She Can She Did – An interview with Fiona Grayson
I caught up with Fiona last week after hearing She Can. She Did is coming to Bristol. Ladies and gents if you want to read stories about fabulous, inspirational, driven women then check it out, oh and the rest of the stories on here too! 🙂 Fiona is bringing The Midweek Mingle to Bristol in a few weeks, get your ticket and come along to Runway East for a evening of empowerment, no bullshit, honest, real talk! Tickets here
CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT SHE CAN, SHE DID?
I can indeed! She can. She did. is a platform that I launched last summer aged 25, that through a series of face-to-face interviews with female founders and a down to earth event series, (She can. She did. The Midweek Mingle!) puts the spotlight on women in their teens, twenties and thirties who have dared to go solo and launch their own businesses in the UK.
I was really determined when I launched She can. She did. to provide women with an honest representation of what launching and running a business looks like in reality (ie. we don’t just gloss over the setbacks and make it all look easy) and I also wanted to focus on female founders from all over the UK as opposed to just honing in on London. Because of that, I’ve spent the past year driving around the UK in my rusty old corsa meeting as many female founders as I can and after three sold-out events in London, I’ve just been sponsored by Xero to take The Midweek Mingles on tour to Bristol, Brighton and Manchester in the coming weeks!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST STRUGGLE?
Money (or a lack of!) I walked away from a chunky pay cheque each month to launch She can. She did. which meant taking a big hit financially and that’s meant having to adapt my personal life in a big way since becoming self-employed and my mindset towards money along the way too. I also really struggled with the lack of routine in the early days – my old job meant that from the moment my alarm went off at 5.30am, every part of my day was planned and losing that structure hit me hard in the first few weeks. I quickly learnt to adapt though and found constants amongst the chaos ie. yes you don’t have set hours anymore but you learn to create your own. If you work extra late one night, it’s easier to forgive yourself if you finish a little earlier the next day etc… and then I suppose, getting used to the fact that it’s not and never will be plain sailing. Not everyone is going to ‘get it’ and to begin with I really struggled with that but now, if I hear a “no” from one person, I know that I still have a good chance of hearing “yes” from someone else!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS?
Hmmm it’s such a hard one to answer! I think the launch of The Midweek Mingles in London in April will stay with me forever because I was so overwhelmed with how much support I received from not just the guests when it sold out as quickly as it did but the brands that partnered with the event, the speakers and the feedback from the guests afterwards too. All of the London events so far have been a huge highlight for me though because it gives me the opportunity to meet so many amazing women and just have a big chit chat face to face as opposed to via Instagram/emails. I love Instagram but we all know a good face to face chat is better!
And then I suppose more recently, I’m also working on an idea behind the scenes for She can. She did. that requires me to raise investment and in the past month I had an offer to invest in that idea which was amazing. The journey I went on with those investors was such a crazy experience and I learnt so much in such a short space of time about the investment process. Ultimately it fell through because we couldn’t agree on the percentage share (so perhaps not quite the success I’d hoped for..!) but just knowing that there’s people out there that get the idea and were willing to invest their money in it meant a huge amount and has made me more determined than ever before to see it materialise.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF?
If I’m being honest, that’s the bit I’ve found the easiest. I’ve always dreamed big and set myself goals since I was little and even if I’ve had days where I’ve wobbled along the way and questioned why I’ve set myself those goals (!) I always buckle up and get on with it when it matters – be it sporting challenges, my education, my career etc… The difference I suppose with She can. She did. and motivating yourself to run a business in general though is that the goal posts are constantly changing so it’s less of a buckle down in the short-term and it will pay off kind of thing but more a long-term game of get up, do your best, chip away at it and see it build gradually. For me, knowing that if I don’t put the work in, nothing will happen is motivation in itself. Looking back and acknowledging the little wins along the way that have gradually built up over time keeps me on track. And then lastly, surrounding myself with other business owners and people that ‘get it’ always helps because it makes me feel less alone in the whole thing, realise that I’m not the only one to have setbacks along the way and I’ve always been the kind of person to look at someone I admire and think, ‘if they can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t too.’
The women you interview must really inspire you, what has been your best advice?
Hugely and for me they are ultimately why I pick myself up after every setback I’ve faced with She can. She did. because they’ve all pushed through so many challenges to get to where they are today. If I’m being honest, each interview is packed full of so much advice but the overarching one from all of them is that every single business owner faces challenges along the way where they have seriously considered whether it’s worth it/ whether they should walk away now/ whether it’s going to pay off in the long run etc… but not once have they decided to walk away. Olivia Wollenberg, Founder of Livia’s Kitchen likened running a business to “fighting fires every day”… the first fire is always the scariest but you get better equipped at putting out the flames as you go.
YOU MUST WORK YOUR BUTT OFF, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT ORGANISING YOURSELF?
Haha something like that! At the beginning I was working silly hours 7 days a week but I quickly realised it wasn’t sustainable and it was giving me no room to focus on long term plans. Now I’m really strict about having Sundays off to relax so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are spent working on my events and my long-term plans for She can. She did. and then Friday and Saturday are spent working on my weekly interviews or – if I have an update from my own story launching She can. She did. to share – a post from me. If I’m being honest though, the past few months have been a giant emotional rollercoaster with the highs of the launch of The Midweek Mingle roadshow which I’m so excited about but then giant lows when the investment fell through on the project I’m working on behind the scenes, so I’m actually gearing up for my first holiday tomorrow which means a whole week off to just recharge. My partner booked it as a ‘you need to just stop and relax’ break so we have a week off before The Midweek Mingle roadshow begins and I can’t wait!
HAVE YOU EVER SUFFERED FROM THE IMPOSTURE SYNDROME?
It’s a funny one. In some ways, yes. In the weeks leading up to my first event, I had a big panic about whether I’d be able to host an event for female founders and aspiring founders when I hadn’t ‘made it’ yet but then the whole reason I launched She can. She did. was to provide women with an honest portrayal of what launching and running a business looks and feels like in reality and given that I’m in the midst of that myself, I ended up having a big pep talk with myself and just got on with it! I’ve learnt so much from this experience and all the women I’ve interviewed that I just have to keep reminding myself of that!
Well when I get back from my holiday, I have a week before The Midweek Mingle roadshow kicks off in Bristol on 24th October which I’m so excited about (if a tad nervous!) and then I’m heading to Brighton and Manchester in the weeks that follow! Then it’s The Midweek Jingle in London in December which will fingers crossed, provide self-employed women with the festive party that you miss out on when you work for yourself! And of course chipping away at trying to find a way to raise investment for my other idea in the background and hopefully getting that off the ground in 2019! That’s the plan anyway…!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
Oh my gosh I have so many! I’m always drawn to ‘No one is you. That is your power.’ and ‘try to live every day like Elle Woods after Warner told her that she wasn’t smart enough for law school’ for obvious reasons but anything by Veronica Dearly tends to do the trick on a day to day basis. I swear that woman reads my mind!
WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?
Please can I have 4?! My Mum, Dad, big sister Carrie and boyfriend! I feel so lucky because we’re such a close-knit family, they’ve all got their own businesses too so they just get it and they’re the first people I turn to when I need a pep talk to pick me up!
If you want celebrities though, I’d say Reece Witherspoon (because I have it in my head that she is basically a real life Elle Woods!), Michelle Obama (because she had a way of making herself relatable to every audience she spoke in front of which I admire and let’s face it, was the epitome of class and grace) and David Attenborough (because business aside, I bloody love animals and he would 100% have so many incredible stories to share!)
Thanks Fi, see you in a couple of weeks.