Rachel Lowe is a mum to two children who took up cab driving to make ends meet while studying as a law student – a decision which led to her first entrepreneurial success as a board game developer.
Her board game, Destination Portsmouth, was derided on Dragons' Den, (see the video below for a full description) but as with so many of the inventors who are turned away, it was Lowe who had the last laugh.
Lowe’s most recent venture - a beauty brand called She Who Dares – has just launched.
What's your current role?
I am the managing director of She Who Dares UK and I my main current role is the development, production and marketing of the She Who Dares brand. We also have the Destination brand which we currently have Harry Potter and Olympic editions.
How did you start your entrepreneurial adventure?
My first entrepreneurial adventure was the Destination board games. Before creating the games I worked as a cab driver and this is where the idea came from.
I worked as a cab driver for a few years. I actually really enjoyed it and met some fascinating characters. I had the idea for the board game when I was out on a shift one evening.
I had stopped at a red light and thought 'red light miss a turn' and that’s where the idea came from. I then made notes from my shift every time I went out in my cab, so everything within the game is drawn on my own experience as a cab driver.
I carried on driving at weekends whilst I was a student and yes, right up until I had launched the game.
How did you secure funding for your first start up?
The funding to get started actually came from sponsorship. Attractions paid to have their venue listed as a Destination within the game.
I had entered the game into an Enterprise Challenge at University and I won some money, which I used to set up my company.
When I had the idea to raise sponsorship, the first company I had a meeting with was Wightlink, the ferry that goes from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight, as I was developing the Destination Portsmouth edition along side Destination London.
Wightlink sent me a letter saying they would sponsor £2,000 in exchange for being featured within the game and on the box. I took this to Aqua Cars, the cab firm I worked for and they gave me a letter sponsoring the game for £1,000.
I then took those two letters to Portsmouth University and they sponsored another £1000.
I also sent three letters to Portsmouth football club, and carried on approaching local businesses until eventually I had raised about £12,000 in sponsorship. This was then was match funded by a local firm who give loans to small businesses.
Hamleys - London's biggest toy store - backed Lowe early on
Destination London eventually went on to become the number one selling game at world-famous toy store Hamleys, out-selling Monopoly and Twister.
I then negotiated deals with The Walt Disney Corporation for Destination Animation and Warner Bros for the Harry Potter-inspired Destination Hogwarts.
To capitalise on the Olympic fever pitch, I then created Destination London 2012 and Destination London 2012 Sports – editions of the board game that will take players on an adventure around the venues of our great capital city when all eyes were on London.
Have you diversified into other areas? please provide details.
Yes, our company has the board games division, but we are also launching a new brand called She Who Dares, which is a premium fragrance and accessories gift brand.
When we set up She Who Dares UK, I really wanted a challenge to keep me focused, and something that I could really have a shot at. The fragrance market is one of the most competitive and so this was the perfect challenge.
It has taken two years from conception to final production and I am very proud of the finished product, brand and message that we are communicating. The fragrance is called 'eminence' and was inspired by my MBE.
I wanted to created the same emotion that I felt when I was given my MBE, that sense of acknowledgement, worth and pride. So if there is someone in your life who you wish to acknowledge and recognise, then honour her with 'eminence' and show her that you noticed!
How have you found the past five years have treated your business?
Business is a roallercoaster, never a dull moment. The recession was a tough time, but everything is on the up and all moving in the right direction. I am very excited about She Who Dares. We have had lots of positive reviews already and I am very proud of it.
What advice would you give to people who want to start their own business today? Where should they look for funding?
Investment funding is always good as you also get the added bonus of an experienced person to help with the business. Bank funding bears the burden of the monthly repayments and interest, but if this is right for your business, then you get to keep more of your equity.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
This is always a hard one for me to define, but I think my biggest success, was simply picking myself back up after I hit below rock bottom, the darkest time in my life, and slowly getting back out there and starting again.
That took more guts and courage than anything I have ever done, and now I know that whatever happens to me, I will always get back up again, so nothing can phase me nor intimidate me. I feel stronger than ever before and I truly believe that 'Nothing is impossible', which is the message behind She Who Dares.
What was the biggest lesson you've learned?
I have learned never to give up. Nothing is impossible. Challenges are sent to try us. Life is full of surprises and you ever know what’s around the corner.