How to change career in 2023 by inspiring Manchester women who run their own businesses

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Here’s some advice for any budding entrepreneurs from two Manchester businesswomen.

More and more women are ditching their nine-to-fives and going it alone meaning there are more female entrepreneurs in Manchester than ever – but there is still some way to go, say local businesswomen.

There are around 110 female-led businesses in Manchester, according to a recent study by Paymentsense, which accounts for 3% of all registered businesses. And while that figure seems low, it is actually the second highest in the country after London. Women still face a number of challenges compared to men when it comes to setting up their own businesses. ManchesterWorld spoke to two local female entrepreneurs about their experience in the industry and what they think needs to change for women to thrive.

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Katie Cope, a brand strategist and founder of Keppel Leopard Creative, said: “We know that the workplace is not made for women, it’s made for a man.

“The only way that we can create change, and the only way that we can make sure that our workplaces are for women is to have female businesses that are going to demonstrate and example how a business can be run when it is female-led and it can take into account all the things that women need as well.”

Katie was working in events and seven months pregnant when she was made redundant. Knowing that it would be difficult to find a new job in the same field while she was expecting, she decided to go it on her own. She lost her job on the Monday and by the Friday she was a business owner.

She started out providing graphic design service for small businesses and in the three years her business has been up and running, it has evolved into offering branding services. What’s more, she only works with women-led businesses.

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Katie Cope, founder of Keppel Leopard Creative. Credit: Katie CopeKatie Cope, founder of Keppel Leopard Creative. Credit: Katie Cope
Katie Cope, founder of Keppel Leopard Creative. Credit: Katie Cope | Katie Cope

Katie said: “Helping these businesses, helping female entrepreneurs, it means that, ultimately, we get more successful female entrepreneurs, who can lead the way and make that change in the workplace, to show that both men and women can work in the workplace and we can provide for those needs.”

Jules Roberts, founder of the Thrive Lab, which delivers workplace wellbeing coaching to businesses, also believes in challenging outdated opinions that business is a man’s world. She said: “We’ve got to be mindful to not align with some of the views that are held so strongly by some men, or by society. We need to smash those views because they were never right.

“We believe in the power of women in that we’ve got our place, we know that men and women see the world slightly differently.”

Jules has had a long and successful career in both the business world and as a counsellor. She worked in retail for 13 years, eventually becoming a regional director for Starbucks, before retraining as a counsellor. It was while she was working in a prison that she met her two Thrive Lab co-founders and decided to go into business.

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“You get to a point where you don’t want to follow the beating of the drum,” Jules said.

Throughout her career, Jules has noticed that one of the biggest challenges to women in business is their biology – both when it comes to pregnancy and the menopause.

She said: “What’s happening is that we’ve got many women exiting the workforce and leaving because they don’t think they can cope or feel embarrassed about the way that they’re feeling, or the fact that they’re exhausted and not sleeping.

Jules Roberts, co-founder of the Thrive Lab. Credit: Jules RobertsJules Roberts, co-founder of the Thrive Lab. Credit: Jules Roberts
Jules Roberts, co-founder of the Thrive Lab. Credit: Jules Roberts | Jules Roberts

“If the culture isn’t there, or if you’ve not got the support from your line manager, that is going to be far more complex, but it’s not a weakness, it’s actually biological.”

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Katie agrees that motherhood can create barriers for women in business. Networking, building up useful contacts to help your business thrive, is an invaluable tool for any entrepreneur. However, many networking events happen in the evenings, when childcare could be an issue.

In Manchester, there is one dedicated networking event for female entrepreneurs but it only runs once a month, Katie said.

She added: “Trying to get to networking events takes a lot of planning. I’m sure men would sometimes have to do this, but quite often it’s women that have to bear the brunt of moving their schedules around to accommodate for children.”

Securing finance is another obstacle for female-led businesses. And against the backdrop of an economy still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the cost of living crisis, finance is more important than ever.

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Katie said: “Women won’t ask for finance, we won’t go up to an investor and ask for that investment, generally because one – we don’t think that we’re going to get it, and two – we haven’t had that training to go up to say we want that investment.”

According to the Rose Review, an annual report on the progress of female entrepreneurship in the UK, if women were starting businesses and securing funding at the same rate as male counterparts then it would bring a further £250bn to the UK economy.

Fortunately, the situation is starting to change. Since the pandemic, Katie has noticed a boom in women coming to her for branding advice, whether they are doing it full time or alongside another job or home life. Popular areas of business that women are branching out into include crafts, businesses that involve a physical product, as well coaching and therapy, as in Jules’ case.

Informed by her background in coaching, Jules believes the way to improve the business industry for women – both as employers and employees – is through a better understanding of emotional intelligence and general concern for wellbeing.

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She said: “There are different skills, different abilities and it doesn’t mean that men aren’t emotionally intelligent because some men are very emotionally intelligent.

“I think it’s about being able to utilise men and women in the best way possible for whatever the needs of the organisation or culture are and how everybody holds each other accountable.

“I just think that it’s taken a really long time for women to have a voice, and it’s taken a long time, whether it be men or women, for emotional intelligence to be fully understood.”

Advice? Go for it!

For both Jules and Katie, the resounding piece of advice for budding female entrepreneurs is: “Do it.”

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Katie stressed the importance of finding a community and meeting other entrepreneurs that you can turn to for advice. Facebook groups are an ideal platform for this.

She said: “There are so many different entrepreneurs with so many different experiences and so many ideas, just sharing that challenge, you can get it sorted.”

She described her business journey as “wonderful” and would encourage other women to do the same.

“It doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. I think that, sometimes, people think when they go into businesses, that that’s it, they can not go back to employment and that’s not true.

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Jules said: “Absolutely do it. It’s not as scary as you might originally think, but just be really clear about what it is that you’re trying to do and do it with people that you care about.

“Don’t feel intimidated or less than you are. You come with all your experience and skills that you’ve already gained and if you’ve got a great idea, or a great product, just go for it.”

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