What the past four months of running She can. She did. offline has taught me…
For those of you that have followed She can. She did. since its early days (which happens to be three years ago today if you’re reading this as it goes live!) you’ll know that every so often I’ve tried to check in with updates, lessons learnt and observations on here, so that alongside the incredible female founders that I was spotlighting each week, you would have a real-time account of a female founders journey from day one.
(Because all too often, we only hear of Founders stories when they’ve “made it” right?!)
From this post that I wrote a week in that made my hands shake no end when I pushed it live; this post thirteen weeks in where I realised it was bloody hard work; this post twelve months in where I recounted the lessons I’d learnt so far; to this post last year when I opened up about running a business whilst trying to navigate one of the hardest chapters in my life to date; they’ve each been written to help shed light on how I was genuinely feeling behind the scenes at each stage of She can. She did.’s story so that one day if anyone turns around and says, “female founders are so lucky,” I can turn around and say, “thank you but actually we work seriously hard for that ‘luck!’”
*whips out evidence!*
If you’re new to She can. She did. and have started following this business in recent months however, aside from the weekly podcast episodes that go live on Wednesday mornings, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking She can. She did. didn’t have much else to offer.
Because let’s face it, it’s been very quiet on here recently…
With that in mind, given that in about 5 weeks’ time She can. She did. will be launching what I keep referring to as the “main phase of the business” that I’ve been dreaming about and trying to get off the ground since June 2018 (after noticing recurring challenges crop up in pretty much every interview I was conducting that echoed my own experiences as a newly fledged female founder at the time), I wanted to check in with you all with some observations and lessons on here once again because it’s safe to say that I’ve been on one giant learning curve in recent months.
For some context, sixteen weeks ago whilst I was mid-recording the ‘We can. We will.’ daily podcast series, I had a Zoom meeting with a potential investor who I’d been in talks with since January who ended up pulling out when Covid arrived because her business had taken a huge hit – which was so understandable. Instead of hanging up and leaving me on the line feeling sorry for myself however (!) she stayed on the call for a further hour and encouraged me to just get this thing off the ground in whatever way I could. What She can. She did. will be launching in a matter of weeks is the byproduct of that decision and the multiple Zoom calls, meetings and team work with the ladies that I mention in due course that followed! Yes it won’t be the all singing, all dancing idea that I’d taken to investors – I need a whole lotta dollar to bring the full works to life – but it will have the core offering that is, in my opinion, so needed and the fancy extras can follow in due course.
With that said, before I reveal what the next phase of She can. She did. will look like in a matter of weeks and the business transforms into the business that I (hopefully) believe it can be, I thought I’d put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard in this case) and share what the past sixteen weeks running She can. She did. offline have taught me…
(In case these lessons come in handy for you one day too!)
1) For all the business advice out there telling you that “YOU MUST SHOW UP ONLINE DAY IN DAY OUT IF YOU WANT TO BE A HASHTAG ENTREPRENEUR”, ultimately you’ve got to listen to your intuition and do what works best for you…
When the UK went into lockdown and I launched the bonus We can. We will. podcast series (that ran daily for the seven weeks between mid-March and mid-May), the first two months of lockdown for me personally were spent in an ongoing cycle (that felt never-ending at points) of recording, editing and pushing each of the 35 episodes live. With so much uncertainty and so. much. noise. online in those initial weeks, I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency to ‘show up’ for the female founders that follow She can. She did. and respond with something that cut through the panic and provided genuine support.
I’m of course no business/pandemic expert though (!) hence why that support was focused more on highlighting how female founders that I admire were pivoting and adapting their businesses instead of providing “top tips for business survival in a pandemic” from yours truly..!
Every day She can. She did. showed up online with something that was (fingers crossed) of use to female founders and its engagement – especially on the podcast – was better than ever before. (Hello podcast that I can now say spent a week in the top 5 business podcasts in the UK!)
Since then though, whilst I’ve been recording and publishing series four of the She can. She did. podcast each week, unless you subscribe to said podcast, She can. She did. has very much fallen off the grid in recent months…
At a time when many could argue that I could and should have been louder than ever…
For me though, as soon as I decided to get the next phase of She can. She did. off the ground back in April and set myself the deadline of September to finally launch it, staying ‘present’ online for the sake of staying present, if I’m being honest hasn’t felt like a priority when I’ve looked at the ‘to do’ list that needs to get done.
