International Women’s Day – Prep House

Celebrating the influential women across convenience

Marlene Godwin, sales and marketing director at Prep House.

This post was written in collaboration with Prep House.

Marlene Godwin, sales and marketing director at Prep House

How is diversity & inclusion a key foundation at your own organisation?   

As a small business, employing 30 colleagues, we have workers of all abilities and ethnicities. Our diverse workforce brings together individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives from all over Europe.

We have found that diverse backgrounds can contribute unique ideas and approaches, leading to new product developments, process improvements, and creative problem-solving. Our Factory Manager, Helenka, is Slovakian and her team include Irish, Northern Irish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and, more lately, Ukrainian colleagues. It really is a diverse mix, but it works.

Employees from different backgrounds may have diverse temperaments, technical skills, industry knowledge, and cultural competencies and for us that has proved to be beneficial.

In today’s evolving business landscape, we know that adaptability and flexibility are crucial, particularly with a small business, like Prep House. A diverse workforce gives us different perspectives on market trends, customer preferences, and industry changes. We feel that the diversity of insights helps us stay agile, adapt to new circumstances, and seize emerging opportunities. This is vital for us. 

Do you feel a positive culture being in place helps you cement business relationships?

A positive work culture is essential! It boosts employee morale and productivity, fosters team collaboration, helps attract and retain our top talent. More importantly, it enhances our reputation as a good employer in the local area.

We are on a sustainability journey and want to be the best global citizens as possible, so our entire workforce lives within a 12-mile radius of our manufacturing base in Crossgar.  We want all our colleagues to be happy, settled and to feel that their efforts count, so we try to be as open as we can and communicate with openly to each member of staff. We are not perfect by any means, but we work hard to be better.

Tell us about your own success story, positive experiences etc?

I have worked for some fabulous companies and the best times for me, professionally, have been when I have had a good line manager, who pushed and mentored me.

More recently, I am fortunate to have joined Prep House at a time when we are pushing hard for sales growth.  Since joining, I have watched our entrepreneurial owner, Paul Bell, invest over and above my expectations, such is his vision for this business.

As a team we work together, facing into challenges and at the same time enjoying what we do. We celebrate success, something that I feel is incredibly important. It helps that we all have a relatively good sense of humour, because at times we have needed it. Not every day is perfect, and not every day is the same!

What opportunities are there for career evolution within your company?

As with any small business that is growing fast, career evolution is an option. Our factory manager started with us over 10 years ago as a cook. I think that is a pretty good example of how passion in what you do evolves into more responsibility and opportunity for career progression.

I love to see female leaders in business developing and honing their skills as they move up the career ladder. Our quality control lead is also female. In fact our leadership team is 50:50, so a nice even split.

What has your experience been like as a woman working in your field?  

I don’t think that being a female has hugely hindered my career progression. I have always taken great job satisfaction in my work, working alongside some great leaders, both female and male (they will know who they are if they read this!).

I haven’t personally come across a lot of gender bias, although I do know that many of my female friends have experienced this to some level. Some have even had the feeling that ‘tokenism’ has featured in their appointment or promotion.

I have always worked in very strong male environments and never felt intimidated or any less empowered than any of my male counterparts. You will always find the odd passive aggressive type in the workplace, but they can be male or female!

As a woman working in an all-male team, I have tried to bring different perspectives and approaches to any conversation. However, it is important to remember that as women, we do face unique challenges that aren’t often faced by our male counterparts.

It is good to see many organisations now implementing policies to support work-life balance and promoting women’s leadership. By recognising and addressing unique challenges faced by women, companies can create a more equitable and inclusive environment for everyone to thrive!

What challenges have you overcome in the past in this regard?

 I guess the work-life balance hasn’t always been easy, particularly when my family was young. Balancing my work responsibilities with personal and family commitments, and doing so financially, was challenging at times.

When I was raising my two children, there was not the same level of support, financial or otherwise, that mothers have today and what they have today is still not enough. Both my children have a strong work ethic and I like to think that I have played a role in that.

I recall that I once had a job offer rescinded from a luxury goods manufacturer when I was in my early 20’s, because they found out I had a young child. Ironically, it was a woman without children who made the decision. I find that astonishing looking back. It just would never happen today and that can only be a good thing.

What experiences have your female clients had (positive or negative) within retail, if this is something you can share with us?

Some of my female friends and colleagues have changed jobs and moved away from retail completely. This includes my daughter. She left her retail career because of the long hours and the level of commitment required. Weekend working and late evenings are not ideal for young women raising a family.

Others have been more fortunate and had flexible working or working from home as options. Post Covid, working from home is now more commonplace and I think this is beneficial for us all, regardless of gender.

It’s important that employers realise if they show flexibility and recognise the value of women’s skills, expertise and potential, they can create an inclusive and supportive environment where we can all thrive and contribute to our full potential.


Click here to read more about the inspiring and influential women working across the convenience retail sector.