Working for what women want

Lynne Franks, 51, is a leading fashion PR and business woman and is thought to be the inspiration for the character of Edina in the BBC's "Absolutely Fabulous". She has become a spokesperson on women's issues. She is currently involved in her marketing business, Global Fusion, in California, where she lives most of the time. Her book, "The Seed Handbook: the feminine way to create business", is published by Thorsons at £14.99.

Education and background

I was educated in north London at a local state school and left school at 16 with four O-levels. As a child, most of the time I want to be a journalist or a writer. Having left school, I took a shorthand/typing course for a few months. I worked in a solicitor's office as a shorthand typist, and then at an advertising agency, where I was offered a job in PR, but it involved years of training.

So I then went to work on Petticoat magazine - it was the first weekly girls' magazine. I moved to the features department and then became editorial assistant, and I started writing small pieces. I went into PR by default. I was there for three months, during which I got to meet Katherine Hamnett.

I was then offered a job to set up a PR division in a public company. I decided that if they thought I could do it for them, then I could do it for myself. So I did. At 21, I worked from the kitchen table, earning £20 a week, with Katherine Hamnett as my first client. That's how I started.

The big idea

I always invested the money straight back into the business. As soon as I could, I bought an answering-machine, then I hired an assistant, then a little office in Covent Garden, then I rented a bigger office in Covent Garden; it grew and grew. I always put the money back into the business. I enjoyed it, but it was always hard work.

I sold the business in the late Eighties. I got out of the industry in 1992 and started doing other things such as writing books and articles, becoming a spokesperson on women's issues. I was the front person on Viva, the first women's radio, and that made me realise that there was a definite imbalance in how the world works between men and women; I wanted to be involved in the changes. I organised a big event called What Women Want in 1995. I started speaking at conferences on women's issues and social change all over the world.

Before the women's conference in Peking that I went to in 1995, I had been working on the concept of a global women's network, which I felt really represented sustainability, working in a community. At the same time, I had also been working on a new book about business, a new concept about the new kind of business as I saw it. When I went to California, I was thinking about it a lot and it all came together; it all made sense. Seed is a whole business and a whole concept, with a very big internet presence. We are going to be doing road-shows and training; it is based on education and training on sustainable enterprise, primarily for women. That is where I am now.

Most desperate moment

I was fronting Viva radio but I did not have any control over it. I turned it on at six o'clock the first morning; the head of Viva - a man - had put on a man's voice reading the news as the first thing to be heard. I think that was when my heart dropped to my stomach; I thought it was doomed to failure. I realised that whatever my motivations for being involved in Viva, the people who owned the business were coming from a very different place.

I wish I'd known

Not to let my name be used without having any power over the situation. Everyone thought I was running Viva radio, which I wasn't. I was being used as a front person, but it was only afterwards that I realised I had no say at all in anything that went on there.

Greatest achievement

Putting on the What Women Want festival. I did it with virtually no money and no people and created a large, successful event for two days at the South Bank, London, on every aspect of women's life in this country. There was a big concert at the end of it, with Sinead O'Connor and Chrissie Hynde taking part. There were lots of women entertainers, too: Jo Brand and Germaine Greer. We also had discussions on domestic violence, how to surf the Net and sexuality. I really put my heart into it, and it was an incredible highlight of my life.

Writing this book, however, has also been a great achievement, as it has really brought together everything I have ever believed in and worked at.

The secret of my success

High energy, passion for what I do, and the application of pragmatic logic to my vision.

Top tip

Have your head in the heavens but keep your feet on the ground.

Interview by Hannah Foxcroft

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