Helena Loakman, Co-Founder of Fact + Fiction

Designers of next-generation handbags that make women’s lives easier wherever their day takes them

I was working in PR and marketing for a sports and lifestyle agency based in Central London when the idea struck me like a lightning bolt…

Following a rather embarrassing moment when I pulled out a sweaty sports bra from my tote bag in the middle of a big business meeting, I vowed that this couldn’t – and wouldn’t – ever happen again!

Fed up with having my gym kit buried under a pile of folders in one bag, my laptop in another and a handbag to carry around containing all my other daily essentials, I decided to create a smart-looking multifunctional bag which would have separate compartments so all these things could be stored in one space.

I’m not a designer, but I created a crappy drawing of what I thought my creation could look like and showed it to some ladies at the gym. They loved the concept and encouraged me to produce it because it was practical and unlike anything that was currently on the market.

After taking voluntary redundancy in 2013, I set the wheels in motion on my new and exciting venture – finding a highly experienced handbag designer named Nicola Kearney to help me realise my vision!

Using money from my redundancy package, as well as pawning a brooch left to me by my grandmother to raise extra funds, I started the business with all my own capital.

Fast-forward to today and we’ve rebranded from GymTote to Fact + Fiction; Nicola is now a co-founder – having invested her own savings into the company during the early days; and things are going well. Our sales are increasing and we’re currently devoting our energy to looking for investors and expanding the product range at a sensible rate, as there’s only the two of us running everything!

My biggest business tip is to learn to budget from day one. If you don’t know anything about finance, take the time to learn as much as you can. Yes, it might seem boring to enrol on a business finance course, but if you find one that’s affordable it’ll prove to be a sound investment. After all, if you don’t understand financial terminology, you don’t have a business!

Fact + Fiction