Lu Li is the founder of the Blooming Founders. Blooming Founders is a business social network for early stage female entrepreneurs. Lu Li saw a gap in the market and created a dedicated network to help create new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in China and got my education in Germany. I was busy ticking the boxes my family and society expected me to tick, but at age 28, I opted out of my corporate career and set up my first business, a personal styling and image consultancy, in Zurich, Switzerland. Sadly, the business model didn’t work out, so I moved to London in 2014 and started my second business, a consulting firm in the retail/hospitality industry.
I got to work with very prestigious clients such as Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, however, I wasn’t able to scale the business and was overworking myself way too much and decided to close this business, too.
For 18 months, I have been working on my third venture, Blooming Founders, because I realised how hard the entrepreneurship world is for female founders and that there are many things you don’t know, despite having a business degree and having gained professional experience. There are not enough solutions that help women on their startup journey, so I decided to focus on this area and become a champion for female entrepreneurship, because I deeply believe that entrepreneurship is the perfect place for women to actualise their potential - if they have the right support.
In a very short time, I have been recognised for my work. Today, I also serve as the UK ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a juror for the MassChallenge accelerator and a mentor at Google Launchpad.
How did you grow your business?
I started to validate the market by running events to bring female founders together. Over time, I understood more of what they are looking for and diversified the event formats. I then started to build a support network (the kind of “let’s get shit done and help each other with feedback” network I wished would have existed when I started). This led to some network effects which increased my user base.
The startup support environment is very competitive. There are a lot of people in the space and people expect everything for free. Profit margins are a constant battle, but I have noticed that a kick-ass brand and delivering consistent quality have been huge enablers to build trust and long-term relationships with my customers.
How did you come up with your book idea?
One lesson I have learnt from my previous businesses is that I needed scalability in my business. At my events, I have been talking to my community members a lot and I realised how few female role models they had in the startup space. I’m a big believer in the mantra of “You can’t be what you can’t see”, so it occurred to me that I could put together a book that shines the light on female founders who have done amazing things and also shares honest, practical content - the type of content you normally don’t have access to.
From my own journey, I knew that there are many things you just don’t know, when you don’t know. So I thought it would be very intriguing to ask successful female entrepreneurs to write a letter to their younger selves, sharing the things they wished someone would have told them in the beginning.
The idea was really well perceived and I was able to publish Dear Female Founder in only 9 months with 66 contributors from 20 countries. Altogether the book contributors made $1 billion in revenue and created 2000 jobs, which I think is an incredible testament for the economic power of female entrepreneurship.
While curating contributors for the book, I tried to showcase the breadth of entrepreneurship. I wanted the readers to see, that you can be a founder no matter what educational background you have, where you live and how old you are.
The feedback since launch has been tremendous. I have women writing to me saying that the book has become their bible and constant companion!
What do you want to do next?
I’m very excited to build the next solutions for Blooming Founders, which include a larger-scale conference for female founders and also a private members club for women (think a stylish space where you can meet other kick-ass women, do your Skype call and get your nails done - all at the same time).
It’s still early days, so all I can say for now is: Watch this space!
Founder of Blooming Founders
Creator of Dear Female Founder