Fran Lucroft, Founder of Grace & Green

S1 Ep5: Fran Lucroft, Founder of Grace & Green Podcast Transcript

Chris: Have you ever wondered how the businesses you know and love have evolved? What inspired the founders to create them, what chances do they take, and what mistakes they make along the way?

Hi, I’m Chris, the CEO of Uncommon, a company that creates exceptional spaces for work. In each episode of Alive with Possibilities, I get to sit down with a different business leader whom I admire and discuss the journey they’ve been on.

In this episode, I’m joined by Fran Lucraft, the founder and CEO of Grace & Green.

Grace & Green are a sustainable period care company who pride themselves on creating ethical products which are safe, sustainable, and are both biodegradable, and plastic free.

In fact, the only element of plastic you’ll find are the address labels when sending out packages to customers.

We at Uncommon, provide Grace & Green products for all our members and staff and it’s been really successful and a welcome addition to our services.

Fran, lovely to meet you. Can we start by telling the audience about Grace & Green?

Fran: Grace & Green is essentially an ethical and sustainable period care brand, which we launched in 2019.

And we essentially provide sustainable and healthy period provisions to workplaces. But we also have a B2C store so any customer can come online and purchase us.

And we have an entire range of different period products from tampons, to applicators, to pads, but also, a large reusable line which we’re growing. So, we’ve got period cups at the moment, but we’re launching pants and reusable pads.

Chris: That’s great. So, you clearly have a really good range of products. If we now think a little bit more about the business itself, what actually made you want to start Grace & Green and have there been any specific milestones along the way?

Fran: I’ve been very slow starting it up if I’m honest. So, we actually launched the brand in 2019.

But there was probably a period of like two to three years which were, as I call it, sort of the behind the scenes work where it was looking at manufacturing, the supply chain aspect, actually trying to figure out like what we were trying to do, the mission statement.

It actually started initially as a social enterprise. So, I wanted it to be a non-for-profit and that was kind of really my background. My bread and butter was really sort of working in NGOs.

But then just working I suppose in different accelerators and things like that and being part of programs that I realised that a full profit business was a better model for us.

Launching in 2019 was tricky because obviously we had Brexit, then we had COVID, then there was the cost of living crisis. So, there were lots of obstacles that we had to overcome.

However, we have remained really resilient and we had huge growth in that time.

So, it’s been, I hate the word journey, but it really has. So, to give you an example, we launched in 2019. We were operating out of my basement, which we actually renovated.

And I had two small children, like I had them really close together. So, both were not walking, very dependent.

And I didn’t have mat leave either, so I had both of them actually on a Friday and I went back to work on a Monday, remember. And it’s just a little bit of a blur if I’m honest.

But I think for me the most exciting bit of it, that challenge and various different elements that were sort of involved I suppose, and that made it all the more exciting for some reason.

Chris: Where did the idea come from? Like what was its kind of initial genesis that you had, this is what we want to do. You’re saying you were working in NGOs, but was there like that light bulb moment?

Fran: I was working in the water and sanitation sector, and I’d been working for two different types of organisations over a space for about a decade.

And just before I left, I was working mainly in international development and working with lots of different organisations. So, we were essentially our network association.

So, we used to have broken knowledge between municipalities, charities, and government organisations.

A lot of my job was actually travelling around the world and we ran various different types of programs from quite technical programs such as wastewater treatment to activated sludge population dynamics to looking at how to install a pit latrine.

And we were working with incredible organisations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as it was then. And looking at sort of how we can progress things like sanitation, which is probably one of the most or least sexy subject matters, but vitally important.

Water and sanitation just doesn’t get the recognition that I think it deserves. And linked to that is menstrual hygiene management and particularly in countries where women particularly don’t have a voice.

And I just found it a really fascinating subject matter and actually when I was in that sector, there wasn’t that much of a profile put on this subject at all.

But there were also, so many facets to it. So, you’ve got the product itself, which conventional products are absolutely riddled with plastic, chemicals, fragrances, all sorts of things that have absolutely no regulation on them whatsoever.

And just to give you an example, one sanitary pad for example contains up to 90% plastic.

Now, when you think about that being added into a wastewater treatment system, particularly one in the UK, which we still have very old Victorian systems, it costs the taxpayers so much money.

But then also, the types of products that women are putting in their most intimate area. I mean, it’s unbelievable that there is no regulation on this.

And I was just really fascinated by it and then decided there was something in it. And I had the luxury of kind of stepping away at that point and taking a year out.

