Supporting female entrepreneurship with Innovate UK
11th September 2017
As part of our Fuelling Ambition initiative, this week we caught up with Lucy Gower, founder and director of Lucidity. Lucy is a coach, trainer and consultant specializing in giving people the confidence and tools to think creatively, develop ideas and make their innovations happen.
Lucy led the first innovation team at the NSPCC, one of the UK’s largest children’s charities focusing on enhancing their creative skills, and providing them with tools to enable the creativity and innovation to help them flourish.
Since leaving the NSPCC in 2012, Lucy has worked with over 50 organisations helping individuals and teams to work together and think creatively to get better results.
Lucy talks to us about the formation of Lucidity, help and support she received and advice she would give others facing the same hurdles.
1. Hi Lucy! Can you tell us a little about how Lucidity came about?
There wasn’t a light bulb moment, it was a slow hunch and impatience that built over time. I was in a day job, and I felt like I wasn’t making a big enough impact. I was restless working 9-5 in an office environment and my job role changed so I was doing less and less of the work I really loved. I wasn’t very good at following rules and working in a hierarchy and was frustrated by the amount of bureaucracy it felt like was sapping my energy. I felt like I could have more fun, learn more and make more of a difference if I went out on my own.
2. What were your first steps?
About 18 months before I quit my job, I thought about what I would need to do for people to want to employ me. I set up a website and started blogging but I didn’t tell anyone for ages - in case they thought it was rubbish. I went on presentation skills training and started speaking at conferences. I started networking. I turned up to everything. My first steps on leaving were to let everyone I knew (and that was a lot after 18 months or relentless blogging, conference speaking and networking) that I was freelancing and how I might be able to help them.
3. What help and support did you receive?
Most people told me it was a bit too risky in a recession to quit a job – but I ignored them. I built networks of people who were thinking about doing the same, or people who were already freelancers or ran their own business. In November 2016, I was shortlisted as a finalist in the Innovate UK infocus Women in Innovation award where I received business support from an innovation advisor at Newable, along with further support from Innovate UK. This has enabled me to gain support on entering new markets and also tap into a new community of like-minded entrepreneurs. I found people were very generous with their time and advice. Several people gave me small bits of work to help me out. I still am grateful for their kindness.
4. Is there anything you would change in hindsight?
Hindsight is a marvelous thing. I think I did a lot of things right and looking back now I don’t know how I had the energy to hold down a day job and side hustle at the same time. I would have looked for business partners or ways to leverage finance.
5. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
On Saturday, I got a postcard from a client saying thank you for everything I was doing to help them. That made my day. I love when I run training courses, or am speaking at a conference and the room changes. I call it the penny drop moment and I know that people are going to go and do something different. It’s rewarding when people come up to me and say I saw you speak at a conference and I took your advice and now I am doing something different. I’ve never worked harder in my life and if you run your own business I don’t think you ever switch off, however I can work to my own time schedule. I don’t have to be at a desk from 9 to 5. I like working at 6am and having an afternoon power nap. The buck stops with me which is rewarding and terrifying in equal measure. Oh and invoicing. I love invoicing.
6. What advice would you give someone who has just had their lightbulb moment and was just starting out?
Spend time being really clear on why you are doing it. Test your idea – not with friends and family they will all say you are great. Test with your audience in a live environment. Follow your hunches. Research the marketplace and work out how you monetize your idea.
It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do and it doesn’t get easier over time, you just learn to manage your stress and uncertainty. The focus you need to get something off the ground means you’ll probably lose friends and jeopardize relationships. Make time to invest in your friends and family. Invest time in looking after you, eat well, rest, do exercise because if you are not ok then your business will not be ok either. And you are never done learning!
For more information or to find out how we can help you with finance or innovation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org