In today’s Her Business Story we meet the female founder behind Farillio Limited, Merlie Calvert.
Merlie can you tell A League of Her Own readers more about your business Farillio Limited
We’re a customizable platform of speedy, easy and affordable legal and business solutions, especially curated for startups and small businesses.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I saw an opportunity, I fell in love with it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was on maternity leave at the time that the idea first struck me. In my infinite craziness, I decided that I was going to try and write a book or two in-between pushing prams and running the social calendar of a very busy baby!
I would type away in coffee shops whenever I could. And because I am hugely nosey – and it is not easy to write a coherent book, I got distracted quite a bit! – I noticed that all around me, people were meeting to do business and share challenges and solve them together. In many cases, however, especially when it came to legal questions or concerns, people were clearly stuck and anxious and not properly supported.
I realized that I knew the answers to a lot of what was being asked
Or if didn’t, I knew who did and how to get those answers. More than that, I knew I needed to find a way to make scalable the things that I and those in my network knew, so that those coffee shop conversations became less about being stuck and lots more about opportunity, and optimism and solutions. Sharing information and resources digitally, and with proper context responsibly built around them, seemed the obvious solution.
But I didn’t quite know how I could do it, and I definitely wasn’t brave enough to go it alone then. So I formed a plan about how I would learn as much as I could in the shortest time sensible, to get to a position where I could credibly ask good people to trust me. And so I could find the courage to join the coffee shop crowd and like so many of them, start building the solutions that weren’t there.
I qualified as an antitrust lawyer in 1999 in a progressive law firm who were renowned for being bullish and unafraid to buck trends, and although I’d never experienced anything like that environment, I never regretted it. I learned to be someone unafraid to push boundaries, to make ‘yes’ happen, to be more than someone who knew law. And that was a big deal for me. It was not my natural default – or it didn’t feel like it at the time. I was quite shy normally and undoubtedly suffered from impostor-syndrome.
But that firm gave me an incredibly strong grounding in who I’ve turned out to be. Antitrust law is the law of ‘knock-on effect’. Like dominoes. The decisions and actions a business takes today can have a ripple-effect, good or bad, that needs to be understood and anticipated to give good legal advice and to spot great opportunities too.
And to give great advice and help spot opportunities, you need to know that business really well – and the market, and the markets that relate to it, competitively, up and down the supply chain, across borders, online… So you learn business fast, from lots of different angles and perspectives. It’s brilliant and fascinating – and it goes a whole lot beyond law.
I’ve always wanted to make law fit better into the toolkit of great resources that make great companies thrive. A lot of that mindset comes from having learned much about what makes law and lawyers really valuable and relevant from inside (not outside) great corporates with strong values and identity.
How long did it take for you to put your idea into action? What prompted you to act?
I was an intrapreneur for a long time – although I only recently realized that there was a label for it. I guess about 5 years ago, I came to a sudden realization that to make the type and scale of difference that I wanted to make, to a sector, profession and customer audience that I felt passionately about, I needed to stop working in a big corporate organization. To digitize law so that real answers are affordably at your finger-tips and to make those coffee shop conversations better, I was going to have to totally change my career.
It took me 5 years to ‘get brave’ and make change happen by joining the disruptors and stepping out of my comfort zone.
What has been your scariest moment as an entrepreneur?
Ha – there have been plenty. They don’t stop. The difference is that you learn to trust yourself to do battle with ‘scary’ and overcome it.
I think the scariest moment so far has been taking the step to become an entrepreneur in the first place. Giving up salary security, putting yourself out there… it takes huge courage. It’s one thing to have a dream and a conviction that it is right. It’s quite another to start putting that into action.
What has been your proudest moment?
I’m a big believer that whether you like it or not, you are as good as what you last did and there is always something that you could have improved – so pride is not something I naturally feel.
I’m more often humbled by others, when they talk about their achievements, when they invest in Farill.io, when they say yes to partnering with us and making this business happen. It’s awesome and shows me that others believe in this ambition too and that inspires me to keep going and to strive harder. We are creating Farill.io with some superb people, brand suppliers and early distributors, who have believed in this from the very start and have thrown real energy at helping to make it work; they humble me most.
I suppose if I suffer from anything, it’s not pausing often enough to celebrate the milestones and feel, if not pride, then certainly relief, that it’s still all going to plan!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from founding your own company?
You need to have nerves of steele. And back yourself so that others can do so. Having a great network of relevant supporters and believers counts for so much. On ‘wobble’ days, they’re the people who act as your sounding boards and cheerleaders and help you maintain perspective. You do not walk alone.
Oh – and if I can name a second critical one?
People will inevitably let you down. Expect it. They’re not bad people, they’re not deliberating trying to harm your new business or your time-frames, but that will be the impact. And however much DD you do on those you work with to help get to market, you won’t get it right every time.
Take on expert contractors if you can, try not to skimp (it can be a false economy in the medium term) and don’t employ anyone at the start – it’s better protection for you. We dodged a few bullets along the way by being able to bring arrangements that weren’t working to a rapid and amicable close and to move on fast.
Which women inspire you?
Janvi Patel, founder of Halebury, Shainul Kassam, founder of Fortune Law, Hannah Martin, founder of the Talented Ladies Club, Penny Power, founder of The Business Café, Leah Hutcheon, founder of Appointedd, real women, self-made, hard-working, visionary, fun and super-supportive of other women.
What’s the best piece of business advice someone has ever given you?
“Shy bears get no honey”; i.e. if you want it enough, go all in and make it happen. You won’t know what you’re really made of until you try.
Rapidly followed by:
“You’ve become unemployable – accept it. Go create this for yourself!”
Thank you, Hannah Martin!