Some of it I spent travelling actually. So, I travelled around South America in a truck for four months, then came back and just started to piece it together really.

I mean, I really didn’t know what I was doing if I’m honest. But I just had this kind of feeling and a belief that I’ll just give it a shot.

Chris: And you’re doing something really worthwhile.

Fran: I definitely had that feeling that this was worth pursuing. If my road of Damascus moment, so to speak, was really when I was travelling around to climate change conferences and things like that.

And I loved my job so much, but there was that element that we were being slightly hypocritical to a point, but also, I had no power in those sorts of environments.

It was quite a depressing time because climate change really wasn’t on the agenda. I mean, people talk about eco anxiety, I definitely felt that. And that sense of not having the power to change things.

Chris: The eco anxiety I think is definitely a point that’s been growing a bit more or has grown in me a lot more over the last few years.

And I can see it across our company actually, like a lot of people are. Whether they do anything with that anxiety, that’s a different point. Yeah, I’ve not heard it put that way, but it’s definitely a real thing.

Fran: It’s definitely a real thing and I think that it’s so overwhelming, the problem that we’re facing. I mean, I myself can’t look at anything now or read anything because it gets me right in my chest.

And I feel desperate about it because obviously now, I’ve got kids. You could argue that I’m also adding to the problem by having them. But it is a real worry to me and I care deeply about nature and the environment.

It’s even to the point sometimes where you’re travelling on a chain and you just see all the concrete buildings everywhere and like how it just feels desperate sometimes.

But I think that by sometimes stepping away and looking at the positive stories that are out there, and there are, you can really change the course of where we’re heading basically.

But it is easy to kind of be an ostrich I think and just bury your head in the sand so to speak because I definitely feel that.

Chris: Yeah, sadly, I do think most people are still being ostriches in many ways and kind of bearing their head in the proverbial sand.

Now, B Corp is something which I know is very close to your heart and what a score you have, 146 points. That’s just incredible.

Fran: Thank you. Yeah.

Chris: I think it’s really important for companies to be part of B Corp as it’s something which is actually universally recognized now, and it’s progress.

Fran: A hundred percent. And I think Patagonia, who they’re also, in an element where we feel that obviously we’re selling a product ultimately. And so, we are asking people to purchase something.

It sits in a really weird place because you are asking customers to consume something, and we are very much about sort of ethical marketing and making sure that you only buy what you need. And I think Patagonia also has that stance on it.

But they are very much of the opinion that business plays a crucial role in this. Because if they weren’t doing what they were doing … and their whole mission is about changing the planet for the better, it’s quite a bold statement when you are selling clothes and you’re asking people to buy new jackets or whatever.

However, like their way of doing what they do, I think it enables them to have that place on the table with the leaders at Cop26 for example.

And they are really sort of banging the drum and showcasing how you can do things better.

And I think businesses like the Body Shop, what Anita Roddick was doing, she was such a pioneer in this space where she was probably one of the first people that I was totally inspired by.

Who was almost saying that business is about kindness, and love, and trust, and respectfulness and you can do better for the planet, the environment and the people that you’re serving from where you source your ingredients and how you package it up.

And there was also that element of awareness raising behind the scenes in a very kind of subtle way and making really good quality products.

And I think it’s such a shame obviously that business is no longer there, but I think the legacy that she left was unbelievable in some ways and I think she really set the tone for the rest of us, almost.

Chris: The business side of things, you very much kind of walk this walk. Like there’s a number of product lines I believe that you don’t do because it doesn’t align with you. Tell me a bit more about that.

Fran: There’s a lot of what I would call kind faddy materials that are around like sugarcane, things like that that they’re dubbed as plants. But I mean, sugar, you could argue that PT plastic is made from crude oil, which is a natural source in some ways.

And I think it’s also about making it easy for people to actually dispose of the product. So, we really don’t want people to have to industrially recycle something because people just don’t do it. I mean, it’s a riff-raff.

And we’re moving more into reusables. So, we’ve had period cuts for a really long time now, about three years and they’re such a brilliant product because you can wear them for up to 12 hours, you can exercise, sleep with them, and they last up to 10 years. So, that’s far better than obviously buying lots of disposable products.

And I think we’ve, as a company, have made a conscious decision to kind of market more of those reusables.

And also, working more with period poverty causes and working with local authorities and charities and really encouraging them to sort of spend a little bit more on these products.

But then you’ve obviously got people using these products for 10 years plus or with pants for example, you can use them for up to two, three years. And that’s far better than obviously supplying lots and lots of things like disposable pads or tampons.

