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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Debbie Wosskow encore

Show aired on 1st December 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers, I am Elliot Moss, and today we have a very special Encore Edition of Jazz Shapers. That means, alongside super tunes from the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues, we welcome back a past Shaper, Debbie Wosskow, OBE returns. She last joined us three years ago before she received that OBE for services to business in 2017. Hailing from a family of female entrepreneurs, Debbie is now recognised as one of the most prominent serial entrepreneurs in the UK, known for successfully launching and scaling businesses in the areas of digital disruption, the sharing economy and female empowerment. She was the Co-founder and CEO of Love Home Swap which she describes as Airbnb for grownups, and in 2016 Debbie co-founded AllBright, a professional network that connects smart thinking women and aims to close the gender-based funding gap currently preventing many women from launching and succeeding with their business ideas. Debbie also sits on the Mayor of London’s Business Advisory Board. She is pretty busy. Hello.

Debbie Wosskow
Hello yeah.

Elliot Moss
How are you?

Debbie Wosskow
Hello. Yeah, I am alright. Happy to be back.

Elliot Moss
We are very pleased that you are back. A lot has happened in three years. I mean, just to refresh those people’s memories who may need refreshing, firstly you go back into 2015 into the archives you can look up Debbie Wosskow’s programme there. We were talking about this business called Love Home Swap.

Debbie Wosskow
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
Which was your idea. We are talking about your background, your entrepreneurial family, we were talking about the agency you set up at a much younger age and your ridiculously high achieving’ness which was already going on but amazing things have happened since. We are now three years on since we chatted. You’ve got a few letters after your name: OBE.

Debbie Wosskow
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
Which is pretty good. You’ve been appointed to the Mayor’s Advisory Business Board.

Debbie Wosskow
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Which we’ll talk about in a moment. You have created a new business called AllBright which you’ll describe in your own words. You’ve sold Love Home Swap.

Debbie Wosskow
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You’ve been, I think, Entrepreneur of the Year at the Evening Standard Awards 2018.

Debbie Wosskow
I am.

Elliot Moss
The list goes on. I mean ridiculous so, let’s go back a little bit. We were talking about Love Home Swap then.

Debbie Wosskow
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Tell me how you managed to grow that business and then create an event for yourself.

Debbie Wosskow
So, to recap a little bit on what Love Home Swap was.

Elliot Moss
Ever the saleswoman. Can you just be clear, this is how good it is. This is the proposition. Off we go.

Debbie Wosskow
Yeah, so it’s home exchange for holidays, a bit like the movie The Holiday, if you can remember. So, a little bit like an Airbnb for grownups and you would swap your home with someone else’s home around the world and in 2015, so when I was last on the programme, I raised another round of capital for the business and part of that came from an American hotel group called Wyndham Worldwide which is a brand in the States that people might not have heard of here but they also own things like James Villas and English Country Cottages and they own, importantly for our business at the time, RCI the timeshare brand, and a lot of the way that we thought about Love Home Swap was it was a bit like a modern day timeshare and timeshare had challenges as an industry in that its audience was a dying breed in that they were literally dying because it’s not something that young people were buying into. So, Wyndham invested in 2015 and then two years later, in July 2017 so just over a year ago, I sold the business to them for $53 million.

Elliot Moss
Sounds quite a lot to me.

Debbie Wosskow
It was okay, we did okay. So, it was a really busy, to look back on the time since I was here last, a really busy two years. I think when people tell that sort of story it sounds effortless. It wasn’t. It was hugely hard work. It was really challenging to scale the business here and globally and to do it as a UK based start-up whilst realising that you are creating a really global brand and a global audience is really difficult to do from London. So, they were brilliant investors, they were a different kind of investor because they weren’t just about the money, they were about the access to their audience, about helping us with things like sales and marketing and call centres which is not something that you think of when you have this bright idea of setting up a home exchange business and I had worked in Love Home Swap with Ben, who is my younger brother, and there was therefore a very elegant transition on the day that we sold the business where I left and my brother stayed on and he is now the CEO of Love Home Swap and runs the business very effectively on a day-to-day basis but it was a really busy, interesting two years and also quite a moment when you finally achieve the exit that you’ve been planning and a wonderful positive celebratory moment but also quite an emotional moment to literally, on the day, sell the business announce the deal, pack your bag and leave the building and that’s kind of how it was on the 31 July 2017 for me.

