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Jo Pateman's Member Story

Hertfordshire-based Women with Waders has become a big fish in its particular pond over the last decade and is now the leading pond maintenance, construction and cleaning company in an area spanning Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, North London, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire.

The Hitchin-based company was founded by managing director and FSB member, Jo Pateman, in 2005. Jo had worked in an aquatic nursery for a couple of years when she was told the owner was closing the shop. She bravely opted to take over the lease and borrowed money from her father-in-law to buy stock – including lots of pond-related items, from fish and plant to pumps and pond liners.

From there, moving into the world of pond maintenance is something she describes as a ‘natural progression’.  Women with Waders was the result of Jo’s passion for all aquatic life and as she had another keen fishkeeping and aquatic plant lady working for her, the name was both quirky and appropriate.

The pair poured their knowledge into the business, managing ponds of all types and size, from small ponds to large neglected lakes and from highly elaborate ponds, to school ponds that teach children about habitats and food chains. The team started to expand and became a ‘Small Business of the Year’ finalist in the 2008 Hertfordshire Business Awards.

Jo’s business journey cannot be fully detailed without referencing the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), an organisation that has supported the UK’s smaller businesses for over 40 years.  Jo’s sister, Maree Atkinson works for FSB and highlighted how valuable its package of services could be for Jo, as she grew her business.  Jo soon agreed.

When the business scooped 2012’s ‘Most Enterprising Business’ award from FSB Hertfordshire, things got really interesting, as Jo explains:

“FSB put me in touch with Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ and the programme featured me over a whole year, as I worked with mentor, Nikki King, CEO of Isuzu Trucks and a hugely knowledgeable entrepreneur. The experience was invaluable and also created a huge amount of recognition. People still mention it today!”

A healthy increase in turnover has extended Jo’s duties as an employer.  To tackle these, she has used her FSB membership to the full, accessing both employment law and contract law advice from FSB’s legal and employment protection schemes. The pond specialist has stayed abreast of legislation and ensured her procedures and contracts are watertight.

Jo says:

“Smaller businesses need to deliver excellent customer service and pay attention to detail, concentrating on aspects such as building a client database, whilst using professional services, such as those provided by FSB, to handle non-core competencies.”

Women with Waders is going from strength to strength.  Its story demonstrates how diving in at the deep end paid off for one female entrepreneur and how FSB membership delivered even more than anticipated.

If you'd like to get in touch with us and share your member story, simply email: yourstories@fsb.org.uk. If you're not a member of FSB and you'd like to sign up, follow this link which will take you to our join portal.

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