Lucy Rout is the founder of Tabuu, a brand on a mission to remove the stigma around medication by opening up the conversation.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I’m Lucy, a 28-year-old entrepreneur on a mission to remove the stigma around medication by starting the conversations we’re too uncomfortable to have. Be that medication taken for mental health, digestive aid, chronic illness, menopause, or any of the other thousands of reasons, I want to show the world that our bodies needing a bit of support is nothing we should ever feel awkward about.
I founded my business following a reconstruction of my digestive system to remove a pancreatic cancer aged 25 and being told I’d need to take medication every time I eat anything for the rest of my life. I felt awkward taking them in social settings and searched everywhere in the media to see a young person like me, with scars like mine, taking meds and I couldn’t find it.
I searched the market everywhere for a beautiful, durable pill case to carry them in, and again I really struggled with anything.
I was genuinely baffled that in 2021, a time where you could buy sandals for your dog, there were next to no stylish pill cases on the market and so many of us were carrying our tablets in things like tin foil and sandwich bags!
So, with no experience in product design I got to work learning everything I possibly could on YouTube/by googling, bought a TikTok light and started talking about medication and my business was born!
This was all around a year and a half ago and a lot has changed since then, including becoming the first entrepreneur in 20 series to receive a job offer and investment from three investors on Dragons Den which has really helped accelerate growth.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
The really honest answer is I’m an early riser and I tend to work pretty late but have been working a lot at the moment on setting clear boundaries. I feel so unbelievably blessed to have the opportunity to be working every day on a business I care so much about and I work really hard to build opportunities for myself but I’ll again openly say I’ve walked the line of burnout a few times which is something I’m really cognisant of.
A typical day for me to be honest doesn’t exist! One day might be product development, another day shooting a dream campaign or an event with one of the charity partners. Someone recently described entrepreneurship to me as a game of keeping a lot of plates spinning and I think that is pretty accurate, it’s very daunting but it’s also a thrill that I feel very privileged to be trying.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
This is something I’m working really hard on developing at the moment, but the really honest answer is that it’s something I struggle with.
I think in a digital age as founders, in particular with social media playing such a huge role in marketing, the “always on” culture is something that it’s really difficult to drive a separation from and I often find it really hard to know when to switch off. I have sought out advice from a lot of other founders and walked the line of burnout a few times, three learnings I’ve taken are:
- It’s ok to be brutal – many people I know work in corporate roles so the logging off at 6PM mentality sticks which is something as a founder I’m finding often isn’t an option and for quite a long time I felt I needed to apologise for that. I’m getting a lot better at setting firm boundaries with regards to socialising, if it’s an event I know I’m not going to enjoy I now just simply say no thank you. I’ve also cut out drinking, which again is something I used to feel I needed to explain but now I just again politely decline.
- Safeguard routine as much as possible – I schedule absolutely everything and am learning to get a lot more confident in safeguarding that and again stopping apologising for needing to do that. Anyone I meet now knows that if a call has a set duration that is hard stop, anything else gets followed up on email and I safeguard 10 minute breaks to eat and go outside which are a non negotiable for me.
- You have to be disciplined – both in terms of deadlines but also in terms of looking after yourself. I’m currently a solo team give or take support from freelancers on a project basis, but I’m quickly learning that if I burn myself out the business doesn’t exist so now see looking after myself as part of the job description.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
Tabuu has been a complete rocket – it took off so quickly and I’ll openly say the acceleration isn’t one I was prepared for. I’ve learnt a lot very quickly, the main changes have been above but ultimately for me it has all stemmed mainly down to finding confidence as a founder and focussing energy in the right places.
The last six months have been an absolute baptism of fire with regards to self development. Learning what my weaknesses are, falling on my face probably 1000 times to then pick myself back up again has led to gradual progress.
I’ve still got a very long journey ahead, I feel like I’m every day but I’m constantly working on myself to get the right frameworks in place!
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
There is no meeting, deadline, or email more important than your health. I nearly didn’t go for my doctor’s appointment where they then discovered my cancer because I was in a corporate job prioritising a huge exciting project I had just been given and was so determined to climb the corporate ladder that I put work before absolutely everything else.
That appointment ended up giving me an early diagnosis of which I will be forever grateful for.
If you are reading this and have cancelled a smear, mammogram or medical appointment because of a deadline, please reschedule it, make time and delegate/re-prioritize if you need to but nothing should ever come before health.
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