Elliot Moss
Which was roughly six years from the time that you created the business.

Debbie Wosskow
It was, yes.

Elliot Moss
And I want to just stick on that for a moment because all these other things are all very good and they are badges and things and you’ve earnt your stripes, and some. That feeling that you just touched on about the end of the journey, were there times in that six years where you were obviously very focussed on this business where you thought, ‘this just isn’t going to make the cut, I’ve got this great idea but I can execute on it’, and if so, how did you, because many people start businesses and they just don’t work. You’ve got one away, and a big one, $53 million US is a lot of money and it is fantastic value you created. Those dark moments?

Debbie Wosskow
I think a lot of people don’t talk about how hard it is and how what it takes more than anything, is grit. And I think the difference often between the businesses that succeed and the businesses that don’t, is whether the Founder or the Founders, or that founding team have got the stomach for it because there are days and weeks on end that are hard, that are boring, that are depressing, that are every single negative emotion you could possibly imagine. There are the moments in time where you have £1,000 left in the bank account, as we did on a few notable occasions, and I think the difference often between those that make the cut and those that don’t, are whether you can suck it up and whether you can bounce out of bed feeling very positive the next day. I think one of my strengths or weaknesses, depending on your perspective, is I have a very short memory so the next day I have forgotten about how bad it was the day before because I am just up for it and I think it’s that, you know, positive mental attitude to coin a famous Linford Christie phrase, that keeps you going but of course it’s all of those things, it can be really, really dark but it’s about whether you’ve got the stomach for the fight.

Elliot Moss
At that moment, had you already been percolating ideas or was the next episode which, to me, as I look at it, is the AllBright business…

Debbie Wosskow
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…which I want you to talk about. Was it in play or was it serendipity?

Debbie Wosskow
No, it was in play and I think that for me I always like to have something else in my head I suppose that I am thinking about and what happened with AllBright was, however, serendipitous because I went to a party, and it was one of those parties of parents from the school that I slightly couldn’t be bothered to go to on a Saturday night, and the dad said to me, ‘there’s someone I want you to meet’ and he introduced me to a petite blonde woman called Anna Jones and said ‘you two should be friends’ and Anna was the CEO of Hearst magazines business. So, very successful, fellow Northerner, kids the same age as mine, similarly sort of dark sense of humour and a lone female CEO in the media industry. And that was three years ago so, for the first year and a half probably of our friendship we would meet for cocktails or for breakfast and sort of shoot the breeze and talk about life, the universe and everything but what became a very clear topic of discussion was why there are there still so few women and the data is just terrible in the world of entrepreneurship, the 2016 stat was that only 2.17% of capital invested went to back a female CEO and Anna’s world of being a corporate leader it’s only 1 in 6 in leadership positions in the UK are women, 1 in 10 women say they want to start their own business but they don’t, only 7% of investors are female, 2% of you know I could go on and on and on about this, and it was something that her and I saw every day and so on the back of a cocktail menu we scribbled ‘Project AllBright’ after the famous Madeleine quote, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’. We still have this cocktail menu and what emerged from that piece of thinking was, okay instead of talking about it and quoting these stats, what would you actually do to change things if the essay question is ‘How do you make the world but let’s begin with the UK, a better place to be a working woman? What would it take?’ and that became the heart of what the AllBright business has become. So, that was definitely percolating on the background. I had agreed with my family and everybody else in my life that I would take some time off after Love Home Swap but I think I probably took about a day because it felt that this new big idea of AllBright was something that I couldn’t leave alone because it’s a massive combination of profit and purpose for building a business and the essence of the business is two different things, it’s physical space so we’ve opened one, and soon to be two, members clubs for women in London. A female only membership, men are very welcome in the building as our guest and they will be treated with dignity and respect but buildings, we have realised, if they want to be…

Elliot Moss
She says with a twinkle in her eye.

