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boss the year Sapphire bates

Kicking off the first instalment of our Boss The Year series is Sapphire J Bates, founder of @thecovengirlgang, an online membership platform for female founders and freelancers. The Coven aims to bring women from around the world together in a virtual space to support and empower one another. We chatted to Sapphire about the witchy origins of the name ‘Coven’ and the link between women and witchcraft throughout history. Sapphire doesn’t need to cast a spell for us to fall in love with her and what she’s doing - we’re already obsessed.

Sapphire Bates

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Sapphire, I run an online membership for female founders and freelancers. Every day I help hundreds, almost thousands of self-identifying females do the things that they want to do and move towards their goals. For a long time before this I ran a flower studio and for a very hectic time in 2018 I did both! I do various other projects too, I write articles, create content and I have a podcast. There are many things going on in one week, which to be fair I love, I do thrive on a certain amount of stress, not too much though.

Why do you think you work well in a high pressure environment?

I think it’s because in all of my previous jobs, there has always been an element of pressure, a clock ticking somewhere and just not enough time. But now, a lot of the pressure is pressure that I inflict on myself. Now that I’m my own boss, I get to decide that ‘yes we can get that done by the end of the week’ even though we probably can’t without wanting to cry. It’s something that I think is ingrained in me. I’m an ambitious person and I like to push myself to achieve things and get stuff done. If I have an idea, I want to make it happen right now, I basically have no patience.

Sapphire Bates

How did you begin 2020?

I started 2020 in New York , I booked a very last minute trip, I was due to be at home, but I just thought f**k it! I wasn’t quite ready to start work again, so, I went to New York for a couple of days to show up and eat a lot of delicious American food in prep to come back and get a lot of work done. To me balance is really important, I’ve done the whole work 24/7 and never take time off and while I wouldn’t change that time in my life, I wouldn’t go back to it. I think it’s so important to take time off and recharge your batteries and focus on other things, and I always get my best work done when I come back.

You’ve said in a recent post that you think Resolutions are BS, do you have a different approach?

Yes, I do an end of year review. I look at what I enjoyed, what my highlights were and I do all of this privately so I can truly reflect. I think when putting all these things online, you go with whatever is the most impressive. In actual fact it could be that you finished on time on a Friday and saw friends and family, or took the time to eat a nice breakfast every day and that’s what made you the most happy. So, I reflect on what worked and what didn’t and what I want to change or continue in the next year. That’s ultimately how I decide on my 2020 vision and goals.

Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates

What is the Coven?

We do a whole sh*t tonne of stuff, the list it pretty long. Essentially we’re a community, so the main thing you’re signing up for is to have people around you. To connect with people on our directory and to be able to chat. But we do offer a lot of other exciting stuff,we have an online book club, we do virtual roundtables, virtual meetups, occasionally we do physical meetups, we’ve got online workbooks, blog posts, workshops with different experts. So much stuff, we’re always adding to it.

What was the motivation to start it?

To be honest, I was lonely. I was running my flower business and I didn’t know when I first started my own thing, how isolating it can be. If you live alone as well, or you’re single or don’t have a huge support network or big family around you, it can be the most isolating thing. And, it’s a really weird sensation because you love what you’re doing and you’re so excited that you’re doing it and have all this freedom, but on the flipside you are spending so much time by yourself. At the time, people weren't really talking about loneliness, it was very taboo to say “oh, I’m really lonely.” I got to thinking, I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way. The mass majority of us, unless you have a big investment or a co-founder, are setting up alone. I really wanted to build something that would bring people together from all over and was accessible to all.

Sapphire Bates

In history, women and witchcraft have a bad rep, why have you chosen witchy words to communicate your message?

Firstly I’ve been obsessed with witches since childhood. I’ve always felt that essentially a witch is just a powerful woman. They were women that people were afraid of because of their power, they didn’t know how to respond to their magic or how to treat them. We are all powerful women, we all hold magic within ourselves whether we know and acknowledge that or not. I really wanted to highlight that we are all witches in our own right. And, there’s so much to it, if we all come together into a coven, we are even more powerful.

Can you tell us about your route into business?

I had no plans to start a business, I was kicked out of sixth form in my first year. I had wanted to be a doctor and applied to medical school, then I got kicked out so it didn’t really work. I had no idea that I’d do anything creative or independent, I always thought I’d work for someone else. It wasn’t until I’d run out of money whilst travelling in Thailand that I started to feel the pressure to decide what I was going to do. I didn’t like the idea of having a boss and having set hours, I was talking to my Mum on Skype and she was frustrated with me and just said “if you don’t want to work for someone else, you’re going to have to work for yourself, it’s your only option.” Originally I didn’t like the idea, I couldn’t understand why you’d do all that work and potentially not get paid, but then I just gave it a go.

Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates

Do you have any advice for someone who hasn’t found their work groove yet?

Try everything! I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to just know what they want to do, and some people have a really good idea, but lots of us in the beginning and for a really long time have no idea. I still don’t know what I want to be when I’m older, who knows what I’ll be doing in ten years! There's this idea that you need to decide something and stick to it, but there’s actual power in trying things and quitting them. People think they can’t quit, but of course you can. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. You won’t know what you want until you try.

Sapphire Bates

What about confidence, what advice do you when it comes to asking for a pay rise or promotion….

Practice outside that high pressured environment where it really counts. I think of confidence like a muscle, the more that you use it and exercise and practice, the better you get. Confident people aren’t necessarily the people who think they are the best at everything, they just not that scared of failure or the word no, they’ll give it a go. To be able to do that, you just need to practise, things like when you see someone in a bar you fancy, go and ask them to buy you a drink or go and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Or, get your friends to set you a dare, next time you’re shopping, go and ask for something that doesn’t exist. Practise all these things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable or ridiculous and practice sitting with that feeling. Eventually you realise that nothing bad happens, you might feel a little bit stupid, but the world doesn’t come crumbling down. You’re, if anything, stronger than you were five minutes ago. You will reach a point where you’ll just go and ask your boss for a pay rise, if they say no, they say no, what’s the worst that can happen?

Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates
Sapphire Bates

If you’re new to interviews, how can you make a first impression your way?

Ultimately you need to be yourself and be honest. In terms of interviews, the first thought is often that you need to pretend you’re almost better than you are and totally know what you’re doing. But actually, as someone on the other side, the employer, I’m not necessarily looking for the person with the best skillset, but the one who is the most passionate and will work really hard or is a great fit for the team. Sometimes not knowing everything is actually an advantage because your employer can teach you in their way. Being yourself and being honest is the most impressive thing you can do.

How will you ‘boss 2020’?

Taking trips away, I’ve worked really hard for a long time now and I’ve started to spin it, because I want to travel more and to have that freedom I had when I was backpacking. I’m not going to be away 24/7, but I’ve definitely scheduled in some good plans and I’m going to just be brave and do them.

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