Sarah Jones is the chief executive of Mini Exchange, an online marketplace for childcare products. The entrepreneur, 28, from England, launched the e-commerce venture in 2014 with 500 items and now features more than 30,000. Ms Jones, who previously worked for Deloitte and got married this summer, has lived in Dubai for more than four years.
How do you spend your weekend?
Until midday, I am normally catching up on sleep. Long weekdays normally mean I’m not contactable until midday at the weekends. Then it’s seeing friends, regular cinema visits, trips to the beach and the occasional work day, but I try to stay away the best I can.
How did you become a chief executive?
I often get asked how I ended up in the world of mums and kids’ e-commerce, after a corporate job in M&A … I know it looks like a strange transition from the outside. I entered the corporate world of M&A after university, however from day one I was challenging the system, questioning why big organisations always did things the same way time and time again. I couldn’t understand why large companies didn’t think outside the box, why they couldn’t be dynamic, and it always frustrated me. The start-up world, reacting to market needs and customers’ demands was always so appealing and with a passion for buying and selling on eBay when I was younger, and after seeing a gap in the market for Mini Exchange, I was drawn in and decided to take the plunge and set the business up.
Why would someone without children choose the venture you did?
There were already a number of players in the market in the fashion space but in the “mums & kids” vertical very few companies and none that were doing it quite like I’d envisioned.
What is your go-to gadget?
Something I definitely can’t live without is my phone car charger. I’m always on the go and always run out of battery.
What was the lowest point of your career?
Definitely the most challenging part of the last 18 months was the fundraise we’ve just completed. Fundraising is a full-time job. Trying to run a business, and a business that’s growing fast, at the same time as hiring, training, signing new brands, marketing, logistics … that was a real challenge.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
Invest in great people. It’s very easy when you’re a start-up to try to cut corners, try to save and try to do things on the cheap. When you’re investing in a team to help drive your business forward, you need to invest in great people. These people will take ownership of tasks, set your business apart from the rest, and most importantly, allow you to focus on growing all other areas of the business. Great people make the organisation what it is and what it will become. Invest in them from day one and it will be the best thing you do.
What is your most indulgent habit?
Sleeping a lot at the weekend.
What do you have on your desk at work?
Stationery, my phone, lots of Post-it notes and biscuits.
What can’t you live without?
I have an iPhone 6 which has my life on it. Notes, email accounts, “to do” lists, contacts. I’m always on it so it’s always in need of being charged.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I work well into the evenings but always make sure I see friends during the week and try to spend lots of time with my husband at the weekend. Paddle tennis (tennis played in a small court with a sponge-rubber ball and wooden or plastic bat) on a Sunday evening is something I really look forward to. It is a new up-and-coming sport from Europe that’s just taken off out here in Dubai. Courts have opened at Emirates Golf Club and I’m down there every Sunday night for a very competitive evening with friends. I never miss it and always leave feeling on top of the world. Getting a work-life balance is not easy though. When you’re unbelievably passionate about your job and your company you don’t want to switch off. I live and breathe Mini Exchange, so getting that balance right is a tough feat.
If you could swap jobs with any- one, who would it be and why?
I’d always dreamed of becoming chief executive of eBay – an ambitious dream, that’s for sure. I have, however, ended up running my own e-commerce site and, for the first time in my life, can honestly say that I love my day job, and wouldn’t switch it for any other role. I did the corporate world and that wasn’t for me. The entrepreneurial word keeps me passionate, keeps me learning and keeps me striving for the next big milestone.