Member of The Week

Member of the Week - Lara Sheldrake

Meet Lara Sheldrake, social media strategist and creator of Found & Flourish, a female empowerment network, media, and events company. Hello Lara!

Firstly tell us about your business and how why you wanted to start Found and Flourish.

I wanted to create a company that existed to empower women in business to launch, grow and scales the businesses of their dreams. We also promote wellbeing in the workplace, laughter, and embrace our femininity.

We run a popular meet-up called Hugs & Brunch, as we believe connecting and hugs is something many solo-business owners lack in their day to day lives.

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It’s amazing to see companies like yours who exist purely to help others, especially women. Why is that important to you?

The gender pay gap is still very much an issue, there is a disproportionate amount of men to women in female leadership roles, there are less female business owners, less women are invested in and there are less female investors.

A few stats:
- 7% of venture capital in Europe was invested in startups that had a woman on its founding team - Women retire with a third of the pension size of men - The World Economic Forum reported last year that it will take 202 years to close the gender pay gap

One of the first ways we can overcome this is by empowering women so that they have the tools and knowledge required to set up their dream business, negotiate more money, become an angel investor, the list goes on. Whatever it is, we need more support within these areas if we are going to see the gender opportunity gap close.

Found & Flourish empowers women by providing them with education, insights, community and business services so that women everywhere feel supported and better equipped to set up and run their dream businesses. We have a podcast called “Bossing it”, a blog packed for of resources and stories from fellow female founders, a bi-monthly newsletter, regular events & workshops PLUS our membership, launching soon!

What advice would you give to a young woman starting out?

Learn to enjoy the process. In life, there is no end-game. All we have is the present moment and how we choose to use it. It is crucial that whatever businesses we endeavour to create, we surrender to embracing the process, rather than viewing it as a means to an end.

Open up and talk to people about your idea or business. Find a community of like-minded women and surround yourself with cheerleaders. Running a business can be an incredibly lonely place so the people you surround yourself with will be your support network when you need it most.

Ask for help. You do not need to have all the answers, all the skills, all the connections and do all the work. Surround yourself with great people and ask them for help.

Choose the adventure. It is better to have risked, failed and lived than to play safe and never know. Choose the adventure, you’ll never regret it.

Where can our members find out about you? Do you have any events in Brighton coming up?

Good question!

Follow us on Instagram for general inspiration and updates, follow us on Eventbrite for all event announcements, read our blog for female founders stories and expert features and finally you can subscribe to our newsletter for tips, tools, resources and community perks.

You can join our membership waitlist here.

We are so happy to have you at PLATF9RM, what made you want to join our community?

I’m so happy to be here and to thrilled to be a part of the PLATF9RM community.

Community is everything to me and having recently moved down from London, I knew I wanted to join a space where our values are aligned. Having met the team; Sunetta, Tara, Emilie and now Jess I just knew that this was a place I’d be incredibly happy and welcomed.

It also helps that PLATF9RM would like to support my mission! Together we will be bringing you loads of great events designed to empower women to launch, grow and scale their dream businesses. If you have any ideas for events you’d like to attend, hit me up! I hope to run my first one in October so watch this space!

What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?

Having the freedom to work on something I’m truly passionate about with full creative autonomy.


How long have you lived in Brighton and how does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

I have just moved back to Brighton having been in London for the last 8 years. I studied at Brighton uni and met my husband here so it’s always had a special place in my heart. It’s good to be back by the sea.

What do you see as your greatest achievement?

My son Bodhi, who is 19 months old and the most sociable little dude I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Finally what do you do to unwind?!

I need to do more of this!! Juggling a business and toddler means I don’t get much time to unwind but I find spending time on the beach has an incredibly calming effect on my mood.

I love listening to podcasts such as “How to unf*ck your brain”, “The guilty Femenist” and “Under the skin”. I also LOVE audible when I get the chance to plug in and have a range of books on the go such as “Open Up” by Alex Holder, “Grit” by Angela Duckworth and “How to fail” by Elizabeth Day. .

Thank you Lara!

If you want to be a member at our space, get in touch for a tour and trial.

Member of the Week - Emily Mounsey

On your marks, get set, BAKE ...Introducing Emily Mounsey founder of Big Spoon, a company created to bring out the best baker in all of us. Her easy-to-do cake kits allow baking novices to make show-stopping desserts for any occasion.

Hello Emily. So it seems baking has become a bit of a cultural obsession over the last few years. How does Big Spoon appeal to wannabe bakers out there?

