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Meet the clean air advocate on a mission to stop toxic air

Meet the clean air advocate on a mission to stop toxic air

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

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

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

After my Masters in Environmental Geosciences, I started a business selling designs and furniture in Spitalfields Market. It was a temporary solution; I wanted to get creative after a busy academic life.

My first real job was at a real estate technology startup. At first, I worked in administration because I was very specialized in what I studied. I wasn’t prepared to go into finance or marketing and didn’t know what I was good at.

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I was booking meeting rooms and making tea, but I naturally started to move into a sales role. Perhaps it was the science communicator in me who was able to understand this complex topic of real estate technology, all the variations of air quality sensors and how they work with smart building management systems.

Steve Smith was in charge of sales and at first his natural strength surprised me. There are smart, connected people in academia, and Steve was the same, but once I got to know him, I could see how supportive he was in my efforts to find my feet.

“As long as you’re honest with me, what you do doesn’t bother me,” he told me. “If that’s the case, we can solve the problem together.”

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

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

There is no doubt that he influenced my management style today.

The first client I got was at the Met Office. I had worked hard to get an appointment and was delighted when Ralph James agreed. I took Steve with me on the train and emailed Ralph, who replied that he thought the meeting was tomorrow. I was horrified. I looked at Steve knowing his mantra of honesty, but I still called Ralph immediately.

He said he couldn’t fit me in, but I could blame him for the confusion. Steve found humor and Ralph found 10 minutes in the day. Since then, we have remained close and he continues to support young engineers.

Normally I don’t make mistakes and I’m my own biggest critic. People can sense it and they try to make me more confident.

I thought if I was on Ralph’s team at the Met Office I would have the best boss. In fact, if you could combine Steve and Ralph, they would make the ideal “super boss.”

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Steve had such a calm nature in the direction of the journey he wanted us to go. So much so that even though it was the wrong direction, he had such belief that I was fully invested in the direction he was going to take.

He would change his mind, but not through an impulsive decision, he would justify and communicate why he was making this change of heart. These are all things I aspire to in my management.

We worked from home on Fridays, but Steve never called to see what I was doing. I never felt like he was micromanaging and I felt like I had autonomy in my role.

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

Retirement specialist Tracy Blackwell and Francesca Brady attend the Veuve Clicquot BOLD Woman awards ceremony. Photo: Getty

I saw a gap in the market within the real estate technology company. They had many different sensors and tracking devices and monitored air quality performance in buildings.

I understood the business case for why people should invest in the technology, but found that there was very little context on the smart buildings front to bring data to life in a way that was useful and understandable for people.

People are buying monitors, but how do you capitalize on the data they receive? The technology exists and creating a rating system was something I could build.

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

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There is no requirement to track and evaluate air quality performance in spaces, which I find amazing. And when COVID hit, it was about a duty of care and peace of mind in spaces.

Our product was designed for commercial spaces and we had to look to several other sectors in retail, residential and industrial.

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

Francesca Brady will join the new Veuve Clicquot brand Open database in boldthe first global database, open and innovative, aimed at bringing together women entrepreneurs from around the world