How I made the leap from employee to entrepreneur

Lauren Murrell switched corporate law for her own skincare startup – here is how she did it and what she learned along the way.

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The journey to creating ‘By Sarah London’, Lauren Murrell’s co-founded skincare startup, is a deeply personal one.

Ten years ago, Lauren was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia, and was given a 20% chance of survival. Lauren was studying at law school at the time, working towards qualification as a lawyer. But her life rapidly took a different path.

After months of chemotherapy and total body irradiation, Lauren’s life was saved by a stem cell transplant from her sister, Sarah.

With her health recovered and legal training complete, eventually, Lauren’s work would take her to the British Virgin Islands. Here, she faced her second life-threatening scenario – a Category 5 hurricane.

Lauren was rescued, evacuated and returned to the UK – her life in paradise halted, for now. And on her return, she looked again to her sister for support, this time around what she would do next.

The beginnings of a beauty entrepreneur

During Lauren’s recovery from her intense cancer treatment, her sister Sarah had been working in the beauty industry, alongside brands like Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, and Unilever.

With Lauren’s skin deeply sensitive from her treatment, Sarah knew exactly how to help: what to use on her skin, and what not to use. For Sarah, it was a way to support her sister. But now, with Lauren deciding what to do next, it might offer a new business opportunity.

Lauren and Sarah Murrell, cofounders of By Sarah London
Lauren and Sarah Murrell, cofounders of By Sarah London

The goal of the two founders was to help as many people as possible access the ideal skincare for their own skin – including for sensitive, stressed or inflammation-prone skin.

By Sarah London, the brand created by Lauren and Sarah, is a naturally-formulated, organic, cruelty-free skincare brand that is now stocked in multiple locations across the world.

The bootstrapping benefit

The business was scaled steadily, through close connection to their customers, and bootstrapped rather than venture-backed.

In a startup environment that often seems full of unicorns, huge funding rounds and venture capital-backed interventions, bootstrapping a business can feel daunting. But Lauren is satisfied it was the right route for her brand.

‘On balance, I’m glad we haven’t taken external funding,’ Lauren reflects. ‘We’ve bootstrapped our business to growth and focused on building our brand equity.

We’ve taken the time to understand and support our community, which is super important. So if we do approach VC funding, we already have a strong brand history and business track record.’

From full-time work, to full-time entrepreneur

With all her success behind her, and with an exciting vision for the business ahead, what is Lauren’s best advice for other entrepreneurs making the leap into a full-time focus on their startup?

Looking back on her career so far, Lauren reflects: ‘You don’t have to have a linear path in life. You can do the things that suit you and suit your disposition. You can take a squiggly path: go up and down and sideways, as long as you keep moving forward. I think that’s the main thing.’

As for more practical tips, we asked Lauren what she would advise new entrepreneurs to prioritize. Here are her top suggestions:

Find your own sense of motivation

At work, it’s easy to settle into the goals that are set for you by your manager or supervisor. But as you transition into entrepreneurship, you’ll become accountable – ultimately – to yourself.

As Lauren says: ‘There’s no boss that’s going to tell you what to do, and you’ll be tested well outside your comfort zone. So you’ll need a sense of deep, personal motivation for what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it’.

Prepare for some financial uncertainty

With employment comes a sense of stability: you can often anticipate a regular paycheck, enabling you to plan for your future.

But, with entrepreneurship, the risk is on your own shoulders, and there’s likely to be some degree of uncertainty, at least at the start of the business. It will help to make sure you have enough resources (or a solid back-up plan) before you dive in.

Gather your support network

Full-time entrepreneurial life is difficult. Unlike Lauren, you might not be going into business with a sibling, but you’ll need a support network regardless.

Whether it’s a family member, friends, a community environment or other support groups, make sure you don’t become isolated in the process of building your business.

Building a stable support network as you begin the journey into entrepreneurship can provide a great foundation for any tougher times ahead.

Related reading:

Profile headshot of Eloise Skinner, entrepreneur and author
Eloise Skinner

Eloise Skinner is an author, therapist and founder. Her work focuses on meaning, purpose and values, and her newest book is 'But Are You Alive? - How To Design A Life Worth Living'.
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