Finding a creative approach
Rachel Lowe’s entrepreneurial journey started in her early 20s, on a normal working day in her job as a taxi driver. She picked up a customer who turned out to be a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. The two discussed education. Rachel shared her experiences and frustrations, how she didn’t attend university due to having two young children, and that her dream career in Law had not been fulfilled.
It was this lecturer who suggested she apply as a mature student, and to this day Rachel is thankful to him for a conversation that changed her life. Rachel applied for a new course, launching that year, and received an unconditional offer. She started studying Law with Business that September and later graduated in 2006.
During her studies, Rachel continued to work part-time as a taxi driver and it was there that her first business idea materialised: Destination.
“The idea was for a board game with taxis as playing pieces. You would travel to different destinations, collecting fares whilst trying to avoid traffic lights and more. The player with the most money at the end of their ‘shift’ would be the winner.
I decided to enter my idea into the Enterprise Challenge, which I had seen advertised in the Student Union. The first stage had five main questions and got me thinking. For the first time I was putting pen to paper, thinking about the product, target market, competition and future plans. The second stage of the competition was a full business plan, which is where I found myself researching the industry. I learned then that 30 million tourists visited London every year, and the game would also double as a souvenir featuring 45 top destinations and landmarks.
I went on to launch Destination London and, for my home town, Destination Portsmouth. My greatest achievement professionally was achieving the number one spot in Hamleys, London. I don’t think I really realised just how significant it was then. It will always be a highlight of my start-up story. I went on to create an additional 30 variants, including licensed editions such as Destination Hogwarts for Harry Potter fans and Destination Downtown Abbey.
Afterwards, I branched out creating fragrances and accessories alongside my board games business. This journey has taken me to where I am now. I found a love of licensing. It is the one thing that really excites me! My favourite project I’ve worked on most recently has definitely been WWE. We have a whole range of products selling really well. Who would’ve thought that wrestling would be so perfect for games and puzzles?!
In the current lockdown, I have used the time wisely to plan for every eventuality in 2020. I’ve also been developing a new product, Elf on the Shelf and test playing the new game. Online sales are still available, puzzles, in particular, are very popular right now!
During these times, if you have a start-up idea or are thinking about starting a business, the most important advice I can give is: Do not expect to be good at everything. Identify your own strengths, put energy into those and then surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Business is about people, and we don’t all have to be an expert at everything!
Once we’re out of the pandemic and you think about starting your own business, it’s important to make sure you have your survival income to cover your personal overheads. You might find you have to work part-time alongside your start-up, just so you can afford essentials without the new business taking on that pressure. And I’d recommend making sure your intellectual property is secure. You don’t want other people taking your ideas.
My career has been a colourful journey with success and failures. All a huge learning process. Licensing is my core strength and I now focus solely on the toy industry specialising in puzzles and games for big-name films and television programmes. My next big project is very exciting and I’m working with Beano for their 70th Anniversary. We will be making a lot of noise about this when the time is right!”
For those looking for ‘lockdown’ entertainment, you’ll find Rachel’s products on her website.
If you have a business start-up idea and are looking for resources and even collaborators, visit Portsmouth University Business Services to get started.
Rachel is an Entrepreneur in Residence for University of Portsmouth.