We are delighted to share with you our interview “Questions and Answers” with Fiona GRAYSON founder of She can. She did.
Carla MARTIN: Please introduce yourself for those who do not know you yet. Kindly tell us about your background and your business? How you decided to create your business?
Fiona GRAYSON: I’m Fi and I’m the Founder of She can. She did. which is a platform that I launched in August 2017, that puts the spotlight on women in their teens, twenties and thirties who’ve dared to go solo and launch their own businesses and asks them to open up about absolutely everything they’ve been through behind the scenes to get to where they are with their businesses today. My lightbulb moment for She can. She did. came on April 26th 2017 when I was out in Boston with my old job – I used to produce large finance conference around the world and had done so since I graduated from uni in 2013. I woke up in my hotel room the day after the conference, checked my emails first thing as you tend to do and read a work email that made me realise that I was officially ready to leave (I am so grateful for my old job and loved it for the first couple of years as it gave me so many incredible opportunities but the day-to-day reality of the job wore off after a while and I knew that I didn’t want to stay there forever). I remember screenshotting the email and sending it to my big sister back home saying something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore!’ (terribly dramatic, I know..!) and she replied straight away saying, ‘do you know what Fi? You’ve been saying this for a while, just quit. I know you, you’ll figure it out’ and I realized in that moment that she was right. I’ve always worked hard – through school, uni and in my career – and it just became more and more apparent that I hadn’t worked as hard as I had to end up in a job that I was no longer happy in so I decided then and there that when I got back to London, I’d hand my notice in. I then had a whole day to kill in Boston so decided to visit the Harvard University Campus (being the hardcore Legally Blonde fan that I am..!). It was a two hour walk from my hotel and I remember the whole way there, just trying to figure out what I was going to do if I quit my job.
I’d started to notice that there were more and more young women launching their own businesses in the odd article that I’d read/ seen a few pop up on Instagram and had always seen myself running a business one day but had always presumed that I’d do it later down the line. However, I remember stopping for coffee on the way to Harvard and Googled ‘women under the age of 30 who have launched their own business in the UK’. Long story short, various articles popped up with glamorous titles like ’23 women under the age of 30 bossing life’ but all these articles offered me was a list of incredible women with big glossy photos and maybe a paragraph or two highlighting everything they’ve achieved. If I was going to quit my job and look to launch a business, I wanted to know everything these women had pushed through behind the scenes and sacrificed en route to get to where they were today. My parents had both launched their own businesses when I was around ten, so I’d grown up in a household where I witnessed first-hand how much goes into launching your own company so knew it wasn’t as easy as some of the articles I’d found and some Instagram feeds where making it out to be. By the time I eventually got to Harvard therefore, I just decided that I was going to treat She can. She did. like a project initially, reach out to the women that I’d stumbled across and ask them if they’d be willing to open up about every single thing they’d had to face both in-front of and behind the scenes to get to where they were today and I’d then share their more realistic stories online, for young women, like me, who wanted to launch their own company but had no idea where to start. With that, I went back to London, handed my notice in, worked my three months notice of course, and started She can. She did. on August 7th 2017!
CM: What was your path to the role you have now?
FG: She can. She did. started by me reaching out to young, female business owners that I admired, filling them in on what I was trying to achieve with She can. She did. and asking them if they’d be interested in me interviewing them in detail about everything they’ve had to face since day one of their business. Fortunately they said “yes”, and so it very much started with me driving around the UK to meet them, I’d put my phone on record and record our whole chat and I then typed up the interviews pretty much word for word so that they were as down to earth and conversational as possible, before sharing them on She can. She did. each week. After about a month, women started reaching out with their stories and gradually it just grew from there… About ten months in, I bought my events background in by introducing The Midweek Mingles which are really down to earth networking events for female business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs that started in London and now take place in multiple cities around the UK (and feature a whole lot of amazing women, gin and a whole lot of goodies!) Then about a year ago, an idea popped into my head that will form the long-term business idea for She can. She did. which is based on recurring challenges that I saw pop up in every interview along with my own experiences as a female business owner, so for the past year, behind the scenes I’ve been researching that in more detail and am looking to get the bigger-picture plan for She can. She did. off the ground in the coming months…
CM: What does a typical working day look like for you?
FG: Typically, I wake up at 6.30am and exercise straight away to set me up for the day – be it a run around the local nature reserve or a HIIT/Pilates work out, exercise is something that I swear by for my own mental and physical wellbeing! I then head to my parents each day to escape my flat, make myself a giant coffee and sit down at my laptop for the rest of the day! Usually, I’ve answered most emails by 10am and then spend the rest of the day either editing podcast interviews, planning The Midweek Mingles or working on the long-term business plan. I’m also in London most weeks interviewing for the podcast/ meeting up with female business owners/brands that have reached out to go for coffee which is always nice! Then of course, if it’s an event day, I usually spend it packing my Mum’s car with all of the goody bag items and event signage, road tripping to whichever city we’re hosting it in, setting up with my amazing team of volunteers before spending the night hosting each event and mingling away throughout the night (with a giant G&T in hand of course!)
CM: Tell us what is your success mindset?
FG: For me it boils down to reminding myself that anything is possible if you work hard enough and believe in yourself enough to achieve whatever goal you’ve set your sights on achieving. Ever since I was little, my parents have always told me that I can achieve whatever I set my mind too if I put the work in so for me, it’s just a case of reminding myself of that. No one that I admire got to where they are today without putting the work in and pushing through when they experienced setbacks so for me, success is a game of resilience, grit and determination.
