Founder of Blooming Founders and Publisher of Dear Female Founder.
Lu never planned to become an entrepreneur. She was 28 years old when she decided to leave her corporate career. Creative, resourceful and determined, she thought she could do it by herself like everything else in her life, but it turned out entrepreneurship doesn’t quite work like everything else. She realised she was not the only one experiencing this: 75% of female entrepreneurs are solo founders, lacking scale and connections.
That’s why Lu created Blooming Founders, a business incubation platform for female founders. Blooming Founders offers a comprehensive ecosystem of products and services that give female entrepreneurs a competitive edge in building their businesses. Lu is the UK ambassador of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a mentor at the Google Launchpad accelerator, and part of the Techstars community leadership team. She has also published the book Dear Female Founder.
What does diversity mean to you?
To me, diversity is bringing different perspectives together. It’s not just related to external characteristics such as age, gender or race, but it’s a lot about cognitive diversity as well.
Diversity is also a key characteristic of our global society. The world has become more of a melting pot. Travelling or relocating to another country has become the new normal. And even if you don’t travel, the internet provides you with infinite insight into other cultures with a simple Google search.
Diversity, therefore, is acceptance, respect and understanding of an individual’s qualities and being able to learn from people from all different walks of life.
And why do you care about diversity?
I care about diversity because I don’t think that the world we know has been created in a diverse way and there is a lot opportunity in fixing that.
Historically, belonging to certain demographics gave you advantages in your ability to shape the world. White people are the dominant race, men are more powerful than women, academics are considered more worthy than working class people.
There are many groups in society that are underserved and great economic potential to be unlocked. If we want to create a more progressive world, we must give innovators equal opportunities to turn their ideas into reality.
How can we build more inclusive communities?
I would say practice self-awareness and deploy empathy. Self-awareness is really important because the intention to build inclusive communities starts with you. It’s helpful to reflect upon your own background and understand why you uphold certain values or if you potentially have biases. From there, you can try to deploy empathy to other people who are different to you.
It comes a bit more natural to me because I’ve lived and worked across different continents and cultures, so I had to repeatedly immerse and integrate myself in different communities. Over time I have built a large capacity to see things from different angles and acknowledge that oftentimes there is no right or wrong answer. It’s just a style we’re used to.
Said this, in building an inclusive community, you still need to uphold certain values and boundaries. Otherwise the community will lack direction and commonality.
What inspired you to start your current journey?
I realised that the world of entrepreneurship has been built by white men for white men: the older ones deploy the money, the younger ones receive it. There is also a very bro-y culture with a lot of testosterone, ego and pizza and beer.
The ecosystem that I found wasn’t very diverse or inclusive and while I recognise that there is a place for it, I also felt that there was opportunity to create an alternative ecosystem.
In 2015, there was not much going on to support female founders and I thought that this is something that I could help change, since I was one of them and we share very similar struggles. I wanted to make a lasting contribution and found my purpose in doing so. It aligns very much with how I would like to see the world, which is more inclusive.
Who’s your role model?
I don’t have one role model, because I think that trying to find that one role model or mentor is too difficult and might even hold you back.
In the spirit of embracing diversity, I like to pick the best traits from a range of people I admire. And it could be little behavioural things from how they communicate in public to the way they treat their employees. Everybody has things that they do that can make you go: “Yeah, I’ll copy that next time.”
What is one thing you wish you knew five years ago?
I wished I knew that success is not that you think it looks like and that you have time in achieving it for yourself.
I was brought up thinking that life is a race and if you don’t keep up, you will fall behind. I used to think things like ‘I have to study but I can’t study for too long otherwise it’ll look bad on my CV’ and ‘I have to be promoted in two years’ time, otherwise I’m going to lose my career’.
Five years ago was the first year of my entrepreneurial journey and I was like ‘I have to built a profitable and sustainable business in maximum 3 years time, otherwise I won’t be successful.’
What I realised is that life is not a race and you really do have lots of time to create your life’s work. This is a marathon and I think most people overestimate what they can achieve in one year, but underestimate what they can achieve in ten.
What is your advice to a young person?
Focus on self-awareness. Try as many different things as you can to learn what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. Academia is great for mental exercise but it doesn’t necessarily teach you what you actually want to do, so go out and do internships and work experience placements.
Once you have these diverse experiences, you will be able to make an informed decision about which career you want to commit yourself to for five to ten years.
I personally think that you do need to commit five to ten years to any given career to accomplish something meaningful in that career, but what that career is, is for you to figure out. Don’t stress yourself out over it though, you have time.