Advertisement
UK markets closed
  • FTSE 100

    8,252.91
    +29.57 (+0.36%)
     
  • FTSE 250

    21,202.89
    +13.98 (+0.07%)
     
  • AIM

    786.17
    +4.64 (+0.59%)
     
  • GBP/EUR

    1.1903
    +0.0024 (+0.21%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.2990
    +0.0075 (+0.58%)
     
  • Bitcoin GBP

    45,188.81
    +330.20 (+0.74%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,225.66
    +27.09 (+2.26%)
     
  • S&P 500

    5,615.35
    +30.81 (+0.55%)
     
  • DOW

    40,000.90
    +247.15 (+0.62%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    82.18
    -0.44 (-0.53%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    2,416.00
    -5.90 (-0.24%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    41,190.68
    -1,033.34 (-2.45%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    18,293.38
    +461.05 (+2.59%)
     
  • DAX

    18,748.18
    +213.62 (+1.15%)
     
  • CAC 40

    7,724.32
    +97.19 (+1.27%)
     

Meet the air quality crusader on a mission to stop toxic air

My First Boss: The people who helped shape business leaders

Francesca Brady, right, founded AirRated to drastically improve the quality of air in our homes, offices, schools and gyms. Photo: Getty Images
Francesca Brady, right, co-founded AirRated to drastically improve the quality of air in our homes, offices, schools and gyms. Photo: Getty Images

Francesca Brady is co-founder and CEO of indoor air quality certification business AirRated. She won the 2024 Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award.

After my Masters degree in environmental geosciences, I started a lifestyle business selling drawings and furniture at Spitalfields Market. It was a temporary stop gap; I wanted to get creative after a heavy academic university life.

My first proper job was at a property technology start-up company. I worked in admin initially as I was so niche in terms of what I studied. I wasn’t geared up to go into finance or marketing, and I didn’t know what I was good at.

ADVERTISEMENT

Read More: 'I wasn't an obvious choice as partner but our firm's success is down to retaining talent'

I was booking meeting rooms and making tea, but I started to naturally fall into a sales role. Perhaps it was the scientific communicator in me that knew how to understand this complex topic of property technology, all the variations of air quality sensors, and how they worked with smart building management systems.

Steve Smith was head of sales and in the beginning his force of nature personality took me by surprise. You have people who are clever and switched on in academia, and Steve was the same, but once I got to know him I could see how supportive he was of me trying to find my feet.

“As long as you are honest with me, I don’t mind what you do,” he told me. “If you are, we can sort it out together.”

From landmarks like Battersea Power Station to student accommodation across the UK, AirRated is involved in countless projects to improve indoor air quality nationwide.
From landmarks like Battersea Power Station to student accommodation across the UK, AirRated is involved in countless projects to improve indoor air quality nationwide.

There’s no doubt that he influenced my management style today.

The first client I secured was at the Met Office. I had worked hard to get a meeting and was overjoyed when Ralph James agreed to it. I took Steve with me on the train and sent an email to Ralph, who messaged me back saying he thought the meeting was tomorrow. I was horrified. I looked at Steve knowing his honesty mantra, but still I called Ralph immediately.

He said he couldn’t fit me in but I could blame the mix up on him. Steve found the humour and Ralph did find 10 minutes in the day. We have stayed close ever since and he continues to be supportive of young engineers.

I don't normally mess up and I am my biggest critic. People can sense that, and they try to make me feel more confident in myself.

I thought if I was in Ralph’s team at the Met Office I would have the best boss. In fact, if you could combine both Steve and Ralph they would be the ideal ‘super boss’.

Read More: ‘I want my staff to feel good’: The company that operates without job titles or clocks

Steve had such a calm nature in the direction of travel he wanted us to go in. To such a degree that even if it was the wrong direction he had so much conviction that I was fully invested in where he was going.

He would change his mind but not with a knee-jerk decision, he would justify and communicate why he was making the turnaround. These are all things I aspire to in my management.

We would work from home on Fridays, but Steve would never call to see what I was up to. It never felt like he was micromanaging and I felt like I had autonomy in my role.

Francesca Brady, right, co-founded AirRated to drastically improve the quality of air in our homes, offices, schools and gyms. Photo: Getty
Pensions specialist Tracy Blackwell and Francesca Brady attend the Veuve Clicquot BOLD Woman Award Ceremony. Photo: Getty

I saw a gap in the market at the property technology company. They had lots of different sensors and tracking devices, and they were monitoring air quality performance in buildings.

I understood the business case for why people should invest in the tech, but I saw there was very little context on the smart buildings front to bring the data to life in a way that was valuable for people to use and understand.

People are buying monitors, but how do we capitalise on the data they are receiving? The tech exists and creating a ratings system was something that I could build.

It was a natural spin off. I had exposure to business, the academic understanding of how to take it further and I acted as the figurehead. I wouldn’t have described myself as a business CEO, more as an advocate, someone who was passionate about getting it off the ground. We did that in 2020 with my co-founders Olga Turner-Baker and Oliver Spriggs.

Read More: 'We had to write down our peers' strengths – our boss mailed them to their parents'

It’s not mandatory to track and rate the performance of air quality in spaces, which I find incredible. And when COVID hit it was about a duty of care and peace of mind coming into spaces.

Our product was built for commercial spaces and we had to pivot into multiple other sectors in retail, residential and industrial settings.

Using the platform I had at the Veuve Clicquot Bold Awards, air quality is something that isn’t talked about a lot and if I could talk about it in a room full of influential people maybe we can get the message out there to demand results for both internal and external pollution.

Francesca Brady will join Veuve Clicquot’s newly launched Bold Open Database, the first global, open and innovative database, aimed to bring together female entrepreneurs worldwide