For our latest Startup Spotlight Series interview, we spoke to Emily Dunkley and Jasmine Lea, co-founders of GLOW Brand Global. After experiencing difficult, life-changing situations in 2019, they decided to take the lessons they’ve reaped from these experiences to help others. This resulted in the birth of GLOW Brand Global.
GLOW Brand Global’s mission is to inspire and empower people to individually and collectively make the world happier and healthier initially through the practice of gratitude, which has been scientifically proven to strengthen one’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. They’re in the process of creating an app which will allow people to build the habit, cultivate the practice and unleash the power of gratitude.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
When my (Emily’s) daughter was born 5-years ago, she was diagnosed with Post-Natal Anxiety. At the same time, I (Jasmine) was going through a marriage breakup and dealing with anxiety and mild depression.
We separately explored mindfulness practices, such as meditation and breathwork, daily affirmations and journaling, to name a few. All of which helped us navigate this difficult period in our lives. Still, the daily practice of gratitude was the most impactful.
Whilst we were both experiencing the many mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits that practising gratitude was bringing to our lives, we were also growing frustrated with the lack of information available about gratitude, and the tools we were using were minimal and uninspiring.
We thought, ‘What if there was a way we could record ALL the aspects of a gratitude practice, rather than just merely listing things each day, and what if there was something that would allow you to add photos and videos and tag your closest friends and family?
And what if more people knew about Gratitude as a practice and its many benefits? Even better, what if there was an app that brought together all the mindfulness and personal growth practices – from goal setting to journaling – into one, trusted place…’ It was here that the idea for GLOW Brand Global was born!
Gratitude is still a daily practice in our lives, and we continue to enjoy its many benefits, as does our growing ‘GLOW Getter’ community.
In 2021, we boldly left our Corporate HR careers in Financial Services to commit fully to building our business.
Our life experiences have positioned us well for this venture as the Customers and Creators of this product. We understand the problem fully and are working with experts to create the solution.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
Early on in our GLOW Brand Global journey, we decided that Steven Bartlett would be the perfect investor for us, so we set about trying to work out ways we could get his attention.
One day whilst out for lunch, we got an email informing us that the tickets for Steven’s show, ‘The Diary of a CEO’, were about to go on sale. Right there and then, we decided that instead of buying Christmas presents for one another, we would treat ourselves to VIP tickets to his show which meant we would get a face-to-face meeting with him.
After purchasing tickets, we started planning how we would ‘wow’ Steven. We researched him extensively, managing to find out his favourite snacks, football team, city and anything else we could gather.
We then pulled together a massive box of very personal and thoughtful gifts that we knew would get his attention, including a hoody for his dog Pablo. But the main thing we included was a digital brochure which was a video of us explaining who we were, what we were doing and why we were doing it and the fact we would love to have him as our investor.
The event finally came around, and after months of prep and lugging a huge box of gifts up to London, we got our chance to meet Steven. We were so giddy with the excitement that we barely remembered the actual meeting.
Still, we remember that he was blown away by and very grateful for our gifts (barely anyone else had gone to so much effort) and afterwards, we received a thank you video and message from the man himself.
We are still in touch with his team, and once our app is complete, we have his contact details to get back in touch with him – so watch this space.
The moral of the story was that meeting Steven a couple of years ago didn’t feel possible, but with determination and persistence, we found a way. It is always worth putting in the effort to make a brilliant first and long-lasting impression.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
As new co-founders and entrepreneurs, we have faced many challenges and made a few mistakes along the way. We have no technical experience and have never set up a business before, let alone in the tech space.
One of our earliest mistakes was when we got a very early prototype of an app developed. We were extremely disappointed with the result, and the app we had made was as uninspiring as some of the tools we were currently using to practice gratitude. We’d spent time and money on the prototype, which was completely wasted.
We were stuck with where to go next, but luckily, we came across a post on LinkedIn one day which was all about app development. It suddenly dawned on us that we had completely missed the design phase!
