Agency lead at Google, and founder of a company to reduce plastic use: Fulfilled.
Elizabeth Vince has had a good year.
Not only has she recently been promoted within Google, but she’s also just single-handedly created and launched a side project. Fulfilled is a sustainable vegan hair and body care brand designed to reduce single-use plastic. When I meet her, she’s just arrived back from holiday and is just about to go on a work trip. She still arrives earlier than me.
“Learning how to juggle all that is definitely a skill I’ve learnt. You do that in your job anyway, but you really have to do that when you’re working on it in your spare time”
She started it 18 months ago. Not because she wanted to change her work, “I’m very happy in my job and I love it” she tells me earnestly, but instead because she found a problem she wanted to solve.
“I was really struck by an environmental issue - there is too much plastic in the world, and I was just thinking ‘what is it that we use every day and that needs to be replaced?’ This was when the fancy water bottles had started to become popular. Well, we need to wash every day, and the bottles are nearly always made of plastic.”
WHY A SIDE PROJECT?
“Having a bit of self control over my destiny I guess. Before I was at Google I was at a start up agency, and you felt you could really shape what was going on. [With side projects] - you are the CEO, you are the CMO, you are all those things”
“It wasn’t that I’m a passionate photographer, or I’ve got this hobby and I want to do more. I’m not an expert on hair and body care so I was really stretching myself to do something because it aligned with the values that I’m really attached to.”
LEARN YOUR STRENGTHS
“Where do you need help? My list of where I needed help was very very long, vs. what I’m good at. The branding part I knew, I know brands, I know packaging, what makes a good brand - so I thought OK if I can make a brand out of refillable shampoo that can be my forte”
“If you don’t have the skillset in the area, it is a lot scarier to be honest, but it forces you to be creative. You ask ‘Who do I know who has the slightest relationship to this thing that I have a question about?’
FIND TIME AROUND YOUR WORK
“I worked on it on the commute on the way in and on the way back. I have an hour’s commute each way, and that hour is spent on my project. That’s my project time, even if it’s just getting some thoughts down, reading some articles about latest shampoo trends, whatever. The moment I step off the train I’m into work mode.
“I didn’t do so much in the evenings, I mainly do stuff on the weekends. I probably spend a whole day on the weekends.”
THE LEARNING CURVE OF SIDE PROJECTS
“The biggest learning curve? Well in my case I had to learn a whole new industry - formulating shampoo, finding chemists, ingredients. Then there’s loads of legal, there’s the business part of it - becoming a limited company, companies house all of that, trademarking, accountancy, etc. People would ask me ‘who’s your business partner?’ but I was doing it all by myself
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT
“There are so many moments of self doubt. I thought it was such a cliche, but I really couldn’t believe it. I’m a confident person, but there were moments where I thought I really don’t know if I can do this.”
“I was pretty much on my own. With those moments of self doubt, if you knew other people had that moment that would be really helpful. You just feel really inferior, you feel like you can’t do it, you feel weak, you feel like you can’t prove the point you set out to prove. It would really help to have that support unit. It would be nice if you had someone going, yeah you know what it’s really sh*t actually? We’ll get through it. Or ‘I found it really helpful when i did this thing’ - that would be helpful.”
“It’s when things go wrong. When you’re on your own, you feel like you can’t deal with it. Normally you have a team to help with that. A big part of self doubt is when it feels too much”
HOW TO BALANCE IT WITH WORK
“When I got a promotion during it, it totally validated that I can do this and be really good at my job. And since I revealed Fulfilled, everyone has been really supportive, telling me it’s amazing.
“In hindsight, I do wish I just told a colleague. There are those days where you are feeling a bit down, even at work Not telling them the reason, that’s just a bit tough for a while, putting on a facade.”
“This whole thing does require a fundamental new approach to time to be implemented - like flexible working. You can’t buy time.”
“A lot of people say ‘you have to do something, it can’t just be in your head’. What is that first thing to do to get the ball rolling? For me, it was January last year, it was New Years Day, and I thought ‘this year, I’m just going to do it’.
“On January 2nd, I made some calls to find a scientist, and I found someone I liked. And I thought, ‘oh...I’ve done that now”. Ok well now I just need to call this person. And I just set myself one week at a time, and then before I knew it I was like OK well I think I’ve got a product that I like…”
“I just think that is the easiest way to do it, breaking it down. It just felt so insurmountable at the time, I had loads of stuff I didn’t know how to do, but then before you know it you’re like oh wow I’ve done most of those things”
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
“There were a couple of points where it really did feel like work for me, and I didn’t like that. I felt really overwhelmed. This doesn’t feel like how it used to. And I realised why. I kept imposing deadlines on myself.”
“I was meant to be launched at the start of January and I was 4 months late, and I was feeling really bad about that. And I spoke to my husband and he was like ‘well who set you that deadline?’ and I was like ‘oh, well I did’. You have the power to push it back - you have to be kind to yourself.”
“The people who do these projects are high achievers, they work hard, they do well, so it’s quite uncomfortable when you’re not achieving. So I decided to let go of it, and just say ‘it will be ready when it’s ready, it’s not like the world is expecting this project’. There were a lot of moments where I had to remind myself to be kind to myself - and any pressure that I feel is imposed by me, and not by anyone else.”
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR PLANNING
“Quarterly plan, weekly plan, daily plan. Where are the holes? Who do you need to ask? Even the action of hand writing (as opposed to typing) was quite helpful.
Thinking 1 years time, 5 years time, 10 years time, really envisioning your projects. It’s really helpful, that’s what gets you excited, thinking where can this go?”
“It’s just taking it one step at a time. It’s really cliched, but it’s true. The time pressure is only from you, yes it’s late - but late to who?”
The beautifully designed bottles can be found at wearefulfilled.co. The vegan, palm oil free formula is created totally from scratch here in the UK and each bottle is also refillable. Check out the Launch Collection now.