Chris: I mean, I was reading some of the facts and I like to think of myself as someone who tries to be pretty open about and understand the world and like I really had no idea like the extent of it and kind of the period poverty side of things. And like it was one of those things that really stopped me.

Fran: Yeah. Period poverty is essentially not having access to products in its simplest form, but I argue that actually it’s completely classless as I like to say. It’s not that you can’t afford it, it’s sometimes about just the access to it.

But in workplaces for example, where we’re doing a lot of work, it’s that feeling of being supported. So, it is an element of inclusivity and diversity as well. And there’s a huge amount of stigma associated with this.

So, young girls for example, have this huge fear about leaking and going to school. So, a lot of girls will stay home. And about 34% of young girls at some point will not go to school. So, that’s a million school days being lost each year.

And we have lots of calls from girls also, in sort of some of the best private schools around the country who are stealing products from shops for example, then signing a register or sending a bill back to their dads or whoever saying what products they use.

So, there’s a huge amount that needs to be addressed here. And we are working with lots of local authorities across Wales and Scotland trying to address this.

So, what is really brilliant is that there has been a tide turn in terms of funding. So, the government is really sitting up and trying to address this because it’s fundamental to society and how it functions. If people aren’t going to work or they’re not going to school, there’s a real problem.

Chris: Yeah. It just shouldn’t happen. It was something I just didn’t really think about. And I’m certainly probably not alone in that topic.

And it’s why Uncommon obviously, we now, have done something about it that wasn’t something that I initiated at all. It came from the team and that’s been great and supported very much by you.

Fran: It’s so brilliant that people like yourself are bringing it out into the open because actually work that we do, especially working in workplaces, we bring men into the conversation as well because ultimately men are line managers and they need to understand these issues to support their workforce.

So, if you’ve got somebody who has endometriosis for example, which means that you’ve got acute pain or you really bleed very heavily, you’ll feel supported because that’s impacting someone’s life and how they perform. And so, it’s so, so important.

And actually, the men that are involved in those conversations, they are the ones that are asking all the questions and they’re so grateful to be equipped with that knowledge and awareness and education because they have daughters and they have partners.

And the same like about the menopause, it’s all about understanding each other’s issues. And women also need to be equipped with men’s mental health as well. We’re doing a lot of work around incontinence at the moment.

Male incontinence is huge and very much on the increase and that also, has its own issues and challenges in workplaces.

It’s a difficult subject matter because people are a little bit uncomfortable about talking about it, particularly with colleagues. But once you start that conversation, it is just normal bodily functions, reproductive health, we’re all going through it.

And it’s suddenly like a kind of blanket is lifted and people are so open and receptive to talking about it and it’s amazing. It’s honestly one of the best things we do.

And it’s really encouraging that when you kind of step away just the testimonials you get from people, particularly actually from men, like it’s really heartening to hear that they suddenly understand their wife for the first time and they’ve gone home and they had a great conversation.

Or there’s loads of single dads who are just like, “Yeah, I need to talk to my daughters about this.” And that’s brilliant, I think.

Chris: That’s really good. When it was kind of first it came across, one of the team had brought it up and I was like, “Do we need to do this? Like don’t people just have their own preferences and bring them in everyday kind of things.”

And it was only when you get into it and you’re like, but why wouldn’t we? For that one time where someone is caught short, like if we can be there as Uncommon and they know that we’ve got that back in that situation, that’s awesome.

And as you say, it costs very little and it can sit there. It’s not like these things are going off and need to be replaced every single day. Like they sit there very visual and it does start the conversation in a much better way.

And that’s the bit, I feel much better about learning that side of things. Because we thankfully as a company, we actually have more females in our business even though we’re fundamentally I guess a property company, but we are very much not the norm. So, yeah, the workplace is a great place to start.

Fran: It really is. And I think huge kudos to you because I think Uncommon was one of the first to come on board in terms of the workspace and that generosity again of sort of allowing people to kind of take what you need.

And you are right, it’s one of the first questions that people ask, “Well, how do you moderate the products? Are people going to go rogue?”

And it’s kind of insulting to a woman to say, “Well, you’re going to pinch a load of tampons.” You don’t pinch a load of toilet paper. And actually, well, maybe in lockdown actually.

Chris: Yeah, lockdown was good currency.

Fran: Yeah, that’s true. But it was a bit of a social experiment in some ways because actually we started stocking schools and universities with these products and that was obviously one of the big things that a university would ask.

