This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Tell us about your business.
I am the co-founder of World Record Egg and creative communications agency Happy Yolk.
World Record Egg is a media production company creating content based on a character called Eugene, an anxious egg living in a very human world. Whilst serious in our attention and message, the brand aims to make mental health accessible through entertaining content.
Happy Yolk launched off the back of the success of World Record Egg. We produce social, PR and advertising campaigns. We’re lucky to work with great brands from Hulu, Sony to Talk Talk and Instagram.
What was the moment that everything changed for you?
I studied at Central Saint Martins where my love for creativity and production flourished. Since graduating I jumped straight into the commercial world producing campaigns for brilliant brands working with a bunch of lovely people.
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit though, inherited from my dad, who came to the UK as an Irish immigrant and built a catering business. I was excited by the idea of building something on my own so in 2018 I left my full time agency role to go solo.
Professionally, things were going well but in my personal life, things had become challenging. I went into 2019 eager for a big change. I didn’t know what the change was going to be specifically but I was determined to find it.
Then in early 2019, I co-founded World Record Egg with my creative partners Chris and CJ. We started with a campaign to get a picture of an egg to be the most liked picture on Instagram, beating Kylie Jenner’s 18 million likes. We succeeded in just 10 days achieving the world record.
The campaign caught the imagination of the world and from that moment, life completely changed. We each left our jobs to focus on developing Eugene and founding our agency.
What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?
Following the success of the original campaign, the pressure was on for our next move. We were pressed to make big decisions in a short amount of time, and those decisions were going to be game changing and reflect the future of the egg.
Several companies came to us to monetise the campaign which was a very surreal, exciting moment. But we took a step back from the whirlwind to really consider our options. It would have been easy to sell the egg out and run off to a tropical island. But that approach didn’t feel right. We knew we could build something more.
We thought about what was important to us as individuals, and asked ourselves how could we turn this into something more? We overcame all of these challenges by sticking to our principles.
Instead we pitched an idea to Hulu (Disney) in a Super Bowl exclusive to raise awareness of mental health. Leveraging 98 million Super Bowl viewers, the world watched as Eugene cracked under the pressure of social media.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
The response from our mental health campaign was incredible. Some people said the egg gave them hope and others even said the campaign inspired them or caught them in their moment of darkness. Those people made us realise there is a need for the mental health conversation to be more accessible. It doesn’t always need to be dark or deep, it can be fun and entertaining without trivialising it.
Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded?
World Record Egg is funded through a mix of self-funding and brand sponsorship, although we minimise partnerships to keep a focus on Eugene and the content.
Our creative agency Happy Yolk received investment from two communication agencies Blurred and TinMan. We met with Nik Govier (CEO of Blurred) through our network and there was instant chemistry.
Whilst the monetary element of the investment helps to keep us sustainable in the early stages, it is having Nik and Mandy on our board with access to their expertise that is invaluable to us.
What has been your best investment?
At the start we were working from my living room but we invested in our own office after a month. It was quite a bold move for such a young business since we had to commit for a 12 month period, but it absolutely paid off. As our office was within the co-working space, the networking opportunities were second to none. At least four of business partners we work with have come through office introductions.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
There’s three of us so we’re lucky to be able to sound each other out on decisions. We always follow our gut.
With that being said, one time we went against our gut feeling – and that was a mistake. It was during a time we thought other people may have more answers than we did, but they didn’t.
That’s when I realised that nobody really has all of the answers. Especially in this world, where things are moving fast and changing rapidly. It turns out that the answers are usually within us. It’s about finding the confidence to realise that.
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
We have a 50/50 split across our board which has created an equal and open environment. There is a level of empathy in our business, a lack of judgement and a complete openness to try and occasionally fail. This has resulted in a safe environment. Because if you’re expecting creativity; if you’re expecting innovation, it only comes from an environment where you feel safe.
Gender differences within the start up ecosystem are very obvious; there is not enough of us, or at least we are not visible enough. Although the root of the issue is complex, I believe a part of it lies within a lack of representation of business women, especially in the media.
Growing up watching personalities like Alan Sugar and Donald Trump on our TV screens instilled a stereotype. Women may have been there, but they were never leading. If we were to gain equal visibility and representation in the media, perhaps we would inspire and empower more women and new generations ahead.
It is a specifically scary issue, when you think about the industries that are truly shaping our future. The AI industry for example is only made up of 22% women. Does that mean the digital future will be made by men for men? We’ve worked hard for equality in this society and this feels as though we are going backwards.
But I do believe that mostly everybody desires true equality and to get there we need to acknowledge it and open a dialogue. It forces people to inspect their unconscious behaviour, both in terms of gender but also diversity inclusion at large.
By allowing these conversations to come to the surface, people examine their beliefs – false or otherwise. The result is a safer environment where we can talk and begin to truly respect everyone and what they bring.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
Say yes to opportunities that feel scary.
With the future in mind, where would you like to be/see yourself in the next two years and five years?
I’d really like to write more.
Can you tell us one of your goals for 2020?
One of my goals is unrelated to the business itself but it is related to my mental health and mindset (which impacts my business positively) and that’s powerlifting.
I took up the sport last year after being inspired by online. I thought “shit, could I lift thaaaat much?” Powerlifting has challenged me both mentally and physically. It has made me realise I am possible of much more than my mind would like me to believe.
Founding a business requires a lot of your energy and it can throw you out of a regular routine. Being focused in another area of my life has a knock on effect to how I manage my business. It keeps me focused, consistent and clears my mind.
I have a brilliant trainer and one of my goals is to compete professionally in October.
What can our readers do to support your business?
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Don’t think about it, do it. Be fearless. Whilst it can seem quite daunting going out and starting a business on your own, you will see your confidence grow beyond measure when you watch as the building blocks of your plans come together. You are much more valuable to the world than you might think you are, and your business will show you that. Not just through income, but through what you’re achieving and the people you are reaching.
About the Author
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
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