Debbie Wosskow
…but buildings, we have realised are more than just bricks and mortar, they help a movement to stand for something and they enable us to truly celebrate women within a space, to help women to build a network, the art on the wall is by women, the wine behind the bar is from female run vineyards, the handwash in the basins, you know we have a lot of fun with it.

Elliot Moss
Was this your, when you were growing up and you went to Oxford, you do all the, you know you were top of the class as it were, was there a feeling inside that there was always an injustice or was there space in your life post making the money, truth, to be tough on it for a moment, where you went ‘you know what’ the really important thing for me is the following. Because I am just interested in how central to your own DNA, to your own set of values, this notion was of this injustice that needed to be addressed because that’s what you are doing now.

Debbie Wosskow
I think it’s always been a live topic for me and it’s partly because my own background is that the women in my life ran successful businesses, my mother and my grandmother, so I had been surrounded by women who worked, who were entrepreneurs and who were mothers and that was normal to me and it was only later in my life that I realised it wasn’t normal for most people and actually most women and girls don’t have female role models who are doing this thing. Within my working life I was so used to being the only woman at the table that I didn’t even notice anymore and that’s ridiculous so, yes of course some of it is being able to have the brain space to think, also frankly being able to have the platform to actually action this because Anna and I together are a very credible force and that has helped to do the things that we’ve done is a short space of time so in a year we have raised £13 million of capital, we’ve opened our first London club, we are opening our second in Mayfair in the early New Year and we are opening our first overseas in Los Angeles in May of next year with a site on Melrose Place. I think in my earlier life, it’s not that I didn’t feel the issues but I think it would have been hard to execute them at scale and the second part of the business is the AllBright Academy so that is our completely free digital education platform. We have two ten week course, one for female execs, one for female entrepreneurs, we’ve filmed every woman you have ever heard of and many of them will have been on your show, to try and create the ‘how to’ guide that’s completely free and build this monster global sisterhood of women who have got each other’s backs, so our strapline is ‘sisterhood works’ because we know it does, the data shows that the more that women help other women in their close support network on working topics the more successful they are. I have been really lucky to have that in my work life but it’s happened totally by accident. You can’t think about your support network in terms of people you accidentally meet at parties. So, how do we make that happen in a physical space, how do we make it happen digitally, how do we connect more women with other women totally diverse, every age, every stage, how do we mash up execs and entrepreneurs? Anna and I live that every day because we are from very different backgrounds but we have this shared goal and that’s been really interesting in terms of the way that the business has developed. So only sort of a year and a bit in we are already, you know, fully foot to the floor on this one because it also feels like the zeitgeist has moved with us. When we started talking about this with the cocktail menu, when I even started to think about it last year in the days of building towards my Love Home Swap exit, Time’s Up hadn’t happened, Harvey Weinstein hadn’t happened, the Presidents Club hadn’t happened, you know, and, and, and… Now, it feels like this topic of diversity, women’s empowerment and female networks as well as how do we attract more capital for female entrepreneurs is front and centre.

Elliot Moss
I doubt you will hear a more articulate expression of exactly what the issue is and what someone is doing to try and fix it. Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, Debbie Wosskow, my Encore Special guest today, plus we will be hearing from one of our partners at Mishcon de Reya with some advice for your business and that’s coming up right now.

