Fay Sharpe about Selina Donald: “I recently had the pleasure of virtually meeting Selina Donald and my what a Shero she is! With sustainability at the forefront of all our minds, Selina’s wealth of experience and knowledge of this hot topic should not go amiss. Do check out her website www.thebulb.eco. Selina’s energy, motivation, commitment to sustainability and honesty about her experiences provided insight of all the highs and lows into running your own business! In this article Selina shares her journey along with some handy top tips for all you budding entrepreneurs!”

Who is Selina Donald?

“I was part of the first cohort of Fast Forward 15 mentees, way back in 2014, and I was lucky enough to be chosen to be the mentee of Fay.  I applied for Fast Forward 15 because I was at a crossroads. Working at ITV as a Senior Event Manager was fantastic, it was exciting, I had a brilliant team who I adored and the work was really fun.  As I joined, our new Head of Events was promoted and so I knew there was no further step up the ladder within the team.  After nearly two years, I decided that I wanted to move forward but wasn’t sure how.

I had always had a personal interest in environmental and social issues, and during my contract working on the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, I managed the Sustainability Working Group.  We produced the most sustainable Ceremonies in Olympic and Paralympic history, and it showed me how easy it could be done and led me to question why this wasn’t trickling down to smaller, brand events.

My work with Fay during my menteeship was invaluable, helping me develop the concept for The Bulb, a sustainable event production agency, as well as move my own personal development forward. The Bulb would work with brands to produce creative yet sustainable events which had a positive social and environmental impact.   I met my business partner through working at ITV and together (and with the confidence and encouragement of Fay), we jumped ship and launched The Bulb in January 2016.

Running a business wasn’t easy.  Cashflow was always an issue and going up against the Goliaths in the industry during pitching drained what resources we had.   Sometimes we won, mostly we didn’t but we fought hard and we landed some successes working with ASOS, Vivienne Westwood and Lush.

However, despite appearances, we were naive and we didn’t have the business acumen to keep the business afloat without a struggle.  The pressure grew, as well as our working hours and at one point I hadn’t had a day off for nearly a year, working seven days a week and sometimes for up to 16 hours a day.  I had minimal personal life (one of the hardest things to hear is from a friend and how they wished I hadn’t worked so much and just enjoyed living together in London) Eventually burn out came to a head (as it always does) and I decided to close the business for three months and travel.  My business partner got engaged and had a baby and it felt like the right time, late 2018,  to have a break.

This was a devastating blow after so much hard work.  I felt like I had failed and I took it very badly suffering from anxiety and depression.  After some time out and perspective, I started to see where we could have done better and built myself and my confidence back up.

My key learnings that I would take on to my business today were:

  1. Take some time to learn about running a business, understand cashflow, budgeting and business development.  This is invaluable and will create the foundations for a successful business
  2. Think about where you invest your money carefully, what’s a ‘nice to have’ and what has longevity for the business
  3. Prioritise people and skillset.  If I hadn’t taken on so much myself, I wouldn’t have been so burnt out and would have been thinking clearer and making better business decisions.  You will never regret spending money on people to help you run things better.

It wasn’t all over for The Bulb though.  After a year away from the UK (I kept extending for sunnier climates), I came back, brought my business partner’s shares and relaunched as a consultancy.  I now work with agencies and brands on transforming their business operations to a sustainable model, creating strategies and designing and consulting on events.  I’ve taken on board my past learnings and can pinpoint when I start to over-work so I can avoid it at all costs, prioritising my mental health and personal life over work, which I never did in the past.

The Bulb is growing and I’m much happier on the consultancy side, working to my strengths and passions.   It was a long and very hard learning but shows that just because something failed once, doesn’t mean, if you truly believe in it, you can’t bring it back for a second round.  Never give up!”