Grace Beverley: a prominent figure in modern entrepreneurship

Grace Beverley is the founder of three businesses: fashion brand TALA, fitness brand Shreddy, and planner & organisation brand The Productivity Method.

At the age of 23, she was distinguished as the foremost figure on Forbes' 30 under 30 list for retail and e-commerce. Her compelling journey has not only placed her 26th among the most influential online creators by The Sunday Times but also earned her a spot in Glamour, alongside notable figures such as Emma Watson and Rihanna, as one of the '10 amazing multi-hyphenates to be inspired by.'

Grace's first book 'Working Hard, Hardly Working' was an instant Sunday Times No. 1 Bestseller, and she also hosts a podcast of the same name. The podcast has a reach of over four million people and hasn’t left Spotify’s Top 5 in the Business Charts.

Now living with her fiancé and two dogs, Ziggy and Zeus, in London, Grace speaks with Startups Magazine, reflecting on her past achievements, the lessons she’s learnt along the way, and offering some sought-after advice on how to close the gender funding gap.

Could you share with us what initially inspired you to embark on your entrepreneurial journey? Was there a specific moment or experience that ignited this passion?

I started my first-ever business, which eventually became SHREDDY, out of pure panic! It was my first term studying music at Oxford University and I got a letter from the bursar explaining that my student loan hadn’t been approved and I’d be kicked out of university if I didn’t pay up. I was terrified, so I made the snap decision to pull an all-nighter and create some PDF workout guides that I could sell online as I’d been sharing fitness content online for a few years. At the beginning, it was just about keeping me at university, but looking back now, it was the moment I knew entrepreneurship was for me!

As a founder, you must have faced significant challenges. Can you tell us about some of the biggest hurdles you encountered and how you overcame them?

I decided to launch TALA during my university finals (someone tell me why I thought that was a good idea?!). I worked so hard on the launch, and then when it went live the website glitched and ended up selling stock we didn’t have. It was devastating, and I remember thinking customers would never forgive me, but the truth is, running a startup (and now a scaleup) is all about learning from your mistakes, and every launch gets better and better. Four years later, our outerwear launch was super smooth, militarily organised, and took over £1 million in an hour.

It’s so rewarding to look back and see how far we’ve come from my university bedroom!

If you could go back to when you were just starting out, what's one key lesson or piece of advice you would give yourself?

Set your OKRs early on! I always thought OKRs (objective + key result) sounded too much like corporate jargon, but truthfully, I didn’t understand them. Setting objectives and results for every area of each business has meant I’ve been able to stay on top of our numbers from day one, and that the team always knows what we’re working towards.

It seems like boring, practical advice but I really could sing the praises of OKRs for days (I’ll spare you that!).

Social media has been a significant platform for your brand's growth. What strategies have you employed to leverage social media effectively, and what challenges have you faced in this realm?

The social media strategies across the three businesses really vary, but at the core of them is offering users valuable and useful content. For SHREDDY this might be an instructive video on how to get the best deadlift form, for TALA it might be a video explaining the technology behind our built-in contouring.

The days of filling your Instagram with product shots are long gone, and if your content isn’t providing value for the user, then what’s their incentive to follow you?

In terms of challenges, you never know what a platform is going to hurl at you next. Will they remove linking? Create a new feature? Shift the algorithm to prioritise carousels? One day your content can be the algorithm’s best friend, and the next everything changes. So, it’s about staying on your toes and being ready to forget everything you thought you knew and continue innovating.

What has your favourite part of the journey been so far?

It seems a cliche answer but it’s actually now. We’re making such big moves at TALA to elevate the brand as it scales up at a crazy rate, and this means we’ve welcomed so many great hires who it’s a joy to work with every day. The first few years were a really tough slog, and I feel like now we’re really in our groove. That doesn’t mean there aren’t growing pains, every day there’s a new problem, but the feeling I get when I walk into our office and see a team of over 40 people is like none other.

Being named first in Forbes 30 Under 30’s retail and e-commerce list at just 23 is a remarkable achievement. Could you share with us what this recognition meant to you personally and professionally?

It was a totally surreal moment, especially as it came at a time when I was restructuring TALA completely and re-acquiring the business from its original licensing partner. At that point I was so burnt out, it was the hardest time of my entrepreneurial career, and I think it really does show that you never really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Entrepreneurship can look glamorous at awards ceremonies, but most of the time it’s a slog, and you can go from mega-highs to rock bottom in the space of a week! That’s just the way it goes.

When you raised your first funding round at TALA, you became one of the top women who has ever raised funding in the UK. What do you attribute this success to?

Obviously raising that funding was an amazing moment, but it was equally quite saddening. We raised £4.2 million but the equivalent amount a man would have to raise to reach the same position in the ranks is over £20 million. It really drove home to me the inequality of the funding landscape and ever since then, changing those statistics for the better has been a huge passion of mine.

In light of the statistic that female founders receive less than 2% of funding, what do you think are the broader impacts of the funding gap on female-led startups and the overall economy?

When I found out this statistic, I was so shocked. In what other industry would there be a 98% gender imbalance and only a muted level of outrage? I think it’s because many think this is an entrepreneur-specific issue. But the data is there. Less female investors mean less investment in female-led companies, which means less women hired and therefore less money into the hands of women. Studies have shown that £250 billion of value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men, so it’s not only socially irresponsible to exclude female founders from the funding market, but financially irresponsible too.

What strategies would you recommend to female entrepreneurs who might be facing difficulties in securing funding?

To be honest, I struggle to answer questions like this as I really think the problem lies with investors rather than the founders themselves, and the onus definitely shouldn’t be on women to fix. When I speak to investors about the funding gap, they often put it down to female entrepreneurs having ‘less confidence’ or ‘smaller projections’, but it’s so easy to lay the blame on women rather than dissecting how the VC process systematically favours male founders.

Founders can shout as loud as they can, but investors are the power brokers in the investing relationship, and so they need to work to dismantle the ‘old boys club’ dynamic of the investing world. This could be through creating mentorship and networking opportunities so that female founders see investment as a viable option and actively seek out female-founded investments. They also need to address the systemic bias in their processes which favours male-founders.

Looking ahead, what are your future plans and visions for your companies?

All of the companies have very different roadmaps over the next few years, but they are all things I never could have imagined when I started the companies a few years ago. Most of our big plans are understandably under wraps but one thing I can say is that we’re working on TALA’s international expansion, particularly in the US.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe