To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2022, we chat to the inspirational Co-CEO of Belu, Charlotte Harrington, to find out about her journey and challenges along the way…
We have been a longstanding partner of Belu British Mineral Water, the leading sustainable mineral water on the UK market, serving their water in our restaurant, in Raw & Cured, in bedrooms, and their filtered water in our refill bottles at Herb House and across our Smoked & Uncut Festivals. We partnered with Belu in 2011 and since introducing our refillable water bottles 4 years ago we have been saving a huge 106,680 single-use bottles a year and 2,059 lives will be transformed with clean water worldwide.
For International Women’s Day, we felt it was only right to speak to the inspirational Charlotte Harrington, one of the Co-CEOs of Belu. Charlotte tells us about her current role as Co-CEO at Belu, her career journey and the challenges she has faced along the way.
Tell us a bit about you and your role at Belu?
I’m Co-CEO at Belu, having joined in 2015 as Chief Operating Officer, fulfilling my ambition to lead a business with purpose, after 15 years in retail. I lead Belu Filter in Action in UK and Hong Kong, amongst other things! I’m also Non-Exec Director for House of St Barnabas Event Ltd, a private members club striving to end the cycle of homelessness. Keeping me on my toes away from work I have 3 kids and a lively Springer Spaniel.
Belu is a drinks business that puts people and the environment first. Our purpose goes beyond our products, by 2030 we will change the way the world sees water. Belu is powered by this purpose, and it is our promise to every person who chooses to buy us, it is core to every product and service we sell, and all our profits are invested in the pursuit of it.
Tell us about your career journey?
The formative years of my career were spent as a buyer for leading retailers. An incredible training ground, giving me the opportunity to travel the world and work with some amazingly talented people. I loved the fast-paced world of retail, results from your decisions could be seen almost instantly and curating ranges required creativity, coupled with commercial thinking. I worked hard, it was relentless, but I gradually rose through the ranks to become a Category Director at Tesco.
Was there anyone that inspired you along your career or growing up?
There have been lots of people I’ve worked with that have inspired and supported me, but my work ethic came from my parents. My mum in today’s world would be seen as an entrepreneur but back in the 1980s that wasn’t really a thing. She set up a business from home called Cottage Curries. A brilliant concept - homemade Indian curries that were frozen, ready for you to simply heat up at home. The challenge was there wasn’t the support available for young working mum’s back then (she had 3 children under 10 years old) and scaling the concept was therefore impossible. I distinctly remember watching her cooking the daal, packaging it up, managing the books and juggling the 3 of us. If only I’d been older & able to help, her thinking was well ahead of its time and her determination and entrepreneurialism has definitely inspired me.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
There are always challenges and compromises that you have to make as a working mum. What I’ve learnt to realise is that you always have choices and if you stay true to your values you can’t go far wrong. I vividly recall being told to make something happen in a certain way by a senior retail director. I fundamentally disagreed with the approach, it conflicted with my personal values. As it wasn’t the outcome I objected to, I made it happen but, in my way, protecting the integrity of my team at the same time. Looking back, it was this moment that made me realise, I didn’t want to do business or use my energy in a negative way, I wanted to align my career with my values.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Joining Belu! It was a huge departure from everything I knew but felt like serendipity. The opportunity to use the skills I’d developed in the corporate world to grow a business that was founded on the belief that there was a better way to do business and that through doing good business you could help solve some of the world’s problems was exactly what I needed. Since joining the business we’ve won numerous accolades, including two Queen’s Awards. We’ve given over £5m of net profit to WaterAid and in the midst of the pandemic launched Belu Filter in Action in Hong Kong and a new range of mixers & tonics.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring women in business?
Work hard, believe in yourself, build your resilience, never stop learning from others and to trust your instincts.