But nobody goes rogue. Like we’ve never had anyone cancel and we’ve certainly not had anyone cancel based on the fact that they’ve had Billy robber in there stealing all the products.

People treat it with the utmost respect, which is the loveliest thing.

Chris: Even the design element that’s there.

Fran: That’s the point.

Chris: It shouldn’t be that they are trying to conceal themselves in the background.

Fran: You know what, I think when we try to explain it to people who are like, “Well, we don’t really need to put period provisions into workplaces, people just bring it in themselves.”

It’s like, “Well, firstly, you don’t ask men to bring in toilet paper. You don’t ask employees to bring in their own soap.” So, this is a fundamental human right really. This is about providing something that is a necessity item and that is so important.

And what is brilliant is that all these organisations now, are taking the initiative to supply them for free.

Just to give you some examples of where we’re operating, it might be working in, I don’t know, a construction company. We work with lots of different traditionally male-dominated sectors now.

So, construction might have a higher percentage of male workforce, but these companies are actually trying to attract more female engineers for example.

And sometimes they’re out on tracks at night, they’ve got a portal loop. Now, they will be doing a 12-hour shift, as is a female train driver.

If you come on your period, what happens is you have to make a makeshift pad in the toilets. It’s really embarrassing, you feel awful, you have huge anxiety that you’re going to leak. You are not going to be performing at your peak.

And for something that is so cheap to install, it’s not a costly thing. It’s far cheaper to provide period provisions than it is to supply toilet paper per head, per person. So, it is kind of a no brainer really.

And what’s amazing is that some of these organisations, as you say, are loud and proud. We’ve designed our own dispensers for example, or we have really loud tins so you can see them and they will have QR codes where you can access a kind of more education or a course to understand your cycle.

Because we are as a country completely para illiterate as well. Like nobody really understands what happens on their cycle, what happens on day 1 to day 28.

And I love those sort of organisations that are loud and proud as you say. And it’s just also, the generosity of it.

So, a lot of companies, for example, we work with Wiper and True which is the beer company and they have free period provisions in their taproom for all the public. And that’s happening more and more as well, which is great.

Chris: Yeah, no, very true. So, tell me a bit more about the business. So, how many are you, where are you based? How did the products get made? Tell me a bit more about what you actually do day to day.

Fran: Yeah, we’re really busy and what I think has been amazing about the team is that we’ve all sort of bunkered down and we’ve grown very organically. We’ve had no marketing budget really so to speak.

We basically made a conscious decision to pivot away from the traditional grocery market, supermarkets, and we actually concentrated on workplaces during lockdown, which is insane given that everybody was working from home at the time. It’s a very brave move.

And there were two and a half of us. It was like two full-time, myself included and part-time person and it just went bananas.

We are now working with over 350 organisations from FTSE 100 companies like Lloyds Banking Group, Sky, to incredible SME companies, really beautiful B Corp organisations.

It’s incredible because there is no bad thing about what we’re doing. That’s what feels so brilliant is that we are putting in peer provisions which are organic and healthy for employees.

We’re cultivating that diversity and inclusion element into workplaces and we’re adding an educational element to it as well.

So, it’s not good enough just to put in peer provisions. There has to be this other element which is about that awareness raising education.

And we’ve just launched a partnership as well with a menopause organisation, Independent Health and Wellbeing Group.

And working with Hazel, who’s the founder, has been incredible because the two of us in this partnership can really support organisations from a policy guidelines and educational element as well.

Chris: How many people are in the team now then?

Fran: So, we’re still reasonably small, we’re eight at the moment. And we hired quite a lot of people actually in the last year. We were tiny. Like 2022 I think, there were two of us.

And we are hiring again. So, we’re bringing on additional two or three people and we’re also raising investment at the moment of which to scale internationally.

And it’s an exciting time but it’s very daunting. The team aspect and culture is crucial for anyone’s success I would say. And getting it wrong is nerve wracking.

And so, yeah, we’re taking our time with things. But right now, I think we’re working incredibly hard doing lots of different things. And yeah, I’ve got a very amazing team.

Chris: You’ve mentioned launching to the workplace industry or sector during COVID. What learnings have you had as you’ve kind of been developing the business, growing it?

Fran: Initially, my biggest learning was actually making money. And I know it sounds completely crazy but because I work for NGOs, like we were all about giving money away.

So, we did give a lot of product donations away at the beginning. We invested huge amounts of our investment into R&D, which was great. And that’s now, all coming to fruition.

