Lynne has spent the last six decades at the cutting edge of British fashion, public relations, and journalism while being a mother and a global campaigner for environmental issues and human rights. We caught up with her to find out about her life’s goals especially her latest project the SEED network.
When you started Lynne Franks PR in the seventies, could you ever have envisaged that a project like the SEED Hub would be viable?
I started LF PR in the early seventies and then focused on fashion, media, and journalism. I had a long journey, professionally and personally, across the world before starting the SEED Hub in Somerset in 2018 . My work with SEED started in 2000 after selling my PR Agency.
Apart from running a successful PR and fashion business did you find it hard to juggle your own time raising a family too?
Juggling was always a problem for me – and for every other woman I know. It was particularly hard then as we didn’t have the technology to support us that is available now.
People perhaps know you for your PR expertise, but please let us know what other successes and failures you have had throughout your business life.
I ran my first PR agency, LF PR, for twenty years and am most proud of the work we did on environmental issues and human rights. We were additionally a very creative young team and there was a great sense of friendship and family, which still exists amongst the key alumni who I am still in touch with.
I am proud of the success of London Fashion Week, which I initially founded, and likewise the British Fashion Awards, both of which have grown so well.
And so much other work with brands and high street retailers, always aiming to bring business and communities together in any way I could
After selling my consultancy in 1989, I was a consultant with McDonald’s UK and started their first women’s leadership network; worked with Tesco on women’s engagement and HSBC Bank on their work with women, amongst other big names.
I always supported the young people from all backgrounds who worked for me and I am proud that all of them have gone on to huge successes.
I then lived in L.A. where I founded and ran a small but successful PR agency, Globalfusion, until moving back to the UK in 2003. In between I was Chair of Viva women’s radio in the UK and put together the first women’s conference, What Women Want in ’95, taking over the whole South Bank Arts Centre and Festival Hall.
The global success of The SEED Handbook in 2000, which was the first business book for women entrepreneurs anywhere in the world, is something I am very proud of and SEED developed into a series of empowerment programmes for women delivered to a wide breadth of environments from women’s prisons, African Villages to corporate boardrooms and post-war zones.
I got an OBE from Prince Charles in 2018 for my work with women, fashion, and business.
I started B.Hive in partnership with the Regus Group in 2010 as the first women’s business centres which did well until I went to live in Spain in 2013, before relocating to Wincanton in Somerset.
I am proud of all my work and only regret going on reality TV’s I’m A Celebrity in
2007 but it’s all part of life’s great tapestry.
If you had to pick one person, who do you most admire?
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, for never losing his sense of humour as well as being the most inspirational spiritual leader of our time
When you moved to the West Country, you had always imagined having a SEED Hub where people could come together to work, grow, stay, play, learn and share the seeds of their ideas and visions.
No I had no plan and it just organically came together. But maybe in my unconscious mind I had this vision because it is what has happened.
Do you think by being perhaps isolated in the country women feel a greater need to meet and swap ideas?
I live in the middle of a small, friendly town where I have more daily contact with people than I ever had in London. I think women everywhere enjoy connection and collaboration with other like-minded women to support each other,
Back in the sixties, there was a fashion explosion and many of us were able to start successful businesses. Move forward to 2023 and it now seems a lot harder to set up a business and be successful.
I think right now is a very challenging time to start a new business. Everything is changing, especially since the pandemic and it’s necessary to be flexible, forward-thinking, and creative. It is a new world now. But it can be a great time for new opportunities, and I feel very positive.
Perhaps this is why the SEED Hub is so important. How can your Hub actually encourage women to start a new business?
The SEED Hub is a physical space where women can co-work, network, and share their stories. But SEED is an online support and educational system and that’s where we all live today.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business?
Really be clear about your offer and ensure that there is a
realistic market. Don’t put your home up as security. And make sure you have a peer group for mutual support
In today’s digital age, how challenging has it been balancing work and family life?
Much easier these days as women – and men – can work at home
Can you explain what women can achieve by attending your workshops and events?
They find their confidence, acknowledge their skills, and connect with their tribe of like-minded women to work with and support through mutual mentoring, barter and advice
What are your ultimate goals for the SEED Hub?
I am hoping the SEED Hub continues on as a nurturing place for women to come to be recharged and inspired. SEED is growing constantly as an online network and support group with women supporting women and I am now going into the digital future, working with other women on a project where
they can become economically empowered and support those in need
I still have much to do and my most important focus is to stay healthy and well with lots of energy to support the generations to come, including my own seven grandchildren!
Lynne Franks OBE.
Founder of SEED Women’s Empowerment Platform