Our naivety led us to believe that we could just hand over a mobile app developer pages and pages of biro drawings and that an all-singing, all-dancing, beautifully designed mobile app would be produced. That was not the case at all!
Despite this setback, we believe that our naivety is actually our superpower. Had we known what creating a business in the tech space would take before we started, we probably would never have done it! It also means we’re not afraid to ask the ‘stupid’ questions and never take no for an answer.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
In 2021 only 2% of VC funding was raised by females, and what’s more, between 2009 and 2019, a report by Extend Ventures found that ethnic teams received an average of just 1.7% of VC funding. If only 1% of startups make it, that significantly decreases the chances of women and those of an ethnic background making it!
We have both had experience working on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion projects during our corporate careers. We have learnt and experienced that diverse teams allow for more creativity and innovation; they push the boundaries and do things differently. Without diversity, things rarely change, or if they do, they only vary within a limited scope.
We also love the idea of cognitive diversity. How it isn’t just race, religion, sex etc., that is so important to a team’s success, but how people solve, think and approach different problems can also profoundly impact team performance. Without diverse teams, we might never experience what is truly possible.
Whilst we are only a small team of two, we have made sure that our extended team of advisors and consultants is diverse, including people who think completely differently from us!
If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
We are of the view that we are already creating a movement. We are inspiring and empowering people to live happier and healthier lives through the power of gratitude. One day our app will be a one-stop shop for all things personal growth, which really will help people to become the best versions of themselves.
We are using our social media platforms, podcasts and blogs to educate our community on the profound impact gratitude (and other personal growth practices) can have on our lives.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
Oprah Winfrey (of course!)
We’d love to ask her:
- How has the practice of gratitude changed your life?
- What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
- What advice would you give two young women who want to make the world happier and healthier?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
‘The Sky’s the limit? How very claustrophobic.’
We genuinely believe that we can (as can everyone else) achieve absolutely anything we put our minds to. We believe that with unwavering certainty, anything is possible, providing we work hard and stay dedicated and committed to our purpose, passions and causes in life. Of course, we practice gratitude every single day!
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?
We formed such a tight professional and personal bond when we started working with one another in the corporate world. Neither of us worked where ideas and creativity flowed freely, and we realised quickly that we never wanted it to end.
We thought of various business ideas we could take outside the corporate world, but nothing stuck. It was over a cuppa at our desks one morning when we discussed our mental health struggles and the tools we’d discovered and used to help us through that period in our lives that the idea was born.
We remember the rest of our team listening in and looking at us as if we’d gone mad! But this idea was different, it gave us goosebumps, and we knew there and then that it was the one we’d been looking for.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
Faces behind the brand
We are building an authentic connection with our community through multiple channels (Social Media, Blog, Podcast etc). Our individual personalities and combined chemistry are non-replicable by current or future potential competitors.
Unrivalled user experience
Our app goes beyond merely listing things to be grateful for – it deepens the practice of Gratitude by offering multiple features and an Ideas Hub of resources. It has been beautifully and thoughtfully designed, is organised, can be personalised, and the use of imagery throughout – from the changeable background to the user’s own added content – offers a ‘3D experience’ users feel intrinsically connected to.
We will use a variety of celebrities in our marketing and app content – neurological research has evidenced that when celebrities are paired with products, positive emotions linked to the celebrity are transferred to the product as well. No other gratitude apps are leveraging this opportunity currently.
Easy – anytime/anywhere
GLOW Brand Global makes practising Gratitude easy to do. The app elements maximise ease of use so that Gratitude can be practised anytime, anywhere, in even the most complex/chaotic real-world situations.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
Developing apps is expensive, and you need a lot of investment to do it.
So far, we have managed to get the app designed and developed for under £7,000 without having a technical co-founder. We own all the IPs, and the app should be in the app store within the next couple of months. Anything is possible, but you must be prepared to look for alternative ways of doing things.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
In our experience, startups often take longer before they start generating profits. Small businesses usually have a product already in existence that they can start generating business from quickly! Startups are often new ideas that require investment.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
You will get told ‘no’ a lot, but the ones who keep coming back again and again after they get knocked down are the ones who will make it.