It was definitely getting a really good FD on board, and we’ve got this incredible woman, Luba, who I should give a big shout out to.

Who has been fundamental really in kind of setting up our business model and aligning it actually with a business plan, which to me, they were always separated for some reason.

And actually, it’s also that stress and anxiety you have around money when you are growing something. And it shouldn’t be because it’s all about the levers that you pull.

And so, she taught me that and I am definitely much more confident now, in sort of a way of growing. And we have grown with very, very little and I’m most proud of that actually.

And then I think it’s just grit, determination, perseverance in all honesty because it is bloody hard and having the most amazing network of people around you who are like pepping you up every day, really.

Because it is hard and I love it so much but it’s super hard. As you probably know, you need that enthusiasm. You are constantly battling lots of challenges.

And some of them might be political, or with Brexit, or cost of living crisis and all of these other things. You just need to have that resilience I think. And that belief that it’s going to be okay.

Chris: From just talking to you, you can see you’ve very much got a clear north star and that’s probably what keeps you going.

Like if you don’t have passion for it, there’ll be someone else out there who does, who will therefore beat you at those darker moments because you’ll give up at those points, or you’ll stop, or you’ll come back to it later, whereas said person won’t. I do think that’s true.

Okay, finally, I really enjoy this question because I get to ask what the guests on the show might leave on the proverbial Uncommon bookshelf for other listeners and why?

Fran: So, I would leave, it’s a very short story and it’s called The Man Who Planted Trees. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it with Jean Giono.

Chris: I haven’t.

Fran: It’s a really simplistic story and it’s about a kind of old shepherd. Well, it was before the 1st World War. The narrator basically stumbles upon him. It’s in the French Alps in Provence.

And he is planting a hundred acorns every day and he made this his life purpose. And in those days, like it was completely barren, the land.

So, during the two World Wars basically, he had essentially planted these acorns every day and it changed the whole entire landscape.

And I think there’s something really beautiful about this story because it is about this solitary figure in a way, who’s like living out there on his own. Who has his life mission with something so simplistic.

And his whole legacy, which he wants to leave, was changing the landscape and making it so beautiful for other people because it was so baked and barren and like there was nothing really.

And when the narrator comes back after, I think it was the 2nd World War, like obviously it was just acres and acres of beautiful forests.

And I think there’s something quite apt about it because I’ve reread it so many times, but it felt so relevant for today, because there’s a lot of shit happening in the world and the war in Gaza which is just horrendous.

And somebody just taking a step away and just doing something incredible and positive, I think there’s something really lovely in that. And it’s very inspiring, I think, that you as one person can really change something for the better.

Chris: I think the story also, kind of links into some of, I guess your strengths of just breaking things down to the smaller bits and just kind of focusing, well, if we do this bit, which is acorn one or day one and bit by bit we get there.

And being very clear about where there is. That sense of purpose rings true through our whole conversation.

Fran: And I think what’s so lovely about it is that it shows people that you don’t need lots of tools, so to speak, to do something credible. Like with a mind and a determination and simple resources around you, you can make huge waves of change.

So, yeah, it’s a brilliant book because you can read it in like a few hours as well.

Chris: If people want to find out a bit more, where can they go and find out more about Grace & Green?

Fran: We’ve got a website, which is And for workplaces or employees who want to get period provisions into their workplaces, there’s as well. So, either of those two sites.

Chris: And we at Uncommon have done this and we can’t recommend it highly enough. So, hopefully anyone listening will definitely take you up on that.

Fran: Yeah, thanks, Chris.

Chris: The last thing is to say thank you very much. It’s been wonderful.

Fran: Well, thank you.

[Music Playing]

Chris: Speaking with Fran, three things really stood out to me. Firstly, Fran’s enthusiasm and passion is infectious. She spoke very clearly about when a decision has to be made, she always checks in with her north star. Having that focus very present in her mind will ultimately help her succeed.

Secondly, I liked hearing about Grace & Green’s focus on the workplace and educating not just women, but men too. It’s really interesting and a brave approach.

And I liked hearing the positive case studies about how men suddenly had more understanding towards their wives and children as a result.

And lastly, Fran is right, businesses provide soap and toilet paper to employees. So, why not period care products too?

That’s why I’m so proud of the team here at Uncommon, to push forward with the Period Dignity Campaign and roll out the Grace & Green products to all the staff and members.

I hope listening to this story has inspired you. And if you haven’t already, follow Alive of Possibilities wherever you get your podcasts, as there are different learnings in each and every episode.