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.

Firstly, tell us a bit about you?

I’m a footwear designer by trade and I started my first business Percy Stride, a men’s footwear brand in 2017, only a year after leaving university. I started my second business Discovery Journal, designing and producing journal for anxiety in 2020 prior to the first national lockdown, but that time enabled me to move forward in my development much faster. I currently run both my businesses from home which in turn is becoming a bit of a warehouse! 

Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?

Discovery Journal is a passion project for which I’ve implemented techniques I’ve developed to manage and recover from my own struggle with anxiety disorder and OCD. 

My journals are unconventional in layout, and focus primarily on prioritising places, interactions and associated feelings in a prompted format.

It became very clear to me that with the speed our world moves now, it was essential to try and create a clearer picture of triggers by breaking down and removing the noise of a day and looking at particular sections, finding the cause rather than just treating the symptoms. 

What is your main inspiration and driver for your business? (Perhaps you could also share your mission and vision with our readers?)

I went from not being able to leave my bedroom most days, crying that I will never move forward in my life to not only managing those things but taking it further. My inspiration is that pain, I am inspired by my old life, it pushes me to keep going and help other people who are still crying. 

What was the moment that everything changed for you? 

I remember the moment I thought, that’s it, I have to do something and that was when a friend and work colleague of mine was having a tough time and I didn’t want to be too invasive and ask too many questions so I recall asking what the actual problem was, but they couldn’t cut through the noise of the day and I thought, this needs to stop we need to get to the actual cause rather than discussing the symptoms. They told me that they didn’t have a journal, they didn’t have the time or inclination to write everything down, it just felt like another obligation and that was the moment I started designing the Discovery Journal.

What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something? 

I think as the orders were coming in, I obviously felt a sense of elation that I’d been able to produce something that there was a clear need for but I think the one moment when I thought “yes, this is it” was when I began working with a local children’s charity. There support and interest in what I was doing really made me feel incredibly grateful as well as honoured.

Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?

I started Discovery Journal, self-funded. Every penny I make goes straight back into the business. I was fortunate that the skills I needed to design the journals, the computer programs and contacts is something I already had so it enabled me to save a lot of money that I would have put into learning and trial and error start-up costs. 

What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?

I was never held back or even gave a second thought to the fact I was a woman when I started either of my businesses and I think it goes to show how far women in business and the perception of women in business as progressed over the years. I don’t feel as though anything “needs to change” per se, but I would like to see more, the more women in business who are celebrated, who tell their stories is all a step in the right direction. I find a sense of comfort learning from other women, I feel I can relate better to their struggles and successes.

What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?

Confidence and resilience (and I wouldn’t say I’ve completely learnt those lessons yet either) I already had a business which was in its 4th year when I started Discovery Journal, so I knew kind of what to expect but when you are working with a completely different product and market, everything you thought you knew goes out the window! I’ve had to adapt very quickly, change my hats on an hourly basis and keep up. There are really good days and really bad days I’m learning that the bad days won’t always be bad and learning to keep faith in those moments is one of the hardest things I’ve had to grasp.

What was your biggest learning of 2020?

Patience. In a world where the instant gratification is gone, few people are working you have to have patience with most things and while you wait you have to be creative. I think in 2020 I learnt to re-prioritise and got myself into the mindset of “what can I do right now?” and “what do I have to do at a later stage?” 

With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I’d like both my businesses to progress naturally and grow obviously. With Discovery Journal I’d love to be in a position for which I can branch out, help more people with not just anxiety but other mental illnesses, grow my own knowledge and learning on those areas and work with more schools and charities.

What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend? 

In my personal life to help me recover from anxiety I read “f**k it” by John.C.Parkin and it’s a great book for anyone wanting to feel a little less stress and more grounded. 

In regards to business working with PR Dispatch and their team really helped me grow confidence with my PR Strategy and develop a better sense of community in business (it can be quite lonely sometimes!) and also with help from Content Chef I was able to put my content ideas into practice while maintaining professionalism and gaining advice on SEO and organic growth through content. 

What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?

Be realistic and don’t be a del boy cause the chances are you won’t be a millionaire this time next year! I think starting a business is about passion, it’s for striving to love your job, “if you love your job you won’t work a day in your life” you can get bogged down by finances and difficulties but it is a long road but if you want to do something you love every single day its worth the leg work. 

Finally, where can we find you/how can we support you? 

Discovery Journal Website | Facebook | Instagram

Leah Williams

Leah Williams

About your 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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