If you ask the founder of any social enterprise why they decided to muster the courage to go out and do something to help improve the lives of others, you’ll probably find a tale of personal trauma and/or reinvention. Social entrepreneurs are ridiculously passionate about helping others precisely because they have lived experience of that issue. The story of Fearless Femme is no different.

Dr Eve Hepburn founded Fearless Femme in 2016 after she had experienced the devastating effects of a mental breakdown caused by chronic bullying, which led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, which was then compounded by the suicide of her (step-)brother.

At that point, Eve was no stranger to emotional turmoil. She had experienced traumatic grief aged 19 when her boyfriend died in her arms from sudden heart failure; she had suffered from an eating disorder when she was a teen; she’d been on the receiving end of sexual assault and harassment at points throughout her life; and she’d probably experienced some form of post-natal depression after the traumatic birth of her first child, which prevented her from walking for several weeks.

Eve knew that she wasn’t alone in dealing with all the emotional and psychological challenges that life throws our way. As a university senior lecturer, Eve was deeply concerned by the increasing numbers of female students coming to her for help with anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia and the general feeling of ‘not coping’. Many of Eve’s friends were also struggling with chronic stress, burnout and mental ill-health. Life seemed to be too overwhelming, too stressful, too demanding. But she wondered why society tended to heap even more pressures on women to behave in a perfectly ‘on-top-of-it’, beautifully manicured, agreeable way, rather than supporting them to get through the realities, strains, and often hardships, of modern life.

After her breakdown, Eve took a long hard look at herself, and realised that the things she loved in life were (a) helping others and (b) being creative – especially writing. (In fact, she wrote a fantasy-adventure YA novel to help get her through her darkest days.) She had loved her career in academia, but she decided she needed a new start so she could align her values with her actions. She had enjoyed starting up zines before, and she realised that there was nothing in the magazine industry that sought to boost the mental health of young women.

So she came up with the idea for Fearless Femme (or ‘BeYourself’ which was the first abandoned name she thought of with when she started sketching the idea for Fearless in October 2015. See her original scribblings below!): a magazine for young women and anyone who identified as female, written by young women and femmes, which offered support and awareness around mental health.

What were her next steps? How do you start up a social enterprise? Well, Eve started by applying for, and winning, a place on the amazing Good Ideas Academy for social entrepreneurs, which is run by The Melting Pot in Edinburgh. There she honed her social mission, her business model, and she applied for, and won, a small grant from FirstPort to get Fearless Femme started.

Importantly, she reached out to a talented and experienced group of people to become Fearless Femme’s first Board of Directors (Keira Oliver, Eona Craig, Monica Martins, Sam Abrahams, and Alison Outred – who you can meet here and see a pic of their first board meeting below!).

The Fearless Femme Board legally incorporated Fearless Femme as a Community Interest Company in May 2017. She also reached out to some creative volunteers, Bonnie Calderwood Aspinwall and Ashling Larkin, to start putting ideas into practice and to encourage the most bad-ass contributors you can imagine submit creative content.

Together with the University of Edinburgh, she then applied for, and won, a Social Innovation Fund – from the Scottish Government and European Union (EU) – to create a 12-month project partnership with the University of Edinburgh to launch the magazine and hire staff. She also won a place as a student in the Bank of Scotland School for Social Entrepreneurs programme.

Since January 2018, Fearless Femme has employed a small but perfectly formed team of staff working to improve the lives of young women, NBs and femmes by supporting their mental health (Eve Hepburn, Monica Martins, Cinzia DuBois, Bonnie Calderwood Aspinwall and Ashling Larkin, who you can meet here). Our aim is to change the world, no less, by de-stigmatising mental health and helping all young women, femmes and non-binary folk create a better mental place for themselves.

If you want to be part of our community – to help support others and to save lives –  please Join the Rebelleon or donate here (for we are all rebelles against mental health stigma and gender inequality!).

And if you’re feeling creative, please consider contributing to our magazine – we accept articles, short stories, poetry, illustrations, comics, photography, reviews, podcasts, videos, spoken-word performances and more.

You can find more information about submissions and our upcoming issue themes here, or just drop us a line at info@fearlessfemme.co.uk.