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Kate Jillings

Female Founders Spotlight: Kate Jillings

8 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder

Kate Jillings ToucanTech
Kate Jillings ToucanTech

After graduating from Oxford University, Kate went on to work for an investment bank. in 2009, with co-founder Sian Morley-Smith, she founded her first venture, a business education news website. In 2014, they developed the idea for ToucanTech, to build user-friendly community database software for the education sector. They built the prototype and signed up their first customers. By 2021 they had hundreds of customers, managing communities of thousands and tracking millions in fundraising donations. The team is based in London, Lisbon and Sydney.

What would you love to share to encourage other women to start their own company?

Starting a company can be done in small steps. Do your research (talk to your potential customers and competitors), create a test product/ service (the Lean Start-Up approach), figure out what you’ll be selling and then build the basic infrastructure you need to service your initial customers. Unless you’re doing a pre-revenue fundraise, or planning to run a non-profit, it’s important that you have a product that people want to buy.  So what I’d say to encourage women with an ‘idea’ for a business, is to think of how to test this idea to give you the confidence to get started – once you have your first genuine paying customers then you have the crux of a business, however small you start!


What are your 5 top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Be a good listener, flexible, patient, resilient  and have a sense of humour!  You’ll need to listen to your customers and a range of other advisors in the early stages – and assimilate the helpful bits for your business planning. Whilst it’s important to be focused, you’ll also need to be flexible – almost every entrepreneur I know has had to pivot in their first few years. You’ll also benefit from having patience – like house renovations, building a business will probably take you longer than you hope. And when things don’t go to plan you’ll need the inner strength to take the knock backs and failures and pull yourself up again – and to help with this, a sense of humour will be a good tonic! Laugh with your colleagues and family, and remember tomorrow is always a new day.


Who are the 5 women who inspire you the most?

Jacinda Ardern for running a $200bn economy with 5m people with common sense, empathy and conviction. 

Michelle Obama for inspiring oratory and the practical hard work she’s dedicated to youth, health and equality campaigns. 

Beaty, the community manager of an HIV educational charity in South Africa who overcame childhood rape, abuse and shame to become the manager of MADaboutART youth programmes and township tours. 

My granny Dorothy, who had half her face blown off by a bomb in WW2, went to night school to learn book-keeping and invested in the stock market to help all her grandchildren get on the property ladder. 

Sian, my ToucanTech business partner, for being the most efficient person I know, juggling 3 kids under 6yrs and a husband doing A&E shifts through COVID, but still tackling the toughest work tasks and smiling about it!


What is your Your favourite saying/inspirational quotation?

“Your ‘To Do’ list isn’t going to go away – either get things done on it, or change the list”. 

It’s more pragmatic than inspirational, but any founder will be familiar with the never-ending To Do list and probably feeling overwhelmed at times – there’s no quick fix, you just have to get stuck in!

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