For some context, unlike a product-based business where I could have perhaps talked you through the excitement about packaging arriving or the problems with couriers that had delayed progress somewhat – that let’s face it, build the suspense and excitement pre-launch – my behind the scenes would have sounded a lot like this in recent months which I have no doubt would have got somewhat tiresome a few days in:
“Just checking in to say that I’m sat at my laptop for the next 10-12 hours again, trying to reach out to and secure all of the different components needed for this idea that I can’t tell you about yet to work and will be again tomorrow and again the day after and every day after that until this thing launches as it happens…”
Hardly riveting content, right?!
In fact, if you’re anything like me, hearing that for four months straight would have no doubt left the bulk majority of you thinking, ‘yeh we get it Fi, you’re launching something new. Either tell us what it is or shut up love..!’
In my opinion it boils down to figuring out what feels sustainable for you as a business owner as opposed to running a business a certain way just because everyone else is. Whilst some might argue that I could have given behind the scenes glimpses into my day-to-day life in the interim, from day one She can. She did. has been about so much more than just me so I know full well that had I added ‘social media updates saying not much else other than “just making a coffee…”’ to my to-do list each day, not only would that content have little substance for you all (for the reasons listed above), I very much doubt that we would have made the progress that we have done over the past four months and ultimately, that should (fingers crossed) benefit She can. She did.’s target audience a whole lot more in the long run.
2) When all external validation disappears, you realise how much you truly believe in your ‘why’, your resolve and your ability to put the work in
This observation ties in quite nicely with the above because the by product of keeping my head down and focusing on bringing the next phase of She can. She did. to life in recent months is that She can. She did.’s engagement on Instagram has definitely copped it somewhat!
Whilst I could sit here blaming the pesky algorithm or perhaps put it down to “bad luck” though, ultimately, it’s what happens when you go from spending a good few hours a day scrolling and engaging each day to going pretty much cold turkey online, weekly podcast announcement aside.
Take the supportive likes, DMs and comments away for an extended period of time therefore and you’re left with a blank canvas of X number of weeks or months to buckle down and focus and its in those moments when its just you and your at-times overwhelming ‘to do’ list for company each day that you realise just how much you believe in and want whatever it is you’re trying to build to work.
Don’t get me wrong, you also experience the odd wobble here and there where you question whether coming offline was the right decision because there might not be an audience waiting for you on the other side and all that jazz, but that’s where your safety blanket of loved ones step in and remind you that short term sacrifices are needed sometimes for long term gain… and ultimately the ones that stick around are the ones that matter to your business most!
In short, what I’m trying to say here is this ladies:
If you find yourself reaching for your phone so that you can tell your customers what you’re cooking for lunch because it counts as ‘social media marketing’ but ultimately distracts from the not-so-glamorous tasks that you know deep down will benefit your business a whole lot more in the long run, take it from me…
Sometimes the feeling that comes hand in hand with knowing that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and finally doing the thing that will propel your business further – even if no-one knows what that looks like yet – is a whole lot more powerful than a short-lived dopamine hit from a well-timed quote, Tik Tok or meme that goes viral.
3) Look after the people that support you along the way (because if your story is anything like mine, they could end up playing a pretty hefty part in helping to bring your big idea to life one day)
Before I could even entertain the idea of launching the next phase of She can. She did. without investment, I had to have four separate conversations with four very special women in my life who’ve been supporting me behind the scenes for the past 18+ months.*
Maddy (Founder of & Create Design) reached out on New Years Day 2018 as a third year graphic design student saying how much she resonated with the then-written She can. She did. interviews and would love to find out if I’d be interested in working together in some way. She sent through her portfolio. I fell in love. We had a call and the logo that you see to this day was born. She then went on to launch her own business straight out of uni and has since designed every branded item for She can. She did. too. Hurrah!
I put a comment in the Southwood Social Hub’s Facebook group last Spring (a networking group for female entrepreneurs that I’ve been a part of since October 2017) asking if anyone could recommend a VA because I couldn’t see the fog from the trees at the time and knew I needed help asap before I dropped all the balls..! Steph (Founder of Aparo) sent me a message (she’d also been to a few of The Midweek Mingles), we had a call a few days later and she’s been my go-to for long-term systems and strategy planning ever since.
And I first came across Mac + Moore at the first Midweek Jingle back in 2018 when Jess filmed Nat singing along – somewhat inebriated I must add – to the She can. She did. version of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’! I spied the video in my tagged stories the following morning, sent them a DM, we went for coffee, and the rest is history..!
After sharing my long-term goals for She can. She did. with each of them last year (in fact, Maddy was lined up to help design it when I originally had an offer to invest back in 2018… you can read this post here if you want to find out how that ended!), I made it very clear to both J,N & M along with the investors that I was chatting to that if I were to get investment, I’d outsource the marketing and design to them.
