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Focus on a Founder with Jacqui & Fran - Celebrating 10 Years of Community

last modified Jul 29, 2020 09:35 AM
We are continuing to celebrate a decade of community with our ‘Focus on a Founder’ series. This week we spoke to Jacqui Gilbert and Frances Brandon of Beaudurof who joined ideaSpace in 2014.

Fran & Jacqui Focus on a Founder

Jacqui Gilbert & Frances Brandon - Beaudurof

How it all started…
The idea for a convertible handbag was sparked when Jacqui, an international management consultant, travelled to a job interview with a Fortune-50 Executive. To succeed that day, she needed to be prepared. She had to carry her laptop, files, jacket and water from Cambridge to London and back again. Her satchel didn't fit everything she needed. She could not carry her handbag because it caused her back pain, so she was forced to walk into the interview room carrying her backpack. The backpack was a mistake. She was told that wearing one in the workplace undermined her image as a credible professional. She got the job but from that moment it did not matter: BEAUDUROF had been founded to give women the edge in making a first impression.

Jacqui, fresh out of her MBA at Cambridge, teamed up with co-founder Fran, her university water polo club captain. They established a great working relationship: Fran would make the prototypes, Jacqui would break them and they would began again.  They went on to learn that these processes were “user led design”, “rapid prototyping” and “failing fast.” In using them, the pair developed a keen sense of the customer and customer need. When they launched their first product, in September 2018, it was immediately spotted on the street by a VOGUE journalist who included them in VOGUE’s shopping edit of “the best working bags to see you through the week”. From there it has been onwards and upwards for the pair, displaying as new designers at London Fashion Week and selling into Europe and the States.  

The journey so far has been a learning in hard work, optimism, resourcefulness, integrity and grit. As an ex-consultant, Jacqui now knows that not everything starts with a PowerPoint presentation, while Fran has learnt that you don’t have to wait for permission to jump in and give something a try. 


What’s next?
We are moving from strength to strength! We just had our patent granted in the UK and are featuring in both VOGUE and Tatler over the summer. We are about to release a new line of product off the back of this success and we are excited for what the future holds. 


What advice do you have for other founders?
Learn as much as you can from the people around you. Design is a collaborative and an iterative process, whatever it is that you are building. Embrace those aspects of it. However, remember all the advice you receive will be the product of someone’s specific experience. Only you know what is right for your project – so the skill lies in finding ways to grow the wisdom you receive so that it applies more widely and fits your priorities. Oh – and say yes to everything. You never know where it might lead! 


How has being part of the ideaSpace community been helpful to you?
It’s tough out there for female founders. Stew took a chance on us and ideaSpace gave us a home. ideaSpace is a collection of brilliant minds brought together in a unique environment that encourages conversation and collaboration. From product design and development, to website development, to advice on patenting and manufacturing – almost every milestone we have achieved can be traced back to help and advice we got from an ideaSpace member. Working as a fashion business surrounded by techies, we managed to develop something that the market had never seen before by embracing the community around us. 

To find out more about Beaudurof visit their website here

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