Nancy Cruickshank launched Vogue.com for publishing powerhouse Condé Nast in the 90s, and rode the tech wave in CEO and directorial roles for the likes of VideoJug, Weve and The Telegraph Media Group.
She sold Handbag.com, the company she founded (along with its 1.3 million-strong monthly audience) for a healthy £22m in 2006, and now runs MyShowcase.com, a health and beauty business that's helped hundreds of women launch their own ventures.
What’s the most important thing about MyShowcase?
This is the business I’m really serious about scaling. It can really make an impact on tens of thousands of people around the world. We're trying to create a significant retail channel for independent brands. It’s simple, but disruptive and could help some people rebuild their self-confidence. Confidence and choice are the biggest challenges women face. So many women opt out of the workforce and feel they can’t get back in – but they’re so intelligent, and that’s a huge loss.
Is 'are you in or out?' an impossible question, then?
I have friends who are GPs – and I’m jealous of their flexibility. Tech has helped everyone consider being an entrepreneur, and you can start for nothing these days. But it’s still bloody hard. You need relentless determination, a varied skillset – ready capital, talent, commercial nous, governance experience. For women, creating a community to tap into that is so important. It’s more challenging for women to raise money in this area because they’re running lifestyle businesses talking to male-dominated finance houses. Women have to juggle more; how to blend it all is an ongoing challenge.
With that in mind, how do you balance your workload?
If you want something done, ask a busy woman! You become adept at prioritising. But remember that you’re unlikely to get everything done; the less watercooler conversation, the better. If you're running a business, all your activity must relate to making the critical things happen. If something doesn’t, then deprioritise it.
What about your personal work/life balance?
On a normal day, I get up at 6-6.15am. Somehow I’ve managed to concoct a routine where my husband makes me a cup of tea! I go to the study and check my inbox first thing – but only to respond to a few critical emails. I always try to have breakfast with the kids at about 7.30am. I drop them off at 8am, and I’m in the office by 8.25am. There’s no evening school run for me. I have someone who helps at home, and that’s critical. I’m not Superwoman; I couldn’t make it work without help. I get home at 7-7.30pm, eat with the kids and then do some work later on, usually between 9pm and 11pm. I have a terrible habit of watching TV series on my iPad. I need that visual stimulation to rip me out of the day. I can survive on four hours’ sleep a night, but not for more than a couple of weeks. On day 15, I need 10-12 hours!
What advice do you have for women starting a new enterprise?
Keep your eyes wide open. Park your ego. And get used to doing a lot of different things – lots of menial stuff, lots of sophisticated stuff, lots on a shoestring. You have to be in it for the long term. And it always takes longer than you think. You need passion; you need to feel like you’re on a mission so it feels like more than just a job. You need a great support network, too. It can be lonely starting out, so you need to be able to experience the lows as well as the highs with someone. The highs are the fuel that powers you. I’ve got a great team, and a great board – everyone has incredible enthusiasm, and loves the challenge.