You have to absolutely believe in what you are doing, it’s a long journey, so if you don’t believe in and love your product/service or whatever it may be, you will tire quickly.
The ability to dream big and visualise
Dream big and hold that vision – if you can see what’s possible, you will enjoy the journey to get there so much more!
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
Not learning from mistakes.
Mistakes can be a great learning experience because they can often take you down a different road or make you think more critically about your business. However, continuing to make the same mistake might mean your business will fail.
We believe it is essential to build in regular ‘reflection time’, which allows us to assess properly; what went wrong and why and what needs to be done differently next time so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.
Not knowing when ‘good enough’ is ok rather than having to have ‘it’ perfect.
We all have a perfectionist in us somewhere! While the details are important, knowing when good enough will do is also essential.
This is a skill that has taken us a while to master. In some cases, we ask ourselves, ‘if it isn’t perfect, what is the impact on our business? If the answer is ‘it’s the low impact, we go for ‘good enough.
We also know that our first MVP isn’t going to be ‘perfect’, but we are confident that it is already so much better than anything else on the market, and for the moment, that’s ‘good enough. If we always strive for perfection, our business wouldn’t be where it is today. One of our favourite sayings is, ‘strive for excellence, not perfection.
Knowing when to listen to feedback and criticism.
Taking feedback or criticism from people who haven’t put the love, sweat and tears into our business is never easy. We believe you don’t always have to agree with the feedback, but it is still important to take it on board, reflect on it, and then decide whether you want to use it.
If we don’t listen and hear the feedback we are given and are quick to dismiss it, we might miss something that really could make a difference.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
Be able to flex and pivot regularly.
It is often difficult to flex and pivot in business because it is usually an emotionally related issue. However, quickly changing direction to find a better solution may be the difference between your business surviving or failing.
We have often had to flex and pivot and, in some cases, begrudgingly!
Our app has the potential to be so much more than just a gratitude app, and we have ambitions to produce an app that is a ‘one-stop shop for all things personal growth.
When we first started on our journey, we were very set on the app being a ‘one-stop shop’ from the outset, and whilst we had the budget to do it, we realised quickly that it just wasn’t going to be possible.
After a lengthy discussion, we decided to scale it back and focus on one area of the app and do it well rather than try to produce the whole thing, which would be of sub-standard quality and take much longer.
It was a tough decision to make, and whilst it feels like we now have a long road ahead, we know we did the right thing.
Know when to outsource/call in favours
(Co-)founders often find themselves taking on many roles, from admin to marketing, to writing pitch decks, but sometimes we can’t do it all.
We both love creative writing and thought it would be a great idea to have a blog as part of our mission to educate others on the benefits of gratitude. However, we knew before we started writing the blogs that it would take us a significant amount of time to produce one – we are just too fussy and critical!
We decided to outsource our blog writing. We calculated that for one of us to write just one blog post would take us at least 5-7 hours (they wanted ten blog posts, so all in all, 50-70 hours), which we knew we just didn’t have time for. We were fortunate enough to find a fantastic blog writer within our budget to produce the blogs. Our blog writer produces 10 blogs in under half the time, meaning we were able to focus on other business priorities.
We often call in favours from various people within our networks. Most of the time, these people are happy to help us for free or at a discounted price, which is vital in the early days. By leveraging our network, we could get our website designed and developed for a fraction of the cost.
Our motto is always to return the favour when they might need something in return, and we never forget to show our gratitude to those who have helped us!
Leveraging networks is key when starting up a business. You never know who might be lurking!
Celebrate your successes no matter how big or small
Celebrating successes along the way is a great way to stay motivated. If we don’t celebrate our achievements, we often lose sight of how far we’ve come.
We have monthly GLOW Getter lunches (which always include a glass of bubbles) where we reflect on and celebrate all the previous month’s wins. These lunches make us take pride in our achievements and motivate us for the month ahead.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
GLOW is Raising!
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