Founders Letter: First 80 Days Building Lilly Wild
How is everybody?
I want to share with you my experience of what it was like building Lilly Wild in the first 80 days!
A Victorian story I love is the tale of how Phileas Fogg attempted to circumnavigate the world in under 80 days during the late Victorian period for a wager of £20,000 with members of London’s Reform Club.
Much like Fogg, in the first 80 days of building Lilly Wild I feel like I’ve attempted to circumnavigate the world of startups for a wager with family and friends that I can build a business!
But sadly I didn’t have a French servant called Jean Passepartout to help me, as I’m sure he would have added some comedy value!
However, I was on Escape The City’s Startup Tribe and therefore was fortunate to have 3 awesome mentors and 50 awe-inspiring tribe members to support me.
Although I wasn’t followed by a detective named Fix, nor thought of having robbed the Bank of England (trust me, if I had, I wouldn’t be living at home!)
I feel I was being watched by friends and family to see if this so called idea of mine was going to sink or swim!
Like Fogg, I’ve never blended in and have leaned towards solitude, having never found my tribe, until recently…
My tribe isn’t with a London’s gentlemen’s club, but amongst wonderful adventure and unicorn lovers under banners such as Say Yes More, Project Awesome, Explorers Connect and now Escape The City.
I’ve just come back from Yestival and feeling truly grateful to be surrounded by all of these wonderful people!
I’ve never been a reformist, such as Fogg…
I was always the one wearing a brightly coloured parrot or bright red ladybird costume at the non-fancy dress parties.
But somewhere between the age of 14 to 21 conventional wisdom finally drew me in with its long tentacles and I conformed...
I no longer fantasied about dog sledding across the Arctic with Balto or finding my own El Dorado.
My eyes turned to designer handbags, fashionable clothes and clubbing, but my desire to learn about the world was put on simmer as I studied towards a BSc Geography degree.
Clearly the universe thought I had gone too far from my path and I was brought down to Earth with such a thump that I had to rediscover my values and beliefs. Although moderately severe M.E. is really not fun, especially when coupled with irritable bowel and bladder syndrome and a two parasites to boot, but I am actually grateful for the three years.
These times challenged me and forced me to reassess what I believed in, what I valued and taught me a great deal about wellbeing.
I started to fantasise about adventure again, from exploring the Antarctic, cycling across the world, wild camping in Scotland, running marathons and completing a ironman. The tales of Scott of the Antarctic had me hooked.
My motivations to fully recover were deeply rooted in exploration and adventure…
I began to explore wellbeing, travelling off the beaten path and immersing myself in various diets from GAPS to Paleo. It was during this part of my journey that my friend said I should start a blog and Lilly Wild was born.
Version 1. > A lot of Sh*t in between the internet's forgotten! > Version 4. > Version 5.
Lilly Wild began as a humble blog to inspire people with ailments, especially CFS/ME, that it’s still possible to have fun and get outside. I cooked and baked bizarre things from gluten, sugar, dairy, nut free brownies to all kinds of stews. When I could, I went on mini adventures into London to visit Museums with polar exhibitions and talks at the Royal Geographical Society.
I also ventured into the world of my mindfulness through yoga and meditation. Finally I found out about the Lightning Process, which teaches you how to use neuroplasticity to break out of any destructive unconscious patterns that are keeping you stuck, and learn to use new, life and health enhancing ones instead. I’ve never looked back since my 2 day course in the spring of 2013.
After vowing never to follow the conventional path again, a year later I found myself sitting on a South West train commuting into London for university. Each day I could feel every cell and fibre in my body protest, but I couldn’t see any other opportunities.
I walked out of my last exam for first year in 2015 with mixed feelings of relief, excitement for my British Exploring expedition to Ladakh India and dread for having to do this all again in September, although luckily I would be studying abroad in Vancouver.
My expedition proved to be challenging, but I love immersing myself in wild and remote places, learning about the environment, local culture and people and stretching my physical and mental limits. I knew I wanted to weave adventure into my everyday life and university wasn’t cutting it.
I had hoped living in Vancouver would make the difference. Having heard the wonderful stories of how the outdoors runs in the veins of the local culture and people, from mountaineering to skiing and kayaking; with a health conscious and yoga vibe too, I thought I may have found home and be able to fill my void of adventure.
However, in September I also started working with a life coach. Together, we moved through numerous exercises and he opened my eyes to the possibilities and opportunities that are waiting to be had in our extraordinary world.
The more I became aware of these options and the more I came to understand that they were within my grasp, the more restless, unhappy and frustrated I became at university. I felt I was drowning in work that amassed to little worth to me and I wasn’t able to balance this out with time outside in the mountains.
I was frightened, like a deer caught in headlights.
Would this my life for the next 2 years? And what next? Would I feel forced down the path of a conventional job to pay of debts?
I was starting to burn out again, my body was worn down from London commuting and India and now I was trying to fit in adventure into my tight schedule. The effects were showing, my thyroid was slowing down again and I could feel darkness creeping in.
I knew that if I was going to leap into the unknown and take the driving wheel of my life, the time was now, I had to jump. My coach gave me courage and in November 2015 I quit university for the good.
Thankfully an email from Escape The City landed in my inbox the next day. The universe has a funny thing of pointing you in the right direction at the perfect moment.
Fast forward to May 2016…
My wager to circumnavigate the world of startups in 80 days began. I used the Escape The City Startup Tribe as my vehicle of travel, instead of a hot air balloon. It’s a 3 month intensive learning-by-doing community experience that teaches you how to build a startup, sort of like a entrepreneurial apprenticeship.
Similar to Fogg on his journey, I was met by various obstacles….
Instead of the railway tracks ending at Kholby and having to reach Allahabad by elephant…
I had to solve the problem of how to make Lilly Wild a viable lifestyle business that positively impacted the world. Hiring an elephant would have been infinitely easier, as I still don’t have that answer cracked!
I graduated at the end of July…
And instead of circumnavigation the world in 80 days, falling in love and marrying a prince, and winning a £20,000 (in 2016 roughly £1.6 million) — which would have been nice — I have a business.
In the employment status box I can now happily check entrepreneur or business owner!
My humble wordpress blog about coping with chronic fatigue syndrome has now transformed into a women’s outdoor brand called Lilly Wild, which is on a mission to become the guide for clothing, gear and urban escapes for the courageous explorer with a special focus on women.
I’ve learnt that failure comes in many shapes and forms and can creep up on you. Since being let loose from Escape, I haven’t journeyed very far.
I found I was saying Yes to too many freelance opportunities and subconsciously saying no to Lilly Wild and my health and wellbeing (you would have thought I’d have learnt by now?!).
So Mid-September I ended up burn out and tucked up in bed for 2.5 weeks with the flu.
Now that did suck. I had to cancel my summer mountain leader training.
However, It gave me a fresh perspective and I realised something had to change. I chose an option from 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'; I phoned a friend.
I rang up Emma Walker, Startup consultant extraordinaire and enlisted her help. As I I suddenly became very aware that I really can’t build Lilly Wild all on my own.
I have started to put my health first too. Training and nutrition comes first, Lilly Wild, 90% of the time, second. I have also reached out to my Lightning Process practitioner for help too, as my morning and night time routine needs sorting out.
So soon I will be well on my way to being unstoppable!
So September and October have had their ups and downs, but now I am feeling more confident and stronger than ever before. With my support network that I'm creating around me, I am really excited about the next few months and how Lilly Wild will grow! We have lots of amazing ideas for the future and it's finally coming together!
But none of this could be done without all of your incredible support, so thank you.