There are many ways for you to enjoy all the former Jazz Shapers and indeed to hear this very programme again. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you will find many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your podcast platform of choice you can enjoy the full archive. But my Business Shaper today, my Encore Special, is Debbie Wosskow and she was back here three years ago before many things had happened and now, as you heard before, she is championing the thought that sisterhood works and that women together are stronger and indeed, what was your quote from Madeleine Albright that those women who don’t…

Debbie Wosskow
‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’.

Elliot Moss
That’s brilliant. I am assuming that there has been huge support for this, one assumes that there is a guy looking inside and going well time is up on the idea that this is a male dominated business environment, or even indeed a male dominated world, but I am assuming people play nicely. Is that true?

Debbie Wosskow
Yeah, I mean the membership is amazing, it’s utterly diverse in terms of where people come from, what women do, what they want out of it but if you really drill down on why they’ve joined and we opened to a big waiting list when we opened the first club in March. It is to build their network of other women but it’s also to address the slightly thorny issue of confidence and resilience. So, a lot of the events programming that we run in the club as well as doing female DJ’s and cocktail making and all that kind of fun stuff but they are quite a serious crowd our members, and they are very focussed on how do they get to the next level as entrepreneurs or as execs, and that’s really manifested in the two courses that we run, the AllBright Academy courses where there’s some very specific stuff in there so we do tax, legal accounting, fund raising, you know all of that, but actually we spend quite a lot of time on looking at your authentic self and how to be the best version of yourself because that is often what holds women back. 60% of women say ‘I don’t have the skills that I need to get the next level’ but 75% of them will say that they feel that they are suffering from imposter syndrome and so we need to do more than just say learn everything you need to know about EIS investing, you know we need to be able to address some of those softer issues too.

Elliot Moss
What I want to touch on, something you said when we met last time, which talks about your own attitude to life and then I want to come back to the confidence issue for a moment. So, have a listen to this.

Debbie Wosskow
“The trick is to get up early, that’s the trick to everything in life. I think if you can train yourself to be an early riser then you can fit it all in. I am a shirker when there is not much going and if I am really under the cosh then I’m you know, brilliant and I need to create that kind of life situation in order to be efficient.”

Now, there’s a couple of reasons why I wanted you to hear that. Firstly, you are still getting up early?

Debbie Wosskow
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
I’m sure you are but that the less interesting part but I am just curious. Do you have to do that? But the second thing is, you’ve really loaded your life up and this is where I want to talk about the other stuff that you, you are involved with the Sharing Economy Committee way back in the day the Government consultation, you were involved with the Mayor’s Advisory Board I mentioned at the beginning of the programme. You get involved in more governmental, more structural stuff than many entrepreneurs that I meet. Firstly, why do you still get up early? And secondly, what drives that desire to do something good beyond the thing that you are doing in front of you?

Debbie Wosskow
I think the early thing is partly a DNA point but also, what I said three years ago still remains true which is, I have a really busy life and I like to pack it in, that’s when I do my best work and feel like I am on my A-game and so an early start and hitting the punchbag and sweating every day is just a really important part of the routine. I think one of the myths about entrepreneurs or creative people often, is that they are sort of a bit all of the shop and they are waiting for inspiration to strike, I am really structured in the way that I run my day and the way that I spend time with the kids that I, you know, go boxing first thing in the morning, all that sort of stuff, and I take comfort in that routine so to me that’s really important. In terms of having a wide scope or sort broad playing field to operate on, I’m just a curious person. I don’t sleep very well so it means that I read a lot, I’ve always been a huge reader of fiction, I have just joined the Board of the Women’s Prize for Fiction because that’s a passion. I was on the Board of the Hampstead Theatre for six years. I think that exercising that part of your brain which is the thinking part, or the part that appreciates the Arts, is really critical if you are going to stay balanced. On the point on Government and policy, I chaired the independent review into the Sharing Economy in 2015, I have sat on various Government boards and I am now on Sadiq Khan’s Business Advisory Board. I think it’s really important that we have a voice and buy we I mean entrepreneurs, I mean women, I mean people who understand how to set things up from scratch and create value for themselves, shareholders, in creating jobs. I think it matters, I think you have to stand for something and be involved and I think there is a responsibility to think about more than just the day job, I don’t do my job brilliantly when that’s all I am doing. Sometimes inspiration can strike at any moment and I think putting yourself in other situations with other types of people is really critical, that’s part of what the club seeks to do on a daily basis and that’s the way that I like to live my life.