After 18 months of hearing every investor say, “love the idea Fi but I need to see it up and running if I’m to invest” and a pandemic making the likelihood of getting investment this year all the less likely, fast forward to April and I suddenly found myself in a bit of a pickle because I needed their help to bring the next phase of She can. She did. to life but didn’t have the hefty budget that we’d planned for originally.
It’s worth noting that with a cancelled Midweek Mingle roadshow in March and therefore, no sponsorship payments and ticket sales too, I didn’t even have a moderate budget let alone a hefty one!
Instead of shying away from having a conversation that had the potential to be somewhat uncomfortable however (had it not gone the way it did that is), the last few weeks of April and May were spent speaking to the team at Seed Legals, wrapping my head around various share options and agreements thereafter and offering J, N & M a small percent of Class B shares in the business, in exchange for helping me to bring this idea to life sans the $$$$. Steph also received the same amount of shares too because she helped no end with the strategy that kicked us into gear throughout June (and has been on standby for support for 18 months which has meant millions).
Ultimately, when you find people en route that just get you and your vision, so long as you’re transparent from day one, don’t shy away from frank conversations and (importantly) look out for one another along the way, a little change in plan can sometimes be a good thing and you end up with a team that inspire you no end!
*I also want to shout out to the amazing Tyra, Founder of Foss & Friends who reached out on a Saturday mid-July whilst I happened to be losing my mind editing a podcast. She enquired about whether I’d ever consider allowing her to edit the She can. She did. podcast as she’s a regular listener and was looking for some additional editing experience…
Talk about serendipity working its magic!
4) I can’t quite believe I’m saying this but I’ve learnt to love putting my sales hat on… (which once upon a time, was the hardest hat of the lot to wear!)
Ok, admittedly that’s not really a lesson is it ladies (?!) so allow me to rephrase with the following if I may please:
Even though wearing a certain hat might not feel comfortable right now, keep squeezing it on – even if you do feel like an idiot – and trust me when I say that it’ll eventually fit!
If you’ve been following She can. She did. since the early days, you’ll remember that once upon a time I dreaded sales meetings… So much so that before The Midweek Mingles were a reality and I tried to get a much bigger ‘She can. She did. Live’ conference off the ground back in January 2018 (!) I dragged my best friend from uni to the initial sponsorship meetings for moral support. (She had five years of sales experience behind her which I lacked FYI, I promise I didn’t just take her along for a girls day out!) Now, if you read this post that I shared back in March 2018, you’ll already know how those meetings went…
Little hint for those of you that haven’t read it… they weren’t the best!
Since then though, sales meetings have – slowly but surely – felt more comfortable (or perhaps I’ve felt more confident in my offering as time has gone on). Be it securing Xero as a sponsor back in September 2018 once I had three sold out Midweek Mingles under my belt and renegotiating our contract every quarter for the next 18 months thereafter; or securing Tide as a sponsor for the ‘We can. We will.’ series when the UK went into lockdown and I knew full well that I wouldn’t have enough to pay my bills if I didn’t secure something asap; I wouldn’t say that I’ve looked forward to those negotiations per say but they’ve definitely got easier as the months have passed!
However, (side note: when the next phase of She can. She did. launches next month, I’m sure this bit will become a tad clearer) in the past few months I’ve had to wear my sales hat pretty much every day in preparation for the next phase of She can. She did. and it hasn’t felt scary nor have I dreaded the meetings because I truly believe in the value of what I’m offering.
(Side note x 2: I’ve also learnt that I can wear my slobs and no make up for a meeting and still convince a big company to come on board… Hurrah!)
In fact, on one occasion, I didn’t even have to have a meeting with the company as the CEO responded to my initial email within minutes saying: “yes!” (Admittedly, he said a bit more than that in the actual email but you get the gist I hope, his company was in!)
Now don’t get me wrong, a handful of those 50+ Zoom calls ended with a follow up email a few days later saying “no”, there were some responses via email shutting me down before we even got to the Zoom call stage and then of course, there were the other 100+ emails that I never heard back from.
Which let’s face it, are always the worst of the lot!
I guess, the point that I’m trying to make here though is this:
The more times you do the thing that scares you, the more times you realise that you got through said thing! You also realise that not only did you get through said thing but dare I say it, had (mild) fun doing it! In the case of sales, every “no” is one step closer to hearing a “yes!” and when you truly believe in your idea and the value of what you’re offering, I’ve learnt that it becomes easier to shake off the “no’s” too.
(If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend listening to this TED talk FYI. It changed my way of thinking when it comes to approaching partnerships/fundraising because it forces you to remind yourself that you’re offering them value too.)
