Meet Jane Birkin, founder of Yellow Global a business energiser that partners with companies to bring their ideas to life and help solve their burning issues. She's also a mum and an incredible endurance athlete. We're continually inspired by Jane's enthusiasm for life and the passion she puts into everything she does.
Please tell us your story, what keeps you busy? what got you to where you are today? and what are the most important things you’ve learnt along the way?
Hi, I’m Jane Birkin (the real one!), but everyone calls me Fluff…. I think that probably sums me up! I have a sensible and somewhat famous name which I like to use to get restaurant bookings. Yet my outlook on life is to live life to the full, see the possibility and make the most of every single day.
By day I run my own business called yellow.global. We primarily focus on supporting the hospitality and sports Industry to think and act differently.
We have coined a new phrase to describe what we do. We are “Adventure Capitalists” - Think of us a bit like Venture Capitalists - ie. making a business grow and operate differently. But the idea is that we ADD value and make people see a different part of the P&L and way to make a business work. We look at culture, purpose, possibility and planet positive impact.
I set up yellow 4 years ago after 20 years of being in very sensible and sometimes quite big corporate roles. It was great, I worked in 50 countries around the world on global brand projects. Working across sales, marketing & innovation in leading companies like adidas, Procter & Gamble and Diageo. Towards the end of my career though I started to focus more on leading the Luxury agenda in the developing markets around the world. I basically took on the most challenging jobs in the toughest markets for corporate life to work; Eg. South Africa, Russia, Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Turkey and the Middle East. Training over 500 people across these markets, building teams (with friendships that are still so strong today) and launching businesses in places people didn’t think it was possible. …. That was when I started to realise what motivated me… If people said it was too hard, it just made me think, “Ok - when can I start and let me find a way!”
Setting up yellow was my way to give back all the knowledge and experience I had gathered. Plus it was my way of coming out from under the corporate duvet and expressing my individual point of view uniquely.
Over the last 4 years we’ve been busy and are always learning! Some highlights include helping a global Drinks Company relaunch their entire Luxury spirits offering. Delivering corporate training & culture programmes in person and virtually. Training some global advertising agencies how to work better with their Clients with our unique “ClientsMind” product and delivering thought leadership to start up’s in the Hospitality Industry.
Outside of work, I’m a keen social adventurer! I consistently love giving myself a fitness and adrenalin goal. In 2017 I completed a Nordic quadrathon - 4 marathons in 4 days to raise £15k for Parkinsons UK. I followed this in 2018 & conquered my fear of fish by completing in my first ever open water 2km swim in Perth. 2019 saw me run and cycle over 85km in the muddy hills of Wales to complete the Ratrace adventure. Whist 2020 has been somewhat restricted I’ve still managed to squeeze in my 1st every ski touring race and run my own “lockdown bootcamps” for my friends in Amsterdam. That said I have an even bigger surprise and challenge in the plan for 2021 when I celebrate my 50th birthday in style!
Socially I just love to laugh and dance with my friends who will drink gin or Guinness and dance on the podium with me!
So what have I learned along the way…. 3 Things!
1. People, people, people……………….: You are the sum total of the people you spend your time with and that is true in work and play. I work with the craziest eclectic bunch of people that you would never imagine in a “normal” company set up….YET we all have a shared DNA of possibility. energy and experimentation which means we thrive off each other. This is also true in my social groups, I guess because I’m an only child my friendships are largely my family and my friends mean the world to me - “Mates and Memories” is one of my favourite sayings, you know who you are ! (Thank you x)
2. Never say I wish I had - Always say I’m glad I DID ! *Grandma told me when I was 12!
3. Do what you love.
In what ways are you committed to making the world a better place? What are your ways of giving back to the planet?
See above for yellow.global and how we are committed to making a stand on sustainability and also diversity. Eg. Part of the programme we are rolling out with our Drinks Company client is focussed on the UN SDG’s and organisations like B-Corp to ensure we are planet positive.
I proactively work with Environmental initiatives in my company and with my family; eg. I ran a talk at my daughters school for World Ocean Day after having attended a Wavemaker retreat in Portugal in 2018 and being inspired by all the team @Protect Blue to make a difference.
Personally I have shifted in the last 5 years. I’ve become vegetarian, I don’t own a car, I am really really trying to use less single use plastic. I am currently on a journey trying to understand diversity in race and culture and what I can to do to make a difference - this is still definitely work in progress but I think the key is being always open to how you can influence and inspire others around you who are more blinkered. Is it wrong to say that but I really feel like a lot of my late 40 year old privileged white females just don’t see this issue and it’s safe to say I’m getting a lot of stick when I talk about this topic at the moment….but I’m sticking with it !
What do you love most about your culthread piece?
I love everything it stands for - Made with love for the planet and the person… making a statement and being individual in how you do it! Not giving in to functional expectations. I think it’s a bit like my attitude to life… there’s an expected way to make a “raincoat” but let’s do it differently and make people notice and do good!
What are the things in your life that set your soul on fire? What sparks your passion?
Passions are definitely adventures in the water and on a mountain.
I probably get my biggest kick when I’m at the top of a mountain having climbed for 2 hours and sweating to pieces and then looking over the top. Nothing beats that heart stopping moment of seeing an insanely beautiful untracked powder field below me……………. OMG I can’t focus on this right now as I’m just thinking of fresh tracks and the adrenalin hit….
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to explore the same career path you’ve taken?
Apart from my Grandma’s saying - Never say I wish I had, just say I’m glad I did.
Throw yourself in and experiment early, work out how to follow your passion in the right way for you and learn how to sell!
- I started working in ski resorts when I was 18 getting experience of what it was like to work in the mountains and do what I loved and it meant I worked as a ski rep all the way through my time at uni so I could fund my expensive habit even as a student!
It was great but I realised that skiing was my passion and actually being a ski instructor wouldn’t be like that. Equally when I went from P&G to adidas I thought that working in sports would be my heaven. However, sadly working in the sports industry in the late 90’s was the most male chauvinistic experience of my life… (it might have changed now..?) but I realised it wasn’t quite the shiny, dream I had imagined.
At the time I moved pretty easily to a job in sales at Guinness down in London which then turned into my 19 year career at Diageo. This was all because I had real life good sales experience. I had spent a summer when I was 20 selling aerial photographs “door to door” in America. (Such a long story!) ….THE TOUGHEST JOB I have ever done but I learned to sell at the hardest school and it’s stayed with me forever! Infact, I’ve literally yesterday launched an online global luxury selling course across 11 countries - 29 years later so I reckon it’s a skill that lasts!