I have recipes passed down from my Nonnie (grandma), which I still use today but baking has evolved and there are so many new trends and styles to try and as a result there are loads of wannabe bakers out there! Who can blame them? Big Spoon appeals to keen bakers but also the novices who might not know where to start with a cake...which is why I provide all of the equipment you need. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get involved no matter your level of skill.

Big Spoon’s ethos is that anyone can bake amazing cakes; your cake kits include lions, unicorns and pineapples - oh my! Where did the idea of cake kits stem from?

The idea actually came from my old boss...she said there was so much pressure to create a show stopping cake for her little one’s birthday parties. She wanted me to make the decorations for her, so I decided to go the whole hog and create an entire kit!

Baking seems to be everywhere with The Great British Bake Off to Nailed It all over our screens, where do you see Big Spoon heading in the future?

I am so happy GBBO is back! I have grand plans for Big Spoon’s future, but in the immediate future there will be a handful of new kits appearing with a completely different look. I have been working on a collaboration with a company in Portslade...all will be revealed soon!


You recently did a PLATF9RM Learns: To Decorate Sugar Cookies with Big Spoon. How was that experience for you working and teaching fellow members?

I absolutely loved it! I was over the moon to be asked to do a Learns session, and even more excited when I realised it was National Burger Day. It was so much fun decorating burger and fries cookies, and everyone had their own interpretations, including a triple burger! It was amazing meeting other members and having an hour away from our computers. Baking can be really therapeutic!

So you joined the PLATF9RM Community in March. How has it been for you and has it helped to grow your business?

I couldn’t wait to join! I was on the waiting list ready for The Grounds to open and it did not disappoint. It gave me a real focus and structure as I had starting a business very lonely. I joined in March, became super productive and launched Big Spoon in May. I honestly could not have done it without this place.

Have there been any surprises during your time at PLATF9RM so far?

The PLATF9RM members and staff are all so happy to share their skills, it really is amazing. I have definitely learnt a lot and made friends along the way. My unexpected surprise was being asked to supply treats to The can now find my Nonnie’s flapjacks (among other things) in the cafe!

You studied Patisserie at Leith’s School of Food and Wine in 2018. Was cooking something you always wanted to do for work or were you planning on doing something completely different?

I was TERRIBLE at baking! I owe a lot to the Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks, they taught me the basics and transformed by cakes from crispy looking biscuits to big fluffy ones! I was working in the Beauty industry but baking on the side for friends and family. It got to the point that I was getting a lot of requests so I applied to the council for a food hygiene rating so I could start to sell my cakes, that’s when I knew I wanted to bake full time. When the opportunity arose for me to study at Leith’s, I grabbed it and it was one of the best things I have ever done.

What drew you to living and working in Brighton?

I am from Yorkshire so moving to Brighton was a big deal for me! I was living in the countryside without a regular bus or a corner shop, and I’ll be honest, cities scared me! But Brighton doesn’t feel like a city at all, the people are amazing and it is so relaxed. When I first moved here I was commuting to London, which was terrifying, but Brighton felt like a great compromise. I have been here for almost 8 years now and I definitely consider it home, I don’t think I can ever move away from the sea now.

Last question; What would be the cake of your dreams?

The cake of my dreams would be made by Katherine Sabbath...look at her will be obsessed. Raspberry sponge, layered with passion fruit curd, covered in swiss meringue buttercream and decorated with her coloured white chocolate studs. Delicious!

Thank you so much Emily

If you want to be a member at our space, get in touch for a tour and trial.

Company of the Week - Pala Eyewear

Pala Eyewear's founder John Pritchard, a longstanding PLATF9RM Member and inspiring entrepreneur, gives us the low down on his ethical business and the future of his forward-thinking products.

Pala is an ethical eyewear business, what motivated you to start the company?

My initial spark stemmed from a desire to do something with my life that provided me a genuine sense of purpose – to make a difference to others’ lives and not just mine. I didn’t want to sit back in my rocking chair in 30 years’ time (or something much more futuristic) knowing that I hadn’t tried to do something positive and lasting during my short stay on this planet. Setting up my own business and putting a social cause at the heart of it was my way of doing this, giving me that purpose.

For me, it was a case of identifying a cause first rather than coming at it from a ‘fashion creation’ angle. Having become aware of lack of access to eyecare across Africa during my travels I already had the seed of that cause. 10% percent of the world’s population are unable to get access to eye care and yet a pair of spectacles is recognized as the number one most effective tool to fight poverty – it empowers the wearer by enabling them to read, learn and work. Simple, yet so very so effective. That was the cause, and so unusually perhaps, Pala was retro-fitted to support this cause and act as a vehicle for delivering change.

So tell us a bit about the sunglasses industry. How do you ensure that your products are ethical?

