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Female Founders: Rosie van Cutsem of TROY London On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

I don’t believe there is a particular type of person to build their own business, as you can shape it into the environment that works for you and plays to your strengths. Being true to yourself and building the right team around you to support your weaker areas is key, and ultimately a real strength.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie van Cutsem.

Rosie was brought up in rural Oxfordshire in England, and after a career in headhunting in London she launched the British brand TROY London with her sister and co-founder Lucia Ruck Keene. Exclusively made in the British Isles using only the finest quality fabrics, TROY has grown in international acclaim and their chic outerwear and timeless staples are enjoyed by stylish women all over the world. Rosie runs the business from her Norfolk farm, managing a small dynamic team supported by international experts across PR, finance and design.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was so fortunate to be brought up in the countryside, enjoying all the many joys and advantages of animals, gardens and fields. Despite my work in headhunting taking me to live in London, I still bolted for the countryside every weekend and found that I had very few quality coats that were versatile to both city and country life. Lucia and I started brainstorming on designs and branding around a kitchen table in 2013, and two years later launched our first TROY collection. The response was fantastic and we committed to our new venture, investing our savings to roll out a website and setting up a permanent base in the buildings near my home in Norfolk.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Lucia and I came to the world of clothing design and manufacturing entirely green, and it was the introductions of my wedding dress designer, Juan Carlos Quintana, and his contacts in the industry that gave us some valuable introductions in the world of specialist craftsmen and seamstresses in the UK who would be willing to work with us as a new start up brand. This process of meeting small factories down the side streets of London and the midlands was a huge learning curve. Suffice to say we kissed some frogs (!) but we learnt a huge amount and now value some excellent relationships with specialists across the British Isles.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We spent some time thinking of a logo that might fit with our brand, and proudly presented a silhouetted Trojan helmet image to a friend for their thoughts. It turns out this is the emblem for a well know condom brand… thank goodness we asked!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

At a very early stage, we took on an Non-Executive Director, Joanna Cattanach, who has been an invaluable support and source of knowledge on the exact area we were least prepared in… the sourcing of fabrics and management of producing clothing. Having worked with leading brand Aquascutum, Burberry and Barbour, Jo joined us on a hunch that we had a good story to tell, and we are so happy that we still rely on her good sense and excellent Scottish humour to this day!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I believe it is largely a lack of confidence in our own abilities. This holds back more women than it ever should and is the exact reason we should support each other as much as we possibly can. In past years a lack of acceptance for flexible working hours to fit with a busy family life has been a real problem also. I think this has really stepped forward in recent years and actually the lock down environment has helped to force more openness and acceptance of colleagues as whole people with other commitments and passions. It has also proved the amount that can be achieved remotely, cutting the need for lengthy commutes and face to face meetings, allowing women to be more present in the home as well as the work place.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Female support networks, mentoring schemes and more role models to follow are all very powerful. Encouraging flexible working environments, shared parental leave and breaking the taboo of finding a healthy balance between work and motherhood are all challenges that must be met on a social and policy level.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Founding your own business often allows you to use your skills in a sector or space where you have a true passion. This will light up your life and make the work feel less like a chore and more akin to breathing. This is true for men and women, but it is sad to think of so many women’s ambitions being stifled by a fear of what others will think and a lack of self-belief.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

Far from giving yourself an easy ride, your hardest boss will be yourself, so a challenge is to develop the discipline to give yourself the time to relax and rest when the to-do list seems never ending!

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I don’t believe there is a particular type of person to build their own business, as you can shape it into the environment that works for you and plays to your strengths. Being true to yourself and building the right team around you to support your weaker areas is key, and ultimately a real strength.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. A good idea.
  2. Tenacity.
  3. Positive thinking, but you have to be in the real world.
  4. The confidence to network and ask for help.
  5. Perspective on what matters and what can wait.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We try to ensure our designs have the smallest carbon footprint we can and we constantly look for ways to improve our sustainable status. Whilst our business has grown we have partnered with many charities and causes, raising awareness and funds where we can. I also see the local impact of what we do, creating employment for local talent and ensuring that we live by the flexible, supportive working practices we believe in.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Lucia and I have been so fortunate to have had access to nature and its calming restorative affects all of our lives. We realise this is a privilege and one that should be available to all children growing up, many of whom have no idea where vegetables come from, let alone the joy of running about in a wild space. Giving children access to free play, fun and learning in the fresh air is something that could have a hugely transformative effect on their long-term mental health and wellbeing.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would be fascinated to meet Mark Zuckerberg. I have a few questions for him on the huge successes, immense social power and current challenges of his platforms, but something tells me he might be a bit busy…

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.