CM: What was your biggest challenge on the personal side also business side?
FG: On the business side, it’s been cash flow or a lack of at some points which can always prove challenging so learning to juggle that has been testing at times. On the personal side, there have been so many challenges! Walking away from my old salary was incredibly tough to begin with. I’m used to it now but my whole lifestyle changed drastically when I launched She can. She did. and everything from eating out, my social life, shopping, buying daily coffees etc… all stopped over night because I didn’t earn anything from She can. She did. for ten months and my savings went solely on my mortgage and bills and putting petrol in my car so that I could travel to interview each Founder. I also went through a really tough time in my personal life earlier this year where ordinarily, I would have loved to have taken a good few weeks off but that’s not always possible when you run a business so putting on a professional hat on and trying to focus and push through during that time was really hard too. I always think challenges like that make you stronger in the long run though and I can look back now and feel so proud of myself for everything that I achieved during that time (even if it did feel completely shit at the time!)
CM: I would like to know what is the best advice in business you have been given? May I ask who gave it to you ?
FG: There’s so much amazing advice I’ve been given by the women that I’ve interviewed so it’s hard to pick just one so instead I’ll offer a quote from Michelle Obama: “when they go low, go high!” I swear by it and think it’s so empowering for day-to-day life in general but especially when it comes to some of the challenges that running a business can throw your way.
CM: For a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give?
FG: There’s so much advice I’d try and offer (I’ve written down a lot of lessons that I’ve learned en route down on the website) but in general, I’d say start sharing your idea with people you trust, start with little baby steps (whilst keeping your ‘why’ in mind) and you’ll be surprised by how quickly things can snowball. One person might know another person or suggest an idea that sparks another idea and before you know it, your idea suddenly has legs – even if they’re little legs to begin with! I’d also reiterate the fact that those people you trust become your safety blanket and they’re invaluable as your business grows so look after them because they’ll be looking after you. At the beginning, you’ll have so many people that are willing to support you and cheer you on but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are also a few people that respond to your ideas with a lack of enthusiasm or doubt you/respond with cynical remarks. To that I say, just keep reminding yourself of why you’re doing this and take those comments with a pinch of salt. So long as you are sure of your idea and know that you have a few people that you love and trust that you can turn to when you face any setbacks, you stand in good stead to succeed if you’re willing to put the work in.
CM: With everything you have achieved, what you would say your greatest achievement is?
FG: I’m really proud of the community that She can. She did. has attracted and created. From the women that reach out and message when the podcast episodes go live each week, to the women that turn up to support and network at each of The Midweek Mingles, I’m often sent messages about how inspiring and lovely the women that I feature are or how inspiring and lovely the women at each of the Mingles are and I’m really proud that She can. She did. has created a space for those women to come together and share their stories.
CM: What was the most challenging moment in your life? And how did you manage to overcome it?
FG: I’m still going through it right now I think! I went through a really painful break up at the start of 2019 that really threw me off course emotionally this year so learning to stand on my own two feet again and run and grow this business into the business that I believe it can be without my ex by my side has been really tough. We ended on good terms but he was there from day one of She can. She did. so learning to do this all without his support and when I don’t feel 100% myself has been really hard. In terms of how did I overcome it, I’d definitely say it’s a work in progress! For me, just taking each day as it comes and trying to remember that I achieved a whole lot on my own once upon a time before I met him is my current plan! I’ll keep you posted..!
CM: From your entire professional experience, what was your most exciting project up to now?
FG: For me, it’s working on the long-term plan for She can. She did. It’s currently all happening behind the scenes (I’m hoping to be able to reveal it all soon) but working on that idea and seeing it develop day by day is so exciting as I genuinely believe that it will transform She can. She did. into the business that I think it has the potential to be and provide so many female business owners with a whole lot more than I’m currently offering them! It’s teaching me things and challenging me on a daily basis but I’m so passionate about it that it’s all just proving to be really exciting!
CM: What is your business current focus?
FG: Getting said business idea for She can. She did. off the ground and getting to work on the September Midweek Mingle roadshow!
CM: Who inspires you today?
FG: I’m inspired by all of the women that I’ve interviewed so far because not one of them has had an easy ride to get to where they are today. They’ve all had to grit their teeth and overcome or in some cases, continue to battle through a number of challenges to achieve their goals and anyone that is willing to work hard for what they want is worthy of respect in my opinion (so long as they’re nice with it!). I’m also inspired by women like Michelle Obama – especially after reading ‘Becoming’ – Whitney Wolfe, Sophia Bush etc… So many women!! I could list them for hours!
CM: Do you have a secret talent?
FG: I’d like to think I’m a half-decent cook when I want to be! Cooking is one of my ultimate switch offs because I can get creative and don’t feel like I need to think all that much when I’m cooking something up! My friends and family will also tell you that I’ve got a secret talent for how much I can eat… my appetite is abnormally large! It’s quite impressive if I do say so myself!
CM: You found your passion, in your opinion how does everyone find their own passion?
FG: Work out what you love doing – be it talking to people, being on your own locked away, drawing, cooking, looking after animals etc…. write a big list down and get creative with it. If it doesn’t lend itself naturally to an obvious career, create your own career from it yourself!
CM: If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
FG: I’d stop animal cruelty – from poaching, deforestation to general neglect and everything else in between, cruelty to animals makes me so angry so I’d 100% put a stop to that outright if I was given a magic wand today.
CM: Thank you so much Fiona for your time and kindness to answer my questions.