Elliot Moss
That confidence that underpins everything, it feels like you’ve got it, you are very comfortable in your own skin and I think people listening will pick that up, it’s not just that you are articulate, there’s actually kind of an inner, you know what this is me, I have been like this, I have never really changed, I was like this at fifteen, it’s just now I have got more to say because I am, you know a few years old, just a few.

Debbie Wosskow
Just a few.

Elliot Moss
Let’s not talk about that. For me either. Where’s that come from? Why are you so secure do you think in yourself and I am not talking about overconfidence or anything like that, just this sense of yeah? It’s kind of what it’s like.

Debbie Wosskow
It’s something that we think about and talk about a lot at AllBright and also with Anna my Co-founder who, you know, had the ultimate corner office and left all that behind to sort of run away and join the circus with me, and she talks about often having a fear of public speaking or imposter syndrome as she’s been promoted within her career. Part of it for me is I’ve been my own boss since I was a kid, I mean I was twenty five when I set up my first business, so you just have to learn how to have a game face and how to feel secure in who you are because that is the essence of being able to do your job, and I think that creates an inner confidence that’s just a business imperative if you are going to succeed. One thing that we, Anna and I turn to each other most days and say is ‘Rhino hide, darling’ because you have to have an incredibly thick skin as an entrepreneur and in particular in this business where it’s reasonably high profile, we are doing something you talked about you assume that, you know, most women are supportive and indeed they are, but not everybody is, not all men are, and it’s been very interesting to put our heads above the parapet and say things need to change. When I do lots of different talks and one of the communities that I am very focussed on is girls, on this topic of confidence and resilience and feeling like you can do anything and everything because I think a lot of that was my school actually that made me feel like that, it’s front and centre for me because I am going back there next week to do the speech at Speech Day so I have been reflecting…

Elliot Moss
Was this Leeds Grammar?

Debbie Wosskow
No, Leeds Girls High School.

Elliot Moss
Leeds Girls High School?

Debbie Wosskow
Yes.

Elliot Moss
I remember it well.

Debbie Wosskow
So, I’ve been reflecting on what happened there that, because the way that I am is the way that many of my school friends are and I think it is this sense that women can do anything but also to not spend too much time worrying about whether everybody likes you and I think that’s something that can often hold girls and women back, the desire and the need to be liked. We say ‘Rhino hide’ to each other because people really come after us in this business and it can be very personal and it’s all about whether your skin is thick enough to deal with it and that builds an enormous inner confidence and resilience and it makes you laugh, it’s quite important to be able to laugh at some of the stuff.

Elliot Moss
But do the rhinos turn the other cheek of their hide or do the rhinos fight back? What’s your strategy generally?

Debbie Wosskow
We tend to be more…

Elliot Moss
When people are out already for something, when they are abusive?

Debbie Wosskow
…we tend to be more honey than vinegar, that’s our style but I think that we are very clear on the data and when we talk about what AllBright is and why it’s important, the data always speaks for itself. You know, if we are at a case where female entrepreneurs are raising 2% of capital then whatever anyone thinks, that’s just not very cool. So, we tend to, when under attack of under pressure on topics like that, just revert to the data to explain why we think this is important and also I suppose our own personal track record as individuals but coming together in a partnership and the fact that if women didn’t want the club or the academy we wouldn’t be on number three within a year, you know we are responding to a market need and if you strip away the purpose for a moment, what we are developing is a great business that’s needed and wanted by women and we just need to keep on doing that.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Debbie, plus we will be playing a track from George Benson, that’s coming up in just a moment here on the Jazz Shapers Encore Special.

