Jenny Dawson was a hedge fund manager before she quit her job and set up Rubies in the Rubble, a gorgeous company which makes handmade chutneys and jam from surplus fruits and vegetables before they’re discarded.
Describe your typical working day…
This constantly changes but it always starts with a cycle along the canal to the office and can then blur into meetings with retailers, chatting with designers, visits to farmers or jumping into the kitchen to research and develop potential new products.’
What was your first job?
My first proper job was at Odey Asset Management, a hedgefund in Mayfair. Straight after graduating with a Masters in Mathematics I got a job there with little knowledge about finance (if any) but I stayed two and a half years – it was a great place to work – a lovely team and I learnt a lot but I knew my heart just wasn’t in finance.
Who inspires you?
I’m in love with the Queen. She has strong morals, amazing integrity, huge responsibility and she’s been serving all her life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It really doesn’t matter if you fail. Give it a go – if it doesn’t work, you will learn something from its failure!
How did Rubies in the Rubble come about?
In the winter of 2010 and I casually started reading about the global food industry and the issues of food waste. I couldn’t believe how wasteful we were as a nation and it just didn’t make sense – Western countries produce up to 300 per cent more food than we actually need, while one billion people suffer from malnutrition. Obviously fairer distribution of all that surplus food is the ideal but in the meantime learning to value and put it to use in our own country is, I felt, a point of moral principle. And to that, I suppose, Rubies in the Rubble was born – a brand of delicious products made, as much as possible, from surplus fruits and vegetables that would be discarded due to imbalances in supply and demand or for asthetic reasons.
Did you have any set backs along the way?
Oh many, I’m sure. I was doing it all on a shoestring and learning as I went which made it all the more fun… I’ve learnt an enormous amount about all sorts of things – websites, marketing, commercial productions, supermarkets, working with different people… and mainly through set backs!
Tell us your five-year goal.
In fives years I would love Rubies in the Rubble to be nationally known as an umbrella brand that is passionate about valuing good food.
What advice would you give someone trying to set up their own business?
Start small, test the idea, check if there’s a market and, it sounds obvious, but make sure you love your product as you are the one selling it so you have to believe in it.
What’s your proudest achievement?
A letter from the Queen! I wrote to her asking what her favourite chutney was as I wanted to make her one for the Jubilee. She probably thought I was 10 but wrote back with a lovely letter saying she couldn’t tell me but would love to try my chutney so I sent her the range and she loved them!
We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance – do you manage it?
This is really important to me. I’m not good at either work or life unless I have a good balance so it’s very rare for us to be working later than 6pm.
How would your colleagues describe you?
We joke that it’s often as though I’m on speed… not literally, but I like new ideas and jump around quite a lot, get rather hyperactive and am usually quite quick at getting things done.
Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.