Making the invisible visible with Veuve Clicquot award winner Francesca Brady

Brummell meets the winner of the luxury champagne house’s Bold Future Award to discuss launching her own startup, and the importance of confidence for women in business

People 24 Jun 2024

Making the invisible visible with Veuve Clicquot award winner Francesca Brady

Francesca Brady is the visionary co-founder and CEO of AirRated, an organisation dedicated to certifying indoor air quality and providing AirScores for buildings worldwide. Her pioneering efforts have earned her a coveted spot on Forbes 30 Under 30 list, recognising her vital work in highlighting the connection between indoor air quality and health. Earlier this month, Brady’s remarkable achievements were further acknowledged when she received the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award. This award honours women leaders in business, drawing inspiration from Madame Clicquot’s enduring legacy of courage and innovation.

We spoke with her about her inspirations and success.

What is your background and how did it lead you to becoming an entrepreneur?

I worked incredibly hard in school. I also started working from a young age. At 10, I was helping run the tuck shop at the local rugby club. Throughout school, I took on various roles, like overseeing study sessions and representing a volunteering organisation at career fairs. After graduation, I even ventured into starting a lifestyle business. I hustled hard at every stage of my journey. I think that’s why I became an entrepreneur and why I couldn’t imagine living my life any other way.

What inspired you to kickstart AirRated and what do you hope to achieve with it?

My background in environmental science has been a major source of inspiration for me. During my time at university, indoor air quality was described to me as a “dark art”. This depiction was both mysterious and exciting, but also quite odd considering we spend about 80-90 per cent of our lives indoors.

My goal has always been to help people understand the quality of their indoor spaces, what that means for their health, comfort and productivity, and how they can improve it. Essentially, I wanted to make the invisible visible.

AirRated was founded in 2020, during the Covid pandemic. How did you navigate this, and did it have an impact on business?

We spent more than 12 months working on AirRated before our launch party in March 2020 – a week before lockdown. It was terrifying at first. We had positioned our go-to-market product for commercial offices and, overnight, offices were ghost towns. We switched up the business and shone a spotlight on health and safety and duty of care.

Co-founder and CEO of AirRated, Francesca Brady
Co-founder and CEO of AirRated, Francesca Brady

Since the launch of AirRated, what changes or milestones have you achieved?

As a business, we hit our 100th AirScore mark in our second year – this was a big moment for us because it highlighted the desire for the product and meant that we must be doing something right. Since then, we’ve expanded beyond the UK to places such as New Zealand, the US and the Middle East. Each new market has been an exciting challenge.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

My proudest achievement is our Battersea Power Station project. It was an incredibly surreal moment for me. I used to see the chimneys of the Power Station every day from the train window during my commute. Being able to contribute to such an iconic part of London’s history felt monumental.

I have also just been named 2024 Bold Future Award winner at the Bold Awards by Veuve Clicquot. This recognition means so much – with the awards having celebrated some of the UK’s most game-changing entrepreneurs since 1972.

As a young working professional, how do you manage work-life balance?

It’s a constant battle. I’d be lying if I said it’s all great. I’ve had some brilliantly rewarding times with work, but there have also been moments where something had to give. The key is to stay focused on what’s important to you. Juggling everything can be tough, but it’s about maintaining clarity and constantly adjusting to ensure you’re aligning with your priorities.

Francesca Brady was named 2024 Bold Future Award winner at the Bold Awards by Veuve Clicquot
Francesca Brady was named 2024 Bold Future Award winner at the Bold Awards by Veuve Clicquot

Has being a woman affected your career? Have you faced any challenges and, if so, how did you overcome these?

Being a woman has had its advantages and disadvantages. Women leaders commonly have high levels of empathy and emotional intelligence which makes us so valuable in business and leadership. However, sometimes people will mistake your kindness for weakness. You don’t need to change, you just need to have your wits about you.

To overcome others’ doubts, I had to prove myself. I had to sit at the big table and show results and that was the only way to overcome the majority of challenges I’ve faced. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about how unfair it is to be treated differently because of gender or age, but numbers speak for themselves.

What advice would you give specifically to women in leadership roles?

Don’t shrink yourself. Be confident in your views but embrace the opinions or challenges of others. Treat people well. Be flexible, respect boundaries and trust your people. Finally, see the funny side – what you’re doing is important and at times it can be really tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.

What is next for you and AirRated?

AirRated is expanding rapidly, and we’ll begin operating our standard in India and Australia from this summer. We’ve also just announced a strategic alliance with Fitwel, “the world-leading certification system committed to building health for all®”. We’re thrilled about this partnership and expect to achieve great things together. Personally, my journey is only getting bigger, better and bolder from here – stay tuned for some big news in late 2024!