That was George Benson with I Only Have Eyes For You. I’ve got a few more minutes with Debbie Wosskow here and she’s been my Jazz Shapers Encore special guest. Thanks again for coming back. Thank you, we’ll see you in a few years’ time. Make sure you do great things for the next few years.

Debbie Wosskow
I’ll try. For this reason only.

Elliot Moss
You’ve got to do it, I knew it, I could tell. If we look at the data, and you mention data a few times and you ran off a number of stats which all paint a pretty negative picture about investment in women, the number of entrepreneurs, the percentage of people feeling capable and so on and so forth. Has the data changed? Have you started to move the needle? Have you got quantifiable ways of saying ‘We’ve made a difference’ or are we too early for that in your gestation, in this period of time?

Debbie Wosskow
It’s a good question and we are a year in…

Elliot Moss
So that’s not much time.

Debbie Wosskow
…and actually, some of the data is getting worse. So, if you look at the number of women in C-suite positions in the FTSE 350, it’s gone down from last year to this year, eight less. So, we need to do it more, we need to do it bigger, we need to do it better, we need to talk about it more, we need enlightened men like you Elliot, with us on the bus in order to push the agenda through in existing businesses, and to ensure that there is change. And we need to think in really big terms about what we do about this because the thing that has shifted most quickly is women on boards, the 30% Club and all of Helena Morrissey’s fantastic work and that’s now an accepted standard but that’s non-executive positions on boards. What we really need to do is to start early to talk to girls, to talk to aspiring inspiring women at early stages in their career and ensure that they feel that they’ve got the support that they need whether that’s the sisterhood support, whether that’s the skill support, whether that’s the support around confidence, resilience, capital because if it were an easy nut to crack, we would have cracked it by now. It’s not. There isn’t a magic bullet. It’s all of those different factors that will bring about change and we are going to keep at it until we do.

Elliot Moss
And if the data is getting worse, and it is showing that the situation is worse or in some situations maybe it’s not improving, how do you maintain your sense of positivity? I know you are a super positive person, I know you are kind of well I’m going to work out what the problem is, I am going to address it and it’s going to work. How long are you giving this? Is this a in perpetuity challenge for you or is there a kind of, look in five years if we’ve not moved the needle?

Debbie Wosskow
I think that there are two different points so there’s AllBright the business, and AllBright the business is doing super well, the clubs are busy, they are full of amazing women who run a series called ‘We Met at The AllBright’ which shows that things are happening, that’s kind of the point of the building, and in terms of our plans for world domination, I am flying to Los Angeles every other week to open our club out there which whilst being a little bit gruelling is really exciting. We are launching our magazine in March, we are doing a book next year. You know, all of that shows that we are making progress and that we have created something that hasn’t been created before that’s new, that’s having a real impact on women’s lives and the thing that powers you up, you know it’s the real life case studies of people who have met or the feedback or somebody doing the Academy in a part of the UK that wouldn’t normally come to the Club because it’s a free programme, it’s all of those things that I think give you confidence that the bigger picture will be greater. So, that’s the business of AllBright. In terms of the climate and the economic landscape, we are part of a bigger campaign. I think there are lots of people who need to continually have this conversation with big employers, with Government, you know it’s sort of bigger than just AllBright but what we know is what we see every day which is women’s lives are enhanced when they come together and it’s all in the mix, and so if we keep on doing that and stay true to that mission and now take it to the US and ensure that you can be part of the AllBright family in Los Angeles and next up New York and San Francisco and all of that, then that’s enough to keep us busy for now.

Elliot Moss
Good luck, it’s been brilliant having you back and super inspiring actually because I think you, many people in your position stop and, quite rightly so, take a break. As you said, you took a day. Maybe take some more time but you are on a mission…

Debbie Wosskow
Next time.

