Jance Manivasagan has always had the entrepreneurial itch, but was encouraged to find a “stable career”. With a lack of role models and representation within the founder community, Jance struggled with self-belief when starting up. Now, her business, TYH London, is thriving. We speak to Jance about self-belief as a founder, overcoming startup hurdles, and asserting your position in the business world.
The best piece of business advice Jance Manivasagan has ever been given is: to stop being scared. After suffering an entrepreneurial itch she needed to scratch, Jance started up her vegan and cruelty-free haircare brand, TYH London, in 2017. Being a sole woman founder from an ethnic minority background, she didn’t feel represented in the business world - and this affected her self-belief.
It’s something she’s still working on, and it’s something she’s passionate about voicing so other founders feel less alone. “My business coach helped me realise how scared I was about everything to do with starting up. I’ve harnessed that fear now - because otherwise, fear stops us from doing so much and it lingers. I think when you stop being scared, there’s a major transformation and this shift in energy - something I think I’m going through right now.”
Growing up, Jance’s parents were rightfully keen to see their children secure stable careers, as they’d not long emigrated to the UK and wanted their children to find their feet. “When my parents came here, they had no money or qualifications, so when we were growing up it was literally drilled into us that education was everything. Getting a degree, and then having something you can fall back on with a regular income was the most important thing.”
“So we were never encouraged to start her own venture, because there was never anybody that went against the norm. It’s scary enough to be a founder, but I think it’s even scarier when you’re told from a young age that if you don’t have a secure career, everything’s going to fail.”
As the coronavirus pandemic hit all sectors of business, founders now know all too well the impact this has had on startups. For Jance, she experienced those hurdles head-on. “Launching a business can be a hurdle in itself, but this year there have been many road bumps. It was hard to contact manufacturers, as the world began working from home, and priorities shifted to larger businesses that would fulfil greater orders and offer more stability than small startups like mine.”
“You’re always going to have moments of self-doubt along the way, but when these hurdles hit this year, it was easy to feel like no one has faith in you - especially if you’re doing it alone without a business partner, like I am.”
Resilience is key. As founders, we fight our own corners, and we have to be the biggest champion of our startups - because no one is going to shout louder than us. When Jance suffers these moments of self-doubt, how does she stay on track? “I remind myself why I started up; why I feel so passionate about my business. I just know that if I were to give up, I’d go ahead and start another business anyway, in a couple of years, so that’s the proof I need to keep trying.”
Representation heavily impacts founders’ self-belief. If you don’t see people like you starting up, it’s all too easy to believe it’s not a possibility. At Virgin StartUp, we’re passionate about helping everyone feel like they can start the business they’ve been dreaming of - and it is always possible. But it doesn’t mean it always feels that way.
Jance’s advice for others that feel ‘people like them’ aren’t founder material? “I think you just have to be your own role model and your own competition. Being a woman from an ethnic minority, we’re really, really underrepresented in the entrepreneurial sector. So it’s really difficult to be able to look at someone and think, ‘Do you know what? I can do that too!’. But if you reframe this and see yourself as your own role model and your own competition, it reminds you why you started and it keeps you going.”
Jance started TYH London because she felt, when it comes to haircare, you have to compromise on great hair, or saving the environment - and why couldn’t you have both? “We’re a haircare brand that focuses on zero compromises. Our hair oil treatment’s made of four 100% organic oils and some natural essential oils, making the product vegan and cruelty-free.
“We also package in a 40% already recycled glass bottle which can be reused or recycled again and send our products in a biodegradable envelope. Some of our customers use the packaging as a candle holder or a vase. We also donate 10p of every sale to the Marine Conservation Society. It’s good for your hair and good for the environment.”
Jance secured a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp to enable her vision for TYH London to become a fully-fledged business reality. “I don’t think I would have launched TYH London if it wasn’t for Virgin StartUp,” Jance tells us.
“Not just for the funding, but there were so many questions asked of my vision for the business throughout the whole process which really helped me question my business model and develop my startup. I don’t think I’d have asked myself those questions if I’d have secured a loan from a bank instead.
“My mentor was amazing and I’m still in contact with him now, which is really good. I’ve attended the online webinars post-funding and always get my questions answered. And I think the best thing for me has been these inspiring stories - I love going on the blog or reading the newsletter and learning about others’ startups. It makes me feel better - it makes me realise we’re all in this together.”
At Virgin StartUp, we know the challenges facing founders who want to build sustainable businesses which don’t leave a mark on our environment.
Having a strong purpose, for ourselves and our business is important, but running profitable businesses and providing for those around us is a noble cause, too. “I think it’s so important to have both purposes. You need to have faith and passion in what you’re selling, to add value to your audience’s lives.
“But, that being said, when I thought about my future as I considered starting TYH London, I liked the idea of being my own boss and having something for myself. Being a woman and thinking about the future, I like the idea of raising kids with me working as a founder from home - being there for them and creating something that’s ours.”
Breaking the mould might not be easy, but being a founder is incredibly rewarding. Find out how a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp could help your business today.