INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020 SERIES:
MY INSPIRATIONS – DAY 6
March 8th 2020 is International Women’s Day and by way of celebration I decided to publish an article a day from March 2nd – 8th on some of the women who inspire me the most. Day 6 looks at entrepreneur Emma Kennedy. See the full list of inspiring women here.
Emma Kennedy: Founder, Lions, Tigers and bears
Emma and I met many years ago when we were both working for a London media company. Even back then I remember her having a small side hustle involving upcycling furniture and I really admired her for it. She’s one of those people that don’t just have ideas, they make things happen.
Fast forward to now and I’m once again in awe of how driven and determined one woman can be. Only this time it’s different. Emma’s latest project was never on the list of business ideas we hoped would make us rich someday, the ones we cheerfully exchanged over just-one-more glass of wine after a tough day in the office. This business is focused on transforming the lives of other people.
In 2017 Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer, as her whole world was turned upside down she struggled to reconcile with an identity that included ‘cancer patient’. It wasn’t easy to find the products she needed and even when she did she felt frustrated at the lack of choice available to her – as if ‘cancer patient’ was just one type of person – when all she really wanted was just to feel like herself still.
Amidst chemotherapy and surgery she founded social enterprise Lions, Tigers and Bears – an online hub of products, services and information for those affected by cancer.
Read my interview with Emma Kennedy below to learn more about her incredible story.
what is your business and what led you start it?
Lions, Tigers and Bears is an online hub for people affected by cancer to help them find the things they need – products, services, advice & support. The aim is to provide a positive, supportive space for people who refuse to be defined by their cancer, and help them find their roar!
In 2017, I was diagnosed with an aggressive and slightly rarer form of breast cancer. I was 40. I was so frustrated trying to find the products I wanted and needed. I didn’t feel like a “patient” and felt that a lot of what was out there was hard to find or seemed to be aimed at a much older woman, and I wasn’t ready to pick up the blue rinse just yet!
I bought the url in a steroid and frustration induced haze after my fifth chemo session, and registered as a limited business 10 days after my lumpectomy surgery, and Lions, Tigers & Bears was born.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in growing your business?
The people I do it for. Cancer is the club that no one wants to join, but the cancer community is full of incredible human beings supporting and lifting each other up. People who have their own drama going on, but who still reach out a hand to those in need, and do it with humour, warmth & generosity of spirit.
I may never have chosen to join the club, but now I am in it, I feel a responsibility to step up too. When I get messages from people who the site has helped, or see people at the beginning of their journey who desperately need a site like LTB, it inspires me to keep going.
What’s your number 1 tip for anyone struggling to overcome overwhelmand keep going?
Focus on your why. Setting up your own business is tough, lonely and overwhelming. I regularly ask myself whether it is really worth it. If you don’t know what you are doing it for, you will quickly run out of steam.
That said, there is no shame in taking a break, and starting again tomorrow, or even the day after. It is really easy to let it take over your life, and balance is important.
I was still halfway through treatment when I set up LTB. There have been times when physically and emotionally I had nothing to give to LTB. Maybe it would have grown faster or be more successful if I hadn’t taken my foot off the gas at times, but this is just one aspect of my life, and if cancer has taught me anything it is what things are really important.
What’s been your favourite miststake and what did you learn?
Trying to be everything to everyone, and definitely a case of over-ambitious and slightly unrealistic expectations. When you start your business you are so full of ideas that you can spread too thin, lose your focus, waste time and energy chasing down rabbit holes.
I’m still trying to unpick this mistake, and have a pile of stock that actually doesn’t fit what my (now I’ve worked it out) target demographic are looking for. I now have a very clear of who my target demographic are and what they are looking for, and I have a clear business model on how the site will generate revenue whilst keeping risk & costs down.
There are times in the past where I have careered from one idea to another without thinking whether this is really a good plan. Now I try to focus on one idea at a time, do a good job and then move on to the next!
If you were to start your business again today, what would you do differently?
Spend more time planning, and think carefully about what needs to be outsourced and what I can do myself. I’ve wasted time on things that I should have spent money on and outsourced, and wasted money on things that in reflection I could have done myself. Whilst there is a lot to be said for being flexible and just going for it, a bit more time spent on planning and strategy could have saved more time or money down the line.
What do you love most about having your own business?
I love the satisfaction of knowing I am genuinely helping people, the immense feeling of pride in what I have achieved so far, and excitement for what may lie ahead. I still work part-time in my old career, but I don’t get the same satisfaction that I did pre-cancer, and it isn’t enough for me to just do this. My values, long-term plans and priorities are different now. LTB is my way of giving back, getting genuine satisfaction from my work, and knowing I am building something great for both my customers, and also (maybe selfishly) for myself.
Where can people find out more about your business?
Many thanks to Emma Kennedy for her interview.
If you would like to nominate a female entrepreneur to feature in the Inspiring Women Series please get in touch.
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