Virgin StartUp ambassador Frances Lucraft is an entrepreneur who decided to turn her frustration and anger into something positive. After working in the water & sanitation sector for many years and learning about menstrual hygiene management equality, she launched Eco Hygiene Care (trademark Grace & Green) - developing a conscientious corporate model, purpose-driven, to make a positive change.

Starting a business is one of the most rewarding things you’re likely to do - but it’s definitely not the easiest thing to do. It’s a long process, making it, and I’m still not quite there yet. But I am getting there, and I’ve learnt a lot on the way.

When I started out I received lots of advice and a lot was really quite rubbish. But that was okay, because often I was asking incredibly rubbish questions.  I had very little (to zero) business acumen in the beginning, so the ’starting’ bit was a continual source of worry and frustration for me. You’re continually trying to push things forward but you don’t really know in which direction you’re heading in.  But you will eventually learn to accept it. To ride with it. To even, perhaps, (like me) begin to enjoy it. Here are three difficult – but essential – things I’ve learnt so far.

Frances Lucraft, Grace & Green - Virgin StartUp

Frances Lucraft, Grace & Green - Virgin StartUp

It’s actually quite hard

Unfortunately it’s now annoyingly trendy to follow the golden entrepreneurial path as if everyone is suited to it. I stopped attending many business talks/workshops precisely because of this, because it felt like I was being brainwashed into believing a hyped-up glossy abstract world in which a work-life balance of pinging a few emails from a beach in the Indian Ocean whilst sipping a Pina Colada was possible. I hate to be so pessimistic folks, but the reality of starting a business is FAR removed from this shiny pipe-dream you may have been promised, and starting a business is not for everyone. It’s not alluring, and it’s not always as much fun as people make out. 

As someone who has started their own venture I can tell you that it is both personal and meaningful, but this doesn’t always equate to being fun. Your structure and schedule as you know it is out the window; you awake at 4am in a cold sweat worrying about money; you have to get used to being broke. So if you’re currently browsing online for next season’s Jimmy Choos, enjoying a lifestyle of monthly city breaks, or are partial to regular after-work office drinks, you may just want to think carefully before starting up and ensure you first build up an entrepreneurial fund before taking that leap! 

Don’t beat yourself up over timescales 

I’m 2 years in and still pre-launch (yup, still here) and despite boring my friends and family to tears in anticipation of my big business unveiling, I’ve learnt too that good things sometimes just take time. Believe me, I am committed to a vision, but I’ve just learnt to rehash the course that it takes to get me there. This often means sometimes swallowing your pride, accepting your limits, and relying on facts and data rather than simply a gung-ho attitude and the commonly doled-out nuggets of professional advice: You’ll find out that eventually your  gut is a challenging system to consistently trust before making every important business decision! Be aware of the pitfalls of pursuing a wacky or botched idea. Just because you want something to really work, doesn’t mean that it will work. Yes, it can be hard to accept sometimes, but no matter how much you try (or spend) sometimes your attempts won’t be enough to turn something into a reality.

Refrain from being pig-headed  

It's hard to admit sometimes, but stubbiness and determination to succeed at all costs can be costly - life will be a lot easier if you listen to the experts around you, do your market research, and find proof of concept - as opposed to just sticking with it. Don’t be one of those people who spends eight years of their life and remortgages their house to produce a product or service that nobody wants. Sure, we’ve all make silly mistakes. I’ve definitely had my fair share of wobbles. More than I care to admit. And whilst it sounds completely ludicrous to me now, having only previously worked in the non-for-profit sectors, my biggest hurdle was actually getting my mindset around the significance of profit, and indeed making a profit (as opposed to just giving it away).

Thankfully, two years have now passed, and i have learnt a lot, including the fact that making money is absolutely fundamental to business, and making it was okay. I’ve not morphed into some Startup Yoda, but when I compare who I am now to my novice days, my journey is definitely much easier and a much more joyous one.

But then it’s important to remember that there’s no one right or wrong path to choose! Just be aware it can be hard. Family and friends might not understand your choice; the credibility your job might have given you is gone, and there is nobody who will tell you what to do anymore. And although the journey can at times feel treacherous, the rewards have so far been incredible and every bit worth the slog. Freedom for me, and doing something that I love every day, has been as good as I thought it would be.

VirginStartUp really helped make this happen. The programme is not only wonderfully supportive and nurturing, but most importantly it’s honest and straight–talking, and has been invaluable in helping me progress. I’ve learnt an enormous amount. It’s been motivational, inspiring, and it’s been life changing. So embrace it and get everything you can from it, as I promise you, you won’t regret it. In my role as a VirginStartUp Ambassador I can only try to inform, inspire and pass on a bit of advice and encouragement in the hope that you will make the right choices from the things that I’ve learnt along the way, avoiding those same pitfalls. I wish you all the luck and enjoyment on your journey. 

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