Rachel Lowe: The phoenix that turned failure into success
27 June 2016 -
The serial entrepreneur and former Dragon’ Den contestant who lost everything when her first business went into administration talks to CMI about how she rose from the ashes as part of the Bouncing Back series of events
Rachel Lowe MBE was at university when she founded her first company, the board game Destination.
After an appearance on Dragon’s Den failed to launch her business, Lowe went it alone and found initial success with the game, including in world famous toy store Hamley’s.
A delayed Harry Potter film, however, meant Lowe’s special edition of the game missed the Christmas rush, and after the banks pulled the plug on her funding as the recession took hold, she soon found herself in administration.
Having personally guaranteed all of the financing herself, this meant Lowe lost everything: her business, her house and even her health.
“When everything went wrong, it went wrong in a very public way,” she says. “For me, that is what tipped me over the edge and what at the time was very exciting, quickly turned into something very ugly and the effects were devastating: in quite a short space of time I lost absolutely everything.
“I had taken everything very personally, so it wasn’t just a case of losing the business, it was very much a case of losing my mental state of mind and my health really declined.”
Sources of support
Lowe drew on the support of those around her to get through that period. “It was only the strength of my family and my friends that really pulled me through that time.”
With that support, she was able to regroup and managed to take the business out of administration, relaunching the board game and turning it into a best-seller. It’s something she now says has given her a source of inner strength.
“For everything that I’ve been through, I can still go and see my product on the shelf, and for me that buzz will never be taken away,” she says. “With everything I’ve been through, being able to walk into a store and see something I created and know it is still selling now really does keep me going.”
Looking back on her experiences, Lowe now says she has learnt a lot from her first foray into business.
“With having more than one company and the rollercoaster that I’ve been through, I’ve definitely applied some of the lessons I learned from my first company to what I’m doing now,” she says. “The biggest thing I learned from my first company was never personally guarantee anything ever again, because when something didn’t go right they called in the personal guarantee and that’s when I lost everything – that was a really tough lesson for me.
“Going forward, anything I do now my company is purely investment funded – there is no bank borrowing, no personally guaranteed finance – it is purely limited liability and I have completely detached myself personally from the company.”
Ask yourself these two questions
And what advice does Lowe have for others new to the business world?
“When I’m talking to people who are starting out on their journey, I try and make them really appreciate their survival income,” she says. “You have to have an income and you have to be able to pay your bills, rent and mortgage and make sure that that is completely accounted for.
“If you can’t generate that funding when you very first start out, you have to be working part time alongside what you are doing.”
She continues: “The two questions I always ask myself when I’m making a decision are: is the decision I’m making right now in the best interests of the company? And is the decision making money? If those two things are positive then it’s going to be good for you.”
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