I briefly touched upon the rollercoaster of emotions that January consisted of in an Instagram post a few weeks back, but given that we’re already eight weeks into the year (?!) and a whole lot has been crammed into that period, I thought it was about time I sat down with this trusty laptop once again and filled you all in on what 2018 has conjured up for me so far…
Suffice to say it’s been a funny few weeks.
On a day to day basis- for those of you that ask me, “so what do you actually do in the day?!” – transcribing and writing up the past seven weeks’ worth of interviews and venturing around the country interviewing a further eight women (all of whose stories I will be sharing with you in the coming weeks) has taken up a hefty chunk of my time this year. Not to mention liaising back and forth with the amazing Maddy Russell who reached out on New Year’s Day offering to help with the redesign of the SC.SD. logo (because let’s face it, my last one screamed ‘DIY botch job’) and saying “yes” to as many random opportunities that have cropped up and come my way so far.
But I’ve also been busy planning the launch of something else in recent weeks and wanted to share the story leading up to how it came about with you all…
Those of you who read my post on New Year’s Eve will know that my grand plan for 2018 was to draw upon my experience producing large scale events and launch She can. She did. LIVE! in the first half of the year. Aimed at young female founders and aspiring entrepreneurs, it would be a whole day jam packed with multiple talks and Q+As teeming with advice, mentoring hubs led by some of the most successful women out there, interactive networking initiatives to help you all make new contacts plus all the extra quirky bits that my imagination has conjured up.
With that in mind, just before Christmas I reached out to some potential sponsors – a combination of both global and national brands – explained my idea whilst inviting them to meet and much to my relief, they said they were interested to find out more. I also enlisted the help of one of my best friend’s Brogan. She has the five years of sales experience behind her that I lack and thankfully for me, just ‘got this’ from day one (we met in Halls as Freshers and the rest is – mostly drunk – history!)…
With meetings in the diary, many a day and night in January was spent going over the what’s and why’s of our pitch; preparing for all sorts of questions that might come our way; tailoring packages to suit the company we were sitting down with; and getting ridiculously excited over the smallest of things (a sponsor emailing back confirming where to meet for instance) before telling each other to calm down and not get our hopes up..!
From the highs where we left a meeting in London and literally jumped up and down in the lift celebrating how well we thought it went (apologies owed to the security guard who would have watched that all play out on camera..!) to the lows where we travelled two hours up north to be told then and there that whilst they loved the idea, they couldn’t get behind us until we proved we could get bums on seats first (understandable in hindsight but I had to stop my lip from having a little quiver at the time..!); the outcome was essentially that they’d all love to be there as guests for now, but we had to prove ourselves without their financial backing first.
Not ideal when you’re skint and you need their money to make the big ideas happen (!) but I understand their hesitations nonetheless…
Turns out there’s a big difference between launching an event with a long-established brand behind you as opposed to sitting down with multi-billion pound companies with six months of work and a little dream inside your head to your name..!
(I’m actually laughing as I type this at how naïve this-time-last month-me was!)
The funny thing is though, even though it’s never fun being rejected like that and I want to bang my head against the wall sometimes when I think about how chicken/egg it can feel when the big brands love the ideas but want to try before they buy, yet you need their investment to put said ideas into practice; I learnt so much in such a short space of time from those meetings that in many ways I’m glad they didn’t turn around and say “yes”. If there’s one thing that stands out from every interview I’ve done, it’s that not one of the girls’ start-up stories has been plain sailing. (Metaphorical) slaps in the face and set backs are part of the parcel along the way so why would or should my own story be any different?
Anyway (!) a tad deflated from the multiple rejections (flashbacks to year seven discos come flooding back..!) Brogan and I sat down with two big glasses of wine at the end of January, once it became clear that She can. She did. LIVE! wouldn’t be happening anytime soon; and brainstormed how we could get the ball rolling asap but this time on a slightly smaller scale…
Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘Obviously you start small and work your way up Fi – that’s start-up advice 101…’ but I’ve always had a habit of dreaming big; and I suppose a part of me worried that if I did start small, I wouldn’t be taken as seriously by those that I was reaching out to.
Anyhow… wine in hand, together we stripped She can. She did. LIVE! back to its basic roots – sans the fluffy extras – and ultimately it came down to three things. I want to bring young female founders and aspiring entrepreneurs under the same roof; give them the opportunity to meet in a down-to-earth setting and provide the opportunity to listen first-hand to honest start-up stories from the young women who have been there and done it; so we can find out how they pushed through the shitty bits and out the other side!
It didn’t have to be big and it didn’t have to take up a whole day, but it had to have some seriously incredible young women present who were willing to share their stories, the opportunity for us all to ask them questions – ideally with lots of G+T’s flowing – and a pretty venue to host us all in… (because I wasn’t willing to compromise on that!)
Which brings me to the silver lining…!
(And it’s a silver lining that is thanks to those all-important contacts I’ve made since launching this project back in August last year…)
When I interviewed Natalia Talkowska just before Christmas, I mentioned my plan to start launching events this year and she immediately told me to let her know when I do, as one of her good friends spearheads gaest.com in the UK (they specialise in quirky meeting and event spaces throughout the country).
Fast forward a few weeks post- turkey and stuffing and I followed up with Nat to see if she would still be willing to help. True to her word, she put me in touch with her friend, we arranged a call and had a big chat and then we met for coffee and chatted some more. At last I found someone that got the idea flat out and finally someone said then and there, “Fi, we’re in”.
That was last week.
The past seven days have been gearing up to make the idea a reality.
From securing speakers, finalising logistics with the venue and making a few phone calls here and there to make sure that my first event is as special as it can be on zero budget (turns out when you’re really passionate about something, people are willing to help!), I’ve finally got something to announce that I’m really proud of that should tick all the boxes of what She can. She did. is all about.
All will be announced tomorrow evening, I promise, but for now all I’ll say is pretty please make a note of the details below…
(If you’re interested in coming that is…!)
What? She can. She did. – The midweek mingle!
Date? Wednesday 4th April 2018
Where? London (in a beautiful venue might I add!)
It goes without saying that I’d love to see as many of you there as possible so fingers crossed you’re able to make it!
Have a laaavely Sunday evening girls and I look forward to sharing the line-up with you all tomorrow!