Loral Quinn of ‘Sustainably’: “Recruit people who are not like you”

Recruit people who are not like you. Having a diverse team helps you build better products. As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Loral Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Sustainably. Loral is an award-winning global digital marketer and strategist with strong background and experience in scaling […]

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Recruit people who are not like you. Having a diverse team helps you build better products.


As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Loral Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Sustainably.

Loral is an award-winning global digital marketer and strategist with strong background and experience in scaling businesses. Before co-founding Sustainably, she was working in the investment industry, as head of digital strategy and digital marketing for a FTSE100 business. Named one of BIMA’s top 100 people in digital in the UK, and chosen by insider.co.uk as one of its Twenty Women to Watch, she holds a degree in communication, a post-grad in digital marketing, and is a Google Squared alumni.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

In my last role, I set up and scaled the digital team of an investment company from 6 countries and 40bn dollars in assets to over 30 countries with 400bn dollars in assets in 10 years.

I was the chair of the British Interactive Media Association in Scotland, a member of the Marketing Society Scotland’s diversity and inclusion committee, and a Google Squared alumni.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The inspiration for Sustainably was a mix of Tom’s Shoes (when you buy something you do something good), Acorns Investing (which rounded up your spare change to your investment portfolio) and Pokemon Go (gamifying within reality) but we wanted to create tech that did good. I come from a line of strong women with my mother as a force of nature and I think I am too, and Eishel (my daughter and co-founder) is exactly the same.

We never really thought much about why we were doing it. We just got on and did it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Naivety — we thought we could build a fintech product in 6 months but it didn’t quite happen like that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I remember thinking at the time “wow” about the founder of Playmob, Jude Ower, who Richard Branson had supported We set out to solve a real problem. Never at that time did we actually think that Richard Branson would support us, but he named us his startup of the year in 2019. There were also various serendipitous moments including hearing Charity Water founder Scott Harrison speaking at Startup Grind, where I heard Miguel Mckelvery the co-founder of WeWork talking about the Creator Awards. Again, never did we think we’d be on the same stage as Scott, coming in the top 3 startups out of 2,000 globally at Startup Grind Europe, or winning the WeWork Creator Awards, securing WeWork as an investor.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Inequality in society means women are much more likely to have more caring responsibilities, which makes it inherently harder to start a business.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

So, some advice to all you future female co-founders or leaders.

Be bold

Spot opportunities and take them

Take a risk — a very successful inspiring women once told me “what’s the riskiest thing you can do — do that. You can always go back to doing what you did before.”

Ask for help. SO many people want to give back, as they know they were helped too.

Surround yourself with smart people

Learn new things every day

Use the network and reach out for help

For companies and governments

Develop women and set standards to make this happen. Learn about unconscious bias.

Teach women business skills not just confidence skills and set working practices to make it easier for women to work like flexible working.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Because it’s great to be your own boss and set your own path and how you want to see things happen. Be the role model for future generations.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?

You can have a life. It’s hard but if you are determined and passionate you can do it.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

No — you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset and be very resilient. Being a founder doesn’t come with a manual.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t burn yourself out — it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Recruit people who are not like you. Having a diverse team helps you build better products.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — things like funding or converting business customers might take longer than you think so always have a contingency plan

It takes way longer to do things than you think — Open Banking took longer than we expected to enable us to access bank APIs

Expect the unexpected — you never know who you could meet, like Richard Branson!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Diversity: 75% of our core team are female: 50% of whom are working mothers, and 13% from other minority groups including LGBTQ. We actively take CodeClan graduates, with for example, a developer who has 20 years’ experience flying helicopters. All of the women are independently involved in the tech community and have leadership positions in groups such as Scottish Government’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls, Gamstop, Datalab, Girl Geeks, Girls who Code and SWiT. Our culture is flexible with supporting policies.

Product and customers: Sustainably is the Stripe for impact. We turn payments into positive impact. Sustainably lets you give to causes you care about by micro-donating your spare change automatically every time you shop, and enables brands to instantly give to causes their customers and employees care about, hyper-localizing and personalizing their social responsibility at scale.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Michelle Obama and/or Melinda Gates

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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