How I Did It - I Left Procter And Gamble to Start London's Biggest Female Entrepreneurs Network
5 Min Read
In our How I Did It Series, we profile entrepreneurs whom we admire at Solid State Group, especially those who’ve made the leap from corporate life to founding their own businesses, or go above and beyond to support London’s tech industry.
Many can sympathise with Lu Li’s past predicament of a bad boss, a bad break-up and a bad move to a new country. It might even sound too familiar to you. However, Lu’s sharp focus and love for innovation saw her through these difficult times to achieve her real dream of starting a business.
So, she left brilliant jobs at Procter & Gamble and McKinsey to found and foster one of the most influential founder networks in London - Blooming Founders - focusing on supporting female entrepreneurs. She’s never looked back.
Here’s how she did it.
Three years after founding Blooming Founders, I’m still so excited about the change I can help create! We got started by hosting events and creating an environment where people could connect, be inspired and get value from each other. I constantly get positive feedback from the members, which is what keeps me going. .
You were working for one of the biggest corporates, Procter & Gamble and a stint at McKinsey, what was going through your head on Day 1?
I’m not exactly sure when Day 1 of my entrepreneurial journey was. When I decided to quit my job at P&G, I felt excited about the future. I was about to take charge of my own destiny and be my own boss.
In the transition period, however, I suffered a bad breakup. So I found myself on my own in a city that I didn’t know, sitting on my couch crying. This was no way to start a new life and I needed to pick myself up first, which took a couple months to do.
At some point, I thought: “Well, changing so many variables in your life was a pretty stupid idea. But can I do, it’s reality now. Luckily, I have no responsibilities and no one to take care of, so I better get my sh*t together and do something with my life.”
Entrepreneurship is a journey to your true self. If you see it as that, then my question is: can you afford not to do it?
It was a combination of things. I struggled with my manager and the company was also restructuring my department. Some of the promises they made when they hired me they couldn’t keep, so I had a lot of dissatisfaction in my job, even though it was very well paid.
And as I say, I didn’t have big life commitments so I thought if I postponed starting a business I would regret it later on. I had some savings and felt confident enough to take the leap. I didn’t have a fully formed business idea at the time, it was more driven by me wanting to do work that fully played on my strengths. I thought I could figure it out along the way (who knew it would take several years to do so)!
The baptism of fire is that you have to do everything yourself and pay for everything yourself
Corporate experience will help you increase your level of professionalism which will lead to more confidence, in particular perceived confidence. The names on my CV prove my ability to achieve things, so they act as nice “lighthouses”.
On a practical level, McKinsey taught me to think strategically and exhaustively about new business opportunities, while P&G taught me the importance of excellence in execution when it comes to building a brand.
The baptism of fire is that you have to do everything yourself and pay for everything, while there’s no infrastructure and very little budget. You are still used to the way you would manage things in blue chip organisations, but as a startup founder, you need to think in a completely different (and much more scrappy) way.
There were several times where I spent money on things that didn’t bring any ROI and which hurt quite a bit. Also, the number of things you don’t know about or have a wrong gut feeling on is astounding!
I admire loads of female founders, but one of my favourite people is Emily Forbes of Seenit. She has a great personality, she deals with sh*t and is scaling the business.
Irra Ariella Khi of VChain Technology is really bad ass too. She used to be a professional model and now is the CEO of a cybersecurity startup with investment from British Airways.
Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots, is a fantastic lady too. As I said, there are tons of amazing women out there!
What advice do you have for other women who are dissatisfied with work and are considering starting up a business?
My advice is simply: do it. As long as you take calculated risks, there is nothing to lose and everything to be gained. Entrepreneurship is a journey to your true self. If you see it as that, then my question is: can you afford not to do it? Imagine spending the rest of your life in unfulfilling jobs. Is that really living?
In terms of practical next steps, I would say join a network of like-minded people (such as Blooming Founders) and start sharing your ideas and any questions you might have. You will then get feedback from the community who has been there and done that. Always remember: You are not alone in this. We’ve got your back!
We’ve interviewed more of London’s fantastic entrepreneurs who left a corporate career to found high growth businesses. Visit our blog to see other stories from ex-lawyers, consultants, accountants and more.
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