Emma Ash

Inspirational Woman: Emma Ash | Co-Founder, YoungPlanet

Emma Ash

Emma Ash is the co-founder of YoungPlanet, a business she runs with her husband, Jason Ash. 

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My husband Jason and I started YoungPlanet around two years ago. It’s now both of our full-time jobs. Before this, I enjoyed a career in luxury goods PR and marketing before becoming a Director at the accessories company Stella & Dot.

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill. The main focus is on helping families to reduce waste and become more environmentally conscious. But it also helps parents receive high-quality things for their kids for free, which can be of huge help to many families, especially at the moment.

The app works by providing a ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes to toys and baby equipment. If more than one person wants the same item, the app uses a gamification system to prioritise those who need them most or have donated more items in the past - incentivizing a circular system of giving.

We started working on the YoungPlanet app around two years ago and ran a small pilot in London last year. This year, we’ve expanded beyond the capital which has been really exciting - we now have over 35,000 users from across the UK.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had plans in my 20s but once I had children, everything was on pause for a while. However, I knew that I wanted to do something creative and fulfilling. Being a mum is the most wonderful job, but having a project or business helps you to retain your identity and be your own person. I wanted to do something different from what I did before, which was in PR and marketing. I needed my next career move to fit in with life as a mother.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

When I worked in Paris, it was in a very hierarchical old fashioned company. Men held all the key positions and women were in assistant roles. I remember tenaciously pushing for a bigger role with more responsibility which the company was reluctant to do but, after 2 years, they eventually upped my pay grade and role. Other assistants were shocked and it certainly upset the apple cart.

This scenario is a reminder to always have confidence in yourself and your ability - don’t be afraid to be assertive to get what you want.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be launching YoungPlanet - it’s something I am really proud of because I can see how we are helping to change mindsets and communities for the better!

Creating the app has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve had. We’re helping families to be more environmentally conscious by making it easier for them to make sustainable choices.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Being tenacious. It’s important to not be defeated by failure or loss and learn from your mistakes. I’ve had points that have been really difficult but it’s about how you come back from those difficulties that define you, not the mistakes that you make. Sometimes you just need to keep going until you find a way...

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in Technology?

Back yourself! You are your greatest endorsement so champion your achievements and make sure others know about them too! A practical tip for this is to catalogue your successes as you go along - whether that’s on LinkedIn or in a notebook. Sometimes, when we experience failure or if we’re having self-doubt, it can be hard to remember what we’ve done well, which can perpetuate this cycle of imposter syndrome that we can experience. Making a note of your career highs will help you when times get tough and you can look back and remind yourself of what you’re really capable of.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are certain barriers in the industry, and there’s, without doubt, a kind of uniformity to the sector. That said though, as the sector broadens to involve more of the ‘why’ than just the ‘what’ of possibility in tech, the sector will inevitably diversify across age, gender and so forth. The more tech as a sector begins to deliver as an enabler of consumers in everyday life, the broader it will inevitably become as a sector both in and of itself.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Obviously, companies should set a good example by supporting parents through a maternity and paternity leave process and have systems in place such as offering flexible hours, that make the return to work easier for women who’ve just had a baby and so forth. If an employee is working flexible hours, they will be doing the work asked of them (and more) and should not be penalised financially either. More balanced gender representation throughout a company's hierarchy is important too, and there simply should be more women in Boardrooms in the UK. I am optimistic though - as the workplace becomes more focused on both outputs and outcomes, the siloed inputs will inevitably become less dominant.

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Hatch Fearless Female Founder featured

Female founders involved in one of the UK’s first BAME incubator programmes set to pitch their businesses


2018 Hatch Fearless Female Founder FFI launch party (11)

Twenty fearless female founders of colour are on the path to launching their own businesses following a chance to develop their ideas through a trailblazing South London incubator programme.

Launched by Hatch enterprise in mid-October with the financial support of NatWest and eBay, the Female Founders Accelerator programme is one of the UK’s only small business support networks for BAME women (women in the UK who have non-white backgrounds including black, Asian or minority ethnic).

Twenty BAME female entrepreneurs participating in the programme have been selected from a variety of industries and backgrounds. They are working intensively on their businesses at Google’s dedicated learning space, Academy London. – a dedicated learning hub near Victoria station in central London, and with further backing from Google for Startups.

Hatch Enterprise is an award-winning incubator working primarily with under-represented groups of entrepreneurs.

For a number of years, it has supported ambitious female founders through a new style of programme that super-charges their businesses. Its newest programme, the Female Founders Accelerator, is based on insight gained by working with and listening to more than 100 female founders.

Research shows women-led businesses consistently outperform those led by men: the Untapped Unicorns report notes 34 per cent of male entrepreneurs have seen a business fail compared with 23 per cent of female founders, and women entrepreneurs bring in 20 per cent more revenue with 50 per cent less money invested. Although, only 20 per cent of the SMEs in the UK are led by women and 6.2 per cent of the SMEs in the UK are BAME led.

2018 Hatch Fearless Female Founder FFI launch party (4)

Hatch’s Female Founders Accelerator is committed to tackling a lack of diversity within the community of successful female founders.

The programme provides five months of intensive support including two months of workshops focussing on business growth (e.g. business modelling, marketing, financial management, public relations and more), business coaching and dedicated networking sessions; followed by three months of expert mentoring for each individual.

Hatch Enterprise Programme Manager, Bayo Adelaja, said, “Without support, nine out of 10 entrepreneurs will fail over any given three-year time period."

"For the BAME community, 19 out of 20 female founders will fail over the same time period."

"With our Female Founders (BAME) Accelerator, we want to reduce failure rates by 70 per cent, enabling at least 14 of the 20 female founders to build a sustainable business that survives beyond its third birthday.”

"This is an exciting initiative in the landscape of entrepreneurship in the UK, giving BAME female founders an opportunity to succeed, scale up and thrive."

2018 Hatch Fearless Female Founder FFI launch party (100)

NatWest Managing Director of Personal Banking in London, Rachel Blackamore, said, “As the UK’s biggest and best bank for business – we help businesses to trade safely and securely in an uncertain world."

"Starting and sustaining a business can be daunting, so the business-oriented projects that we fund through the Skills & Opportunities Fund focus on building the skills, experience and resilience necessary to succeed in business in the long-term."

“It’s through initiatives like the Female Founders BAME Accelerator that we are able to support people who might not have accessed business training independently, encouraging the different ideas and ways of thinking that are essential to the sustainable economic and social development of a thriving and diverse society.”

“The feedback we receive from previous winners really brings home the impact of the Fund both on individuals and the wider community…”