5) When a goal that you’ve been dreaming about for years starts to become a reality, grit your teeth and dig deep because the imposter syndrome, if you’re anything like me, will come out to play in a big way…
How does the saying go?
‘If it’s both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue it…’
Whilst I’ll let you all decide whether the next phase of She can. She did. is worthwhile in a few weeks time, I can definitely say that the past few months have been the most nerve-racking to date.
For some context, the next phase of She can. She did. hasn’t left my mind since it popped in there back in June 2018 and has kept me going through every challenge that has cropped up on this journey since then.
On a professional level, there have been so many moments – at pretty much every Midweek Mingle, during so many podcast recordings, phones calls, emails and DMs to date – where I’ve heard/read/seen recurring challenges crop up and thought to myself, ‘if this idea launches, it could help that.’ And on a personal level, when I’ve found myself thinking about how 21 year old me earned more than 25/26/27/28 year old me, internal pep talks have gone along the lines of, ‘hang in there Fi because one day it will be different.’
I don’t actually talk to myself in third person FYI… I just used that for dramatic effect..!
When another investment lead fell through in April therefore and I decided to get this thing off the ground on my own during lockdown (with a LOT of help from Jess, Nat, Maddy and Steph that is!) it dawned on me very quickly that there was no-one but me standing in my way anymore and sooner or later, this idea will become a fully-fledged reality.
If I buckle down and put the work in that is..!
Now don’t get me wrong, the past few months have been some of the most exciting to date and have challenged me to think and evolve in so many ways – which I’m so grateful for – but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t had a few wobbles over the past four months where I’ve questioned if I’ve got what it takes to bring this thing to life. I’ve also had days where I’ve questioned whether I’ve bitten off more than I can chew on my very minimal budget (!); where I’ve worried if I have the right skills to lead a team and have on a pretty much daily basis since April, had to confront the fact that quite simply, I’m scared.
Scared that I won’t do this idea justice for self-employed womxn and the 40+ brands that have agreed to be part of this so far.
Scared that all of the work that has gone into next month’s idea won’t pay off.
And scared that I’ll let the team of amazing women that have been helping me no end behind the scenes in recent months down, along with those of you that have been so supportive over the past couple of years too.
*Get the violins out Fi, I know..!*
The thing is though, even though I’m scared and have very much accepted the fact that I’m no doubt going to be living with butterflies until this thing launches, I’d rather push the platform live in September knowing full well that my pride is on the line than spend another year dreaming about launching it ‘one day’.
I owe it to every single self-employed womxn in the UK reading this because it’s been designed for you; I owe it to Jess, Nat, Maddy and Steph who have put their trust in me and have helped bring it to life; and I owe it to the 25 year old version of me that opened her laptop for day one of She can. She did. three years ago because she’s worked her socks off since then and I want her to know it was worth it.
So yes, for anyone that’s sitting on an idea that’s scaring them shitless right now (sorry Mum!) if I can push through the imposter syndrome and launch my thing, I have no doubt that you can, if you’re willing to fight off those butterflies too…
6) Listen to the experts, learn from my mistakes and prioritise your mailing list from day one…!
Not the most profound lesson to end on, I know (!) but it’s an important one to note, nonetheless!
I’ll keep this one short and sweet ladies because it’s pretty self-explanatory right!? But as someone that has had a personal vendetta against content for contents sake since launching She can. She did. and for that reason, a select few aside, have never warmed to newsletters all that much, I’ve never really pushed subscribing to She can. She did. because I haven’t been confident that I’d have the time to create a newsletter with substance each week.
Until now that is..!
When Nat turned around and said she wants the big reveal to go out to everyone on the She can. She did. mailing list first therefore, I found myself regretting that decision somewhat!
With that in mind – shameless plug incoming FYI – if you fancy being the first person to know what we’re working on behind the scenes at the moment and one of the first people to see and use the platform when it eventually goes live (aka. She can. She did.’s all-important early adopters who I have no doubt will help to shape the future of She can. She did. no end) I would be so grateful if you could…
please and make my day and She can. She did.’s 3rd birthday extra special in turn!
So there you have it.
One giant ramble from yours truly!
It really has been a funny few months ladies and I am genuinely so grateful for not just the fact that you’ve put up with that essay (!) but for your patience in recent weeks and your support over the past three years too.
From my side, I am doing everything in my power to try and make the next phase of She can. She did. as supportive and valuable as possible for us all so whilst there will no doubt be things to tweak and improve and build on as we go, I’m so excited (albeit bricking it) to reveal all next month.
To those of you that subscribe to that mailing list that is!
The countdown is officially on!
Thank you so much once again for your support, happy 3rd birthday to my third arm once again and as always, I’m so excited to see where we can take this thing!