Our focus is on becoming the most sustainable eyewear brand on the planet. A lofty ambition, but someone has to gun for the title!

Our work charity Vision Aid Overseas enables us to fulfil our promise of giving a pair of prescription glasses for every pair of sunglasses we sell. This is achieved through grants we provide to their Vision Programmes across Africa. Our most recent project was the building of a Vision Centre in Chinsali, Zambia which serves a community of almost 75,000. It’s a sustainable solution that provides infrastructure, equipment and long-term patient care.

Our cases are made from recycled plastic waste by weaving communities from Bolgatanga, Upper East Ghana. We use secondary waste plastic from a plastic bag factory in Accra – I guess you could call it ‘sleeping with the enemy’ and discarded water sachets that are collected from the ground and washed. The material is cut into strips, twisted into strands and then woven into a case. The plastic waste from our case making process (approximately 12%) is then also recycled and re-entered into the production cycle. There is a big waste issue in Ghana and in a small way we are trying to help make a change.

It’s also important for our values to be applied within the business practices itself. All our packaging is recycled or FSC, likewise our point of sale materials. We carbon offset all the airmiles we incur for importing our product and business travel and we pay £1 every time we deliver our sunglasses to our customers around the world. There is still a lot more to do, but it’s all work in progress!

In terms of product we use acetate which is a high quality material made from natural materials, however plasticisers are added to it which are ultimately harmful when the frames eventually biodegrade. Us, alongside other independent brands have been pushing for more availability of bio-acetate and are having some success here as you will see from our future plans.

I’ve recently been told that I am a finalist in the Natwest Entrepreneur For Good award for London and South East, so I'm delighted with that and it endorses the fact that team are on the right path to creating change in our industry.

What’s next for Pala?

In the realms of our sunglasses, our focus is on building profile in the UK and continuing our progress in the US Sunbelt, Australia and New Zealand, after all we need to follow the sun when it starts getting all gloomy in the UK.

For SS20, the new collection will be entirely made from bio-acetate. So no harmful chemicals - again, improving our environmental credentials further. The new collection is designed for those who acknowledge the need for a better future, appreciate the world we live in, and embrace the adventure of exploring it.

Our new positioning will be for our sunglasses to be the ultimate travel companion with each style taking a classic, familiar sunglasses design, updated with a contemporary finish.

We are also going to push our optical range which we soft launched with opticians earlier this year. It might be that we deal with the prescriptions ourselves in due course, but one step at a time.


You’re a long standing and valued PLATF9RM member; we love having you! What’s kept you here?

Ahh, thank you -wipes tear from eye- Well, to be honest it’s the free coffee and the fact I don’t have a home to go to, so I secretly live in the boudoir (but don’t tell anyone).

Actually, it’s the great atmosphere created by the staff and other members that make the working environment such a positive one to work in. I also like the advantages of the access at weekends and the odd social!

You seem to enjoy shaking up your work environment and move around both spaces a lot, do you have a favourite spot in both Hove & Tower Point?

If I’ve got a lot on I head to Hove and shut myself off in the quiet room on Floor 2. If I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about things then I tend to gravitate towards Tower Point. So on that basis I’ll often be in Hove beginning of the week and gravitate towards Tower Point as the week progresses. I’m often on the ‘chatty’ main desk on Floor 6. Tower Point also does the better cocktails on a Friday, although to give balance I’m loving the wraps coming out of The Grounds!

Is there an event you have attended of ours that sticks out in your mind (in a good way obvs)?

I’ve enjoyed a lot of events for very different reasons. The recent swim/volleyball social was great fun… I really like the events where business owners come in to talk about how they have created their success - I really connect with those and take good inspiration.

Did you enjoy having your assistant with you recently? We miss Julian!

Julian was great. For that one month he managed to contribute so much to the business. We pretty much let him loose across all areas from day one and he certainly repaid us for our trust in him. I actually wrote an article here on it as it was such a positive experience.

I’m hoping to hook up again next year with the business school and create the same opportunity.

What book can you read over and over again?

I am terrible with books. I have one by my bed and I read the first 10 pages, fall asleep, pick it up the next day, re-read the same 10 pages and fall asleep… and repeat. I tend to read business books, my absolute favourite being ‘You, Only Better’ by Nicholas Bate. Aside from being short(!) I’ve found it incredibly useful in improving my performance.

Is there a cartoon character you most identify with?

Hmm. Well not so much a cartoon character, but you wouldn’t go too far wrong with Mr Forgetful. I was once bought the book by an old girlfriend… on the bright side at least it wasn’t Mr Misery.

Thank you John!

