An Interview with Found & Flourish founder Lara Sheldrake
Thank you so much for being involved in The Girl Gang Lara! I would love it if you could introduce yourself please:
Hi, I’m Lara, a Brighton and London based entrepreneur on a mission to close the opportunity gap for female founders.
What is Found & Flourish and how did it start?
Found & Flourish is an online membership, community, media & events platform for future female leaders. We exist to empower women in business to create the careers of their dreams. We do this through providing community, support, services and events.
We’re on a mission to empower the next generation of female entrepreneurs to launch, grow and scale impactful businesses.
Before setting up Found & Flourish I ran my own consultancy, I earned good money, loved my clients and thrived being my own boss. I also felt incredibly lonely and isolated. A few years into running my business I fell pregnant with my son, Bodhi. While I was on maternity leave I knew I needed to find a community I could be a part of, have fun with and feel empowered by. At the time, I really struggled to find a community I could relate to. Now we are blessed with an abundance of amazing female-led networks but in 2018 I couldn’t find one, so I decided to build one.
That’s why Found & Flourish exists.
Why is female empowerment so important to you?
The gender pay gap is still very much an issue, there is a disproportionate amount of men to women in leadership roles, there are less female business owners, less women are invested in and there are less female investors.
Last year it was reported 7% of venture capital in Europe last year was invested in startups that had a woman on its founding team, women retire with a third of the pension size of men and the World Economic Forum reported at the beginning of this year that it will take 99.5 years to close the gender pay gap (last year it was 202 years wso we’re moving in the right direction).
One of the first ways we can overcome this is by empowering women so that they have the tools and knowledge required to set up their dream business, negotiate more money, become an angel investor, the list goes on. Whatever it is, we need more support within these areas if we are going to see the gender opportunity gap close.
Why do you think it is harder for women to start up their own business?
According to the OECD, when it comes to entrepreneurship, women setting up a business attract less funding than men, and suffer from the general lack of support for founders. [Source: The FT] Not only this but we are more risk averse and have been known to have less confidence than men overall.
According to the UKSPA, established statistics suggest that women are under-represented in leadership teams from start-ups to the FTSE100, but in positive news, the proportion of female founders is growing among younger age groups. 71% of survey respondents felt that “unconscious bias from management” was a major factor in the imbalance, with “lack of confidence” and “career disruption due to maternity leave” also ranking highly.
A huge factor that I have experienced first hand as a first-time mum is the amount of time and energy spent each day trying to juggle parenthood and running a business. The cost of childcare is extortionate, and for many families is unaffordable which is why most women opt for staying at home and raising their children before returning to work. As women we tend to take on the main carer or parental role which leaves means we have less time, resources and usually money to invest in our business ideas.
I have heard from many women who have managed it while their children napped or during the evenings and weekends but the odds are truly stacked against us and until we’re able to share the load more equally with our partners the situation will not get much better.
What advice would you give to any women thinking of starting a business?
Do it. Speak with people, your friends, family, find a mentor, tell people about your idea, test the concept and ask for feedback. Manage your expectations and of those around you and educate yourself. We are blessed with the internet which offers an abundance of information, use this resource, research your ideas, find someone who has done what you want to do (and who has succeeded), study them. How did they build their business? How and why did it become successful and can you do the same? Be patient and know that if your idea fails, you haven’t failed, you’ve learned how to do it better the next time round. Keep going.
Join a community of like-minded women who can support you and cheerlead you every step of the way. Family and friends are great but if they haven’t set up or run a business in the past, they won’t get it. Follow accounts like Well Defined and Found & Flourish, find your tribe and nurture your community, they will be your strength when you need it most.
How can Found & Flourish help women in business?
We cater to all women in business. Found & Flourish empowers women by providing them with education, insights, community and business services so that women everywhere feel supported and better equipped to set up and run their dream businesses. We have a podcast called “Bossing it”, a blog packed full of resources and stories from fellow female founders, a monthly newsletter (weekly if you’re a member), regular events & workshops PLUS a digital platform and online community for members to access anywhere in the world.
The biggest problem women face is isolation and loneliness, especially when they’re just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, so community and the support we offer is probably the most valued part of our offering.
What do you think can and needs to be done to change gender-based inequality in the workplace?
People need to educate themselves, they need to understand what unconscious bias means and how we can retrain our brains to be agnostic in the workplace. Work systems have been set up in a way that is outdated and totally archaic. With huge initiatives across D&I in the workplace we are already seeing a shift which is great but more can be done.
There are still huge groups of people who are underrepresented in the workplace, if you’re running an event make sure you have a diverse group of people speaking (age/race/religion/gender) if you’re hiring a team, make sure you’re considering a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures. Follow people who don’t look like you, educate yourself on the topic of diversity and talk about it. Once you’re aware of unconscious bias, it’s much harder to ignore (or miss).
Also, hire D&I experts such as Katy Murray, Upasna Bhudhal and Sonya Barlow.
Are there any female boss instagram accounts you could recommend to our readers who might need inspiring?
Here are some of my faves:
Finally, what is your favourite quote of all time?
Can I pick two?
The first is one of my first ever instagram posts by F&F and it’s by the wise Wesley Snipes who said -
“Don’t let the internet rush you, no one is posting their failures”
The second is by Oprah Winfrey who said-
“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”