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“I quit my job at seven months pregnant. By the time I gave birth, I had a business.”



Jenn McGarrigle and family

When Jenn McGarrigle quit her job at a start-up, she never imagined she would go on to start her own business. Handing in my notice was the scariest thing I had ever done, but also the most freeing feeling in the world, says Jenn, 40.

After I quit, I called up a friend of mine, Aisling Connaughton, who was also my mentor. Aisling's response? What?! Are you crazy?! You don't quit your job when you're seven months pregnant.

Of course, it was exactly the response Jenn had expected and prepared for. I told her that I felt I had reached a ceiling and wanted to do something with more purpose, and that before handing in my notice, I'd gone away and looked through my family finances to work out what I needed to do to be able to quit.

We had a good plan in place. We'd reduced childcare for our first baby because I was going to be on maternity leave with our second child, we'd sold our car, which we felt we didn't need in London, and we'd set the target of saving eight to twelve months of our mortgage payment so that when my maternity pay ended, we'd have a safety net."

Aisling, feeling calmer after Jenn's explanation, went on to share her plans for her own career. When Jenn phoned, I'd almost finished my Masters in sustainability and had started to think about how I could build on the consulting work I'd already been doing for businesses that wanted to become more sustainable,” says Aisling.

By the end of the call, the seed of a business had been sown. Within two months, and before Jenn gave birth, the two women had brought on a third co-founder, Aisling's cousin Mica Janiv, and delivered their first project to their first client.

Jenn, co-founder of Cyd Connects, talking at London Design Festival on sustainability
Jenn, co-founder of Cyd Connects, talking at London Design Festival on sustainability

Through their sustainability consultancy Cyd Connects, Jenn, Aisling and Mica support clients with sustainability tracking, reporting and communication. The first business we worked with had been around for 50 years and sustainability had been a major focus of theirs for 20 years. They had all the credentials in place and were reporting on sustainability but weren't communicating it,” says Jenn. "We came in to help develop a communications strategy that gave them the confidence to talk about everything they're doing.”

Cyd Connects has clients in all sorts of industries - construction, technology, fashion, food, travel and beauty. Jenn and Aisling previously worked for the well-known beauty and wellness brand Liz Earle, Jenn as Head of Marketing, Aisling as Global Head of PR and Communications. Mica previously worked as an in-house copywriter for sustainable fashion designer Reet Aus.

The all-women team deliberately prioritises working with other businesses founded by women – across both clients and suppliers. That's why Starling appealed to us - it's founded by a woman. It's part of the change we want to see more broadly in society and it feels like the right bank for our business,” says Jenn.

Among Cyd Connects clients are female-founded recruitment agency Ruebik, started by former Global Executive Talent Acquisition Lead at Rolls-Royce Christina Brooks, and beauty and skincare brand Reome, set up by former Beauty Director of Stylist magazine Joanna Ellner.

We also work with huge businesses like L’Occitane en Provence, a majority female-run business, who certified B Corp this month,” says Aisling. When an organisation is certified as a B Corp, it means they have high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

In line with their ambition to support women and create equal opportunities, the team at Cyd Connects works a four-day week to relieve childcare costs and improve wellbeing, and donates 10% of profits to charities or causes tackling gender equality, either through a financial donation or through pro bono work or volunteering.

Aisling Connaughton, Mica Janiv and Jenn McGarrigle, co-founders of Cyd Connects
Aisling Connaughton, Mica Janiv and Jenn McGarrigle, co-founders of Cyd Connects (left to right)

The business was named after Mica's mother, Cyd. She was a trailblazer when not many women could be. For us, she represents all the women who came before us and paved the way.

Mica adds: She reminds us every day that if the system doesn’t work for us, then we need to take it upon ourselves to change the system.