If you want to be a member at our space, get in touch for a tour and trial.

Member of the Week - Katie Blake

Introducing new member Katie Blake; Globe Trotter, Yoga Teacher, Expert Networker and Founder of Luxury Travel Consultancy Nelumbo Travel.

So Katie, you used to work for a travel agents and have since decided to be a freelance travel consultant - what made you pursue that line of work?

Travelling and exploring is in my blood and very much a part of who I am. I started my career in sales and enjoyed talking to people and the buzz of getting them excited about what they were buying but I needed to be passionate about what I was selling too. After 4 years selling IT and event space and a year travelling the world (after that stereotypical breakup too!) I realised that I not only enjoy travelling personally but could also make into a career. I worked for two different travel companies, both big and small over the course of 5 years and then decided to set up on my own, so here I am today, ready to take on the world… literally!

Where is the most amazing place you have been sent to for work?

One of my most memorable experiences would have to be when I went trekking into the rainforest on the Indonesian side of Borneo to see the endangered orang-utan. The sounds of the rainforest were unlike anything I had ever heard before, from humming to buzzing to chirping from howler monkeys, birds and insects. Ear plugs are advised if you are a light sleeper!

I woke early, was served freshly made banana pancakes and travelled into the rainforest with my guide, in search for the orang-utans. As we approached one of the feeding grounds, we suddenly spotted them. Seeing these magnificent mammals took my breath away. We stopped and admired them for an hour or so before heading back to the boat. Orang-utans can only be witnessed in the wild in just three places in the world and so seeing them was an incredibly special experience, one that I will never forget.

I bet you often hear ‘your job is incredible; you’re paid to travel’ but I imagine it’s hard graft too?

I do feel lucky to do what I do but like every job, it comes with its challenges. As you are sending clients all over the world, sometimes you have to speak to your ground handlers in the wee hours of the morning or evening to ensure your clients are having the best experience. When you are sent away, you aren’t also lounging by the pool either, you are up and about inspecting hotels, creating partnerships and new experiences from the early morning until the late evening. It can also take weeks to put some more complex itineraries together, but those are the ones I love the most! The positives definitely outweigh the negatives!

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So you also trained as a yoga teacher in Goa (Kate’s first yoga session at PLATF9RM is this Thursday the 8th!) - how was that as an experience?

I have to admit, I thought I was going to be relaxing for a month in India, with a couple of hours of yoga, but it was hard graft! Yoga Teacher Training was both mentally and physically challenging. You break down barriers to allow yourself to live a freer life which in the end is incredibly liberating! Taking it home is difficult… Whilst it was challenging, it allowed me to just focus purely on myself, which is something we all rarely get to do. Yoga has also improved both my body and my mind but it is a practice that you have to do consistently to see results. Come and see the benefits for yourself on Thursday mornings at 7.30am.

I hear you’ve been doing a lot of swimming since moving down. Do you enjoy living by the sea?

I moved down to Brighton after living in London for 11 years and could not be happier. Not only do I enjoy living by the sea (and I know this may sound cheesy), I am finally living the life I had only dreamt about on all those long commutes. I swim each week with a lovely group of girls (please join us if you fancy it), I get to see my wonderful grandma for lunch who lives around the corner, my sister and her cute Cockapoo Coco regularly, and I have already made some lovely and welcoming friends who are all so wonderful and inspiring! I guess my answer in short is YES!

Jess McCleave recently took you on a bit of a pub crawl showing you the best watering holes in Brighton. Have you found your favourite spot yet?

Haha, I think we need to go out again Jess as I am still yet to discover it but I love a good wine bar!

Do you feel like you have settled in Brighton and at PLATF9RM?

I have now been here for three months and am starting to feel pretty settled. I think setting up your own business can be a time of excitement and also unease but I feel I have a great support system around me and PLATF9RM has been a big part of that so thank you!

What’s your favourite thing about PLATF9RM? - apart from chatting?!

I do love chatting, thanks Jess! I love that I get to meet other entrepreneurs and people doing all sorts of incredible and fascinating things! Everyone has a different story to tell! Each time I come in, I meet someone new and am always greeted with a smile! I am also getting a little obsessed with the food in the cafe, which is dangerous..those wraps made by the amazing Amy!! Oh and Friday drinks are fun too

We’ve all become very fond of Coco, is he available for cuddle hire?

I will have to ask my twin as it is her dog (even though I feel like he is mine), but you can always come for a dog walk with me or come for a cuddle when he is with me in the coworking space. He is like a big teddy bear and will definitely put a smile on your face!

Thank you Katie!

If you want to be a member at our space, get in touch for a tour and trial.