Founder Carley Read moved to San Francisco a few years ago. In a new city with a new job and a new apartment, she had furniture that simply wouldn’t work in her new space.
Her head told her to sell it and make money. Her heart told her to donate it to someone in need, but much of it went into storage. Then she set off travelling, so her belongings went into storage – again. She knew there was a better way to make transitioning from home to home easier and more sustainable for everyone. She started to grow a community that helped one another through life’s big moments, and so the idea for Y’earn Baby & Kids was born. The outbreak of COVID-19 forced her to move home to London, with a potentially stalled start-up on her hands. However, she decided to fast-track the next chapter and turned to Virgin StartUp. Y’earn recently launched in London, with plans to expand across the UK and other types of rentals.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was born and raised in London, but got the taste for travel after backpacking in 2007 and then becoming Cabin Crew for 2yrs. I then spent a couple of years contracting in roles that spanned a variety of Tech and Marketing projects, which evolved into a career at News UK, which eventually took me to New York to work at The Wall Street Journal. From there I moved to San Francisco and in early 2019 I was potentially moving back to England when I had the initial idea for Y’earn. It’s been a longer than expected journey to build a tech platform, partly because I am a solo founder and bootstrapped most of the business, partly because of Covid.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No. I never knew what I wanted to do, it’s part of the reason that I didn’t go to Uni and contracted at different companies. For a long time it bothered me. Now I like to think that the years working in most departments in a huge array of projects, was giving me the foundation to be a founder and grow a business.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
They say it’s who you know… and I did not, and possibly still do not really, have a network in the entrepreneurial world. So every aspect of finding the tools, systems, partners and providers has been a hunt rather than an introduction. We launched the business in San Francisco as Covid hit and I had to make the hard decision to close it down almost immediately after moving back to the UK. I managed to get some money together from friends to start again, but something the fears sets in about how long you have been working and how much you have poured in. Unfortunately, I don’t have a co-founder to pick me up on those days when it’s particularly hard but my friends and family have been amazing. Especially those that let me stay with them for the last 2yrs. I’ve only just moved into my own place and have my things shipped to me after 2yrs.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Building a tech platform. Not just the tech, but all the steps to get there. It’s taken me a long time to think of this as an achievement and not just a tick on a project plan. I’m proud that I didn’t take the easy route and go back to consulting. The odds are still against me, so I don’t fear failing, I think getting this far was an achievement. But obviously, I want Y’earn to become a success.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Grit. My career made this journey easier maybe than for others because I knew the work that needed to be done and had experience in lots of areas such as creating roadmaps and creating marketing strategies. But I think you need grit and determination to get up every day and build something from scratch on your own.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I would love a mentor. It’s something I have asked a few people about but it’s falls down the priority list. So if anyone is reading this and interested in helping me build a community-focused marketplace then please get in touch! I took on 3 women through the Government Kickstart scheme last week and I’m excited to dedicate time to act as a mentor to them.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Education. I believe that a lot of injustice falls down to a lack of what is essentially education which breeds ignorance. If we change the perception of what girls can achieve then it changes the trajectory – I don’t just mean girls’ perception, but everyone’s. At 14yrs old I was asked why I wanted to be an Executive Assistant and not the Executive and it’s like the world shifted. There was nothing wrong with the role I thought I wanted, but it was the fact that I believed I was only able to work in a small set of roles. That was a little about where I grew up, but a lot about being female.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Try to find a happy medium. I have a very all in or all out personality which pushed me forward but has not always been good for my mental health. Sometimes I was more focused on ‘getting the work done’ than enjoying what I was doing or being part of a team.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We’re finally starting to spend money on marketing so the challenge is to attract customers to both sides of the marketplace. We’re available in London with plans to expand across England in the next year, as well as add on another rental vertical. We’ll need to raise funds at the end of the year as the business loan with Virgin StartUp will only take us so far, so we’ll apply for their Impact Collective program which will roll into a Crowdcube campaign. and Our longterm goal is to be the go-to for rentals and help make it as common as owning – we believe in #MoreLoveLessWaste.
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