Lexi Willetts and Marina Pengilly featured

Inspirational Woman: Marina Pengilly | CMO & Co-Founder, Little Black Door

Lexi Willetts and Marina PengillyMarina Pengilly is a South African entrepreneur based in London.

Former founder of lifestyle brand Who Loves You and retail consultant, Marina is the CMO and co-founder of Little Black Door. She has a passion for sustainability and nurturing and growing communities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did! I wrote a business plan when I was 16 and I drew it out on an A3 card. Sustainability and nurturing communities were at the core of it and it had several concepts that were under the overarching business which consisted of fish farms, renewable energy, affordable housing, and so on. This card is pinned inside my wardrobe, it is now a little worn around the edges but it has moved with me and is a constant reminder that one can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Countless. The most prominent one I would say was my first ever business, Who Loves You. Who Loves You was a healthy eatery based in Chelsea. I founded it when I was 24 without having any restaurant experience. For me, I saw it as an MBA in entrepreneurialism. I made so many mistakes and due to my naivety was taken advantage of. However, from this experience, I created a consultancy that helped to launch start-ups. Challenges should be embraced, each one I have endured has provided invaluable lessons and formed intellectual capital, which impacts every decision I make not only professionally but personally as well.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

1p of £1 of investment goes into female-founded businesses. Starting a business is no easy feat. We gave up paid jobs and sold all our designer goods to fund the business during the months we were conceptualizing LBD. For me, the biggest achievement was when we secured our pre-seed funding, for the real journey and development started there.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I put it down to the working partnership I have with Lexi. We push each other and set the bar high.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Tech is an awesome industry to work in, no day is ever the same and it is an industry that is constantly evolving. Depending on your skillset my advice would be, reach out to individuals who can help, I have done this via LinkedIn, Instagram, and Instagram. You would be surprised by the amount of time people are willing to give. Make sure if you use this approach, you have specialized questions. My other advice would be, up-skill where possible! There are amazing platforms where you can develop your skills or learn new ones. Just because you work in marketing, doesn't mean you can't learn Python. They are not mutually exclusive! I found youtube and Udemy to be extremely useful for this.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

You don't need to be a coder to work in tech. Within Tech, there are many different areas where you can contribute, marketing, graphics, coding, etc. I feel that there is a misconception about the kinds of roles that exist in tech and the lack of known accessible female role models doesn't help either. However I feel that this is changing, from when I was growing up compared to students now, tech is an industry that is so in one's daily arena. Every day, we are engaging with and playing with platforms that I feel they would hope to work for one day.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

Companies should view gender equality as a strategic priority and one that is integrated into the day to day operations.

There is currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Relying on the industry to change is not the answer. As a business working in tech, we all have a part to play. As a business initiative, providing awareness of the industry to women has been a passionate one for us. We created a digital work experience last year, and so far have helped over 100 students from several schools across the country. Through this work experience, they have had exposure to what it is like to work in tech. Many of which are now considering placements in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Communities: Women In Tech, Girls in Tech Global, Women in Innovation,

Networking events: Tech Crunch, BeautyStack, Women in Data

Podcasts: How I Built This with Guy Raz, On Purpose with Jay Shetty,

Websites: the modems, TechCrunch, ProductHunt, Linkedin

Books: The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba, Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Lexi Willetts and Marina Pengilly featured

Inspirational Woman: Lexi Willetts | Founder & CEO, Little Black Door

Lexi Willetts and Marina Pengilly Lexi is the Founder and CEO of Little Black Door “LBD”. The Social Wardrobe app - the wardrobe world that sits on your phone, designed to let users see, style and share their wardrobe collections with friends and their wider fashion community.

A former IP lawyer and Head of IP for FIFA, Lexi spent her first career representing football clubs and luxury brands. After gaining a first-class masters in Luxury Brand Management,  she repositioned as COO, working within the consumer tech space.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I started my career as an IP lawyer in my home town of Birmingham, moving to Zurich in 2009 to take on the role of Head of IP for FIFA. After a World Cup cycle, I took a career break to study a masters in luxury brand management. From there I fell into tech after being offered a role as COO with a digital start up. Fast forward 6 years and I am now CEO and founder of Little Black Door (LBD), The Social Wardrobe app to see, style and share your wardrobe, with my best friend and business partner Marina.

We’ve built a fab product aimed for fashion consumers to disrupt the way that they engage with their fashion purchases; promoting investment in and use of quality items. Our playful digital wardrobe encourages women to wear and share their collections (online and off).

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I think the last time and actually only time I planned my career, was aged 17 when I made a decision to apply to study Law & Business. A vocational path seemed to channel my diverse A-level choices. Since then I’ve followed my internal compass, evaluating at junctures where I feel it’s the end of the road. seemingly it’s taken me on a wild journey.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve been fortunate to have been recognised for my work as a lawyer (Hot 100 Lawyers UK), as a female tech founder (100 Women in Fashion Tech, WoW UK), but I guess receiving our first round of pre-seed investment for LBD has to be a leading moment. People trusted in us to build out an idea, that was huge for me.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Almost hard to pinpoint one.  Network is a big factor, but I think starting my career in IP law meant I was working with novel ideas and global brand building in such varied industries, that it gave me the vision to do more.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

To work in tech doesn’t mean you need to be a developer. There are so many areas of tech businesses that are open to candidates. To excel you need to really know your space; how it operates, who are the key figures driving it, whilst committing to continual learning.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

When I see stats that female developers make up 11% of the workforce, it’s clear there is a disparity. In order to redress the balance it makes sense to have tech programmes that inspire women to the space. I look at projects like Kode with Klossy and I think this successfully encourages a new generation of female tech workers.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

See above! Perhaps call Karlie Kloss and get her to show them a thing or two! Inclusive training programmes, financial or vocational incentives to get involved. But this really should be grass roots initiates. Educate women (and men) at a young age of the varying pathways to working in tech and the subjects you will need to study to create a clear career pathway.

There is currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Ultimately this is a timeline thing - encouraging women to enter the space both now and going forward, helps to redress the balance. But ultimately women must also want to work in the space and see it as a viable career option, which means making educational choices that match the industry requirements.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Life is incredibly busy so podcasts fit well for me. My No1 podcast is A16z, produced by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), a VC firm in California, that backs bold entrepreneurs building the future through technology. The podcast is a fab source of insight into Silicon Valley tech, ventures, business models, success stories, failures and founder stories. I also think you need to be aware of how the wider world is working, both on a social and political level. Tune into The Economist for this.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here