Elliot Moss
…and I can see you are going to reshape the way that we look at the world and I think that must be right, it’s way overdue. Debbie, thank you.

Debbie Wosskow
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
And lots of luck.

That was my special guest today, my Jazz Shaper Encore, it was Debbie Wosskow. She talked about the grit and the stomach that you need for the fight of setting up and then growing your business. She talked about sisterhood works she said and that has been her premise for building her AllBright empire. She is structured, she needs to be, she likes order in her life to actually drive and give her space for things that aren’t just work and talking about fighting those people who have been abusive to her as she becomes a very important female entrepreneur in this business in this country. She talks about applying honey more than vinegar, wise words indeed. That’s it from Jazz Shapers, have a fabulous weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform.

Debbie Wosskow OBE is recognised as one of the most prominent serial entrepreneurs in the UK, known for successfully launching and scaling businesses in the areas of digital disruption, the sharing economy and female empowerment. She graduated with an MA in Philosophy and Theology from New College, Oxford. Her entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 25 when Debbie launched her first company Mantra, a marketing consultancy, later sold to Loewy Group in 2009. She was the Founder and CEO of Love Home Swap, sold to Wyndham Destination Networks for $53m in July 2017. As co-founder and chairperson of AllBright, Debbie, along with her co-founder Anna Jones, former CEO of Hearst, aims to close the gender-based funding gap that currently prevents many women from launching and succeeding with their business ideas.

In January 2018, Debbie opened The AllBright, the first members club for working women in the UK. A second club will open in Mayfair in spring 2019, followed by the first international club in Los Angeles opening in summer 2019.

Debbie led the independent government review of the Sharing Economy and was the Founding Chair of Sharing Economy UK. She sits on the Mayor of London’s Business Advisory Board and was shortlisted for the City AM 2017 ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.  She was awarded the Evening Standard’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2018. Debbie was awarded an OBE for services to business in 2017.

Interview Highlights

I like to keep myself busy. If I have lots and lots of things to do I am madly efficient.

I think a lot of people don’t talk about how hard it is. What entrepreneurialism takes, more than anything, is grit.

Wyndham invested in Love Home Swap in 2015 and then two years later, in July 2017, I sold the business to them for $53 million. It sounds effortless. It wasn’t. It was hard work.

I think the difference between the businesses that succeed and those that don’t is whether the Founder has got the stomach for it. There are days and weeks that are hard, boring, depressing, that are every single negative emotion you could possibly imagine.

I think one of my strengths, or weaknesses depending on your perspective, is having a very short memory. The next day I have forgotten about how bad it was and I am up for it again.

I had agreed with my family that I would take some time off after LoveHomeSwap, but I probably took a day because it felt that this new big idea of AllBright was something that I couldn’t leave alone.

My own background is that the women in my life ran successful businesses. I had been surrounded by women who worked, who were entrepreneurs, and who were mothers and that was normal to me.

The second part of the business is the AllBright Academy – our completely free digital education platform.

Our strapline is ‘sisterhood works’ because we know it does, the data shows that the more that women help other women in their close support network on working topics the more successful they are.

Our mission is to help smart women gain the skills, confidence and network needed to achieve their career ambitions.

Anna and I turn to each other most days and say ‘Rhino hide, darling’ because you have to have an incredibly thick skin as an entrepreneur and in business.

Shapers: Matt Clifford & Alice Bentinck

Matt Clifford is the Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, the leading technology company builder in Europe and South East Asia. Entrepreneur First invests in top technical individuals to help them build world-class, deep technology start-ups from scratch in six locations across Europe and Asia. Holding degrees from Cambridge and MIT, Matt started his career [...]

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A hi-tech future fuelled by an entrepreneurial and technologically savvy generation underpins the vision of governments across the Middle East as they seek to reduce oil dependency and transform their economies. Challenges persist, not least of a regulatory and political nature, but momentum is gathering. This year is already set to break records for start-ups [...]

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