% of VC funding went to female founders. One observation is that people tended to invest in STEM or fintech, but not in things that had an emotive root.

Yet people tend to set up businesses as a result of their emotional life experiences. I’d argue that a large proportion of female founders have probably had a life experience around parenthood, and usually as the sole carer, and gone onto launching a related business. Yet when it comes to sourcing funding – and I’ve experienced this, where people who I’ve pitched to have not had the same life experience – there’s a mismatch and it’s really, really tough to get around.

The investors and the entrepreneurs have different life experiences. At times, it felt discriminatory when asked questions such as ‘how does your husband feel about this?’ and ‘I assume you care about this business because you’ve got children?’ or ‘How are you going to cope if you’re running this business?’. So the hardest thing was trying to make people whose life experiences have had nothing to do with mine, understand the value and importance of the business.

Have you ever received great advice?

I don’t take other people’s advice. It might sound a bit ridiculous, but the best advice I’ve received is not to take other people’s advice. I think if you’re doing something new; if you’re pioneering a new concept and you ask other people for lots of advice, it won’t necessarily be relevant to you. 

What is your superpower?

My superpower is probably existing on a significantly poor amount of sleep and remaining relatively well. I’m surviving on less sleep than I probably should have, but I’m able to just keep going!

How do you celebrate success?

We celebrate success at Peace and Riot every day. Often, we get lovely comments on our Instagram and I’ll share them with the rest of the team. I really enjoy dealing with the public, whether that’s online with Instagram, through our website or in real life. 

Photography: Noor and Zee

What is the best way to get a passion project off to a flying start?

The best way is to have a good team around you. In the beginning, when your business is just an idea and it’s not set up yet; when you don’t have an office and it’s just an abstract idea, it’s really important to have good people in your life. You’ll sometimes sit there and think ‘I am mad’, so it’s all about having good people to support you.

Also your family and friends, because the whole process can be really daunting. You’re signing contracts, and organising things, but it’s just you and that can be quite scary sometimes. People around you will give you confidence, and they’ll tell you ‘Just go with it. What’s the worst that can happen?’.

It sounds like you’ve had great people around you. You must be really proud.

I am! I get such lovely feedback and support and, as a team, we celebrate that every day. We get comments on our Instagram and I’ll share them with the rest of the team. I really enjoy dealing with the public, whether that’s online with Instagram, through our GoDaddy website or in real life. My proudest moment is when a customer stopped me and said: ‘I wanted to thank you, because you’ve really changed our lives.’ I don’t think you can ask for better than that. 

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