SPARKLE UP NORTH: FROM JOURNALISTS TO EDITORS-IN-CHIEF – OUR STORY

By Sophie Mei Lan,
Founder of Blog Up North influencer marketing network and co-founder of Sparkle Up North

Another trip down to London, for another exciting media and brand deal… Whilst I have been forever grateful for the abundance of opportunities I have had as a northern-based journalist, business owner, mental health & wellbeing ‘influencer’ and now media coach. 

It came to a point where I had had my fair share of trips to the big smoke to create opportunities, attend events and work whilst refusing to move down south! I wanted to support fellow influencers up north to give them a sense of community, northern brands opportunities to connect and most of all showcase the best businesses the north had to offer. 

So I started Blog Up North network to host events, workshops and a supportive facebook group for us to network, share tips, support and create a buzz whilst developing a What’s On Guide to the North too using the best content and reviews of places to eat, drink, entertain, visit and shop. 

We instantly gained an awesome supportive group on facebook, held workshops and shared opportunities! 

We were lucky enough to be featured in all the press, work with awesome brands and most of all create a site and community that people could be free from judgement, work from wherever and thrive without ‘having’ to move down South! 

As someone who works from home as a single mum, working for national and local media outlets, business owner and passionate film-maker… I know the juggle I feel, the challenges but also my ambitious strength in my most fragile situations. 

Which is why we all need community… fellow business women who just get you! They don’t judge the snapshot the world sees of you as a carer / female entrepreneur/ influencer … They want you to succeed and prosper… one of those was a fellow ‘mum blogger’ Amy Downes, now small business owner, who I met at a bloggers-meet and influencer marketing workshop in Leeds several years ago. 

As two media hacks- turned influencers to cope with family life and fulfilling our dreams as flexible working feminists with a passion for mental health… We bonded well in business, life and our love of Football and changing the status quo for women, northerners, entrepreneurship and most of all navigating the world our way! 

So after many WhatsApp voice memo, Amy’s spreadsheets and Sophie’s creative writing and PR plan… Sparkle Up North was born! A magazine to help northern business owners share their sparkle online and in the media!

Sparkle Up North 

    Helping northern business women spread their sparkle, by sharing their story through our online magazine, PR training and supportive community 

Showcasing the news, stories and skills of businesses up north in an online magazine format and community. 

You can join too to sparkle in the Media and make noise up North: 

  • Free Business, Content and Media/ PR Tips 
  • One-to-one social media, PR and media coaching to create transformations 
  • Online membership to help female entrepreneurs learn PR, content creation and social media skills, build confidence and connections.

Follow Us on: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube @SparkleUpNorth 

Meet The Team 

Our story!

Sophie is the media, PR, squats and sparkles loving woman in rose gold who loves creating macro content (writing articles, making videos and podcasts) and Amy is the content planning wizard, wine and Harry Potter loving woman in blue who enjoys creating micro content (planning social media posts and campaigns)… 

Together they lead Sparkle Up North… 

  • Amy Downes: The Content Planning Wizard

Amy is a social media coach who helps small business owners wave a magic wand over their social media pages, by making content creation easier and less time-consuming. She offers one-to-one coaching through her Power Hours, as well as group support in her popular Facebook community: The Content Planning Wizards.

As a former journalist, Amy is actually from Ipswich originally, but after moving up to Yorkshire she began working in PR and Marketing for a large retail company based in Leeds. She found a niche in creating social media content to support the charity campaigns she arranged and training staff on how to use the platforms to improve brand awareness in the local community.

Sadly, when she was pregnant with her eldest son, she was made redundant and, once she was ready to return to work, she found it hard to find a job that fit around her childcare needs. A familiar story, eh? Determined not to let being a mum to a young child hold her back, she decided to begin working as a freelancer, something she’d enjoyed when working in local radio at the beginning of her career. 

After working for four years as a social media manager for lots of different clients (large and small companies, charities and businesses, busy mums and corporate managers), she decided to focus on exactly how she could make a real difference with the experience she had gained. During lockdown, she created a business plan which looked at her skills and who she wanted to help: women in business who don’t have time to write their social media posts.

And so, The Content Planning Wizard was born. Moving from managing social media to coaching fellow mums in business to feel more confident about creating content and giving them tips and advice on how to make that process more efficient, she says she feels she has found the right path for her business:

‘As a busy mum to two children under 4, I know how hard it can be to juggle your young family life with your working life, not to mention doing the housework, seeing friends and remembering to look after yourself. That’s why I’m really keen to show them that social media doesn’t have to be a chore and to make it easier for them.’

‘My goal is to help fellow small business owners wave a magic wand over their social media pages by making it faster and less daunting to write and schedule posts. That way, they can spend less time on their phones and more time doing the things they love: be that focusing on their business or spending time with their family.’

  • Sophie Mei Lan aka The Sparkle Coach/ Mama Mei

Sophie Mei Lan is a multi-award-winning Journalist, Author, Blogger and Vlogger specialising in mental health, wellbeing and northern communities.

She has a passion to tell stories from seldom-heard people as well as offering her own candid lived experience of living with mental illness, disabilities and being from a diverse background.

Sophie runs Evoke Media Group, who has made and presented documentaries for Channel 4 news, ITV News, and BBC News, as well as working freelance as a journalist nationally.

In 2019 Sophie won a PR Week/ Third Sector award for an Anxiety vlog she made which went viral, reaching 2 billion people worldwide and in 2020 she went on to win Blogger of the Year and was named as one of the Top 10 Yorkshire influencers.

Sophie runs her own mental health, wellbeing and feel-good fitness channels called Mama Mei with more than 23 million views and a combined following of 100k+ as well as Yorkshire Families Magazine to help all families get active and explore the region and Blog Up North community of 500 influencers in the North of England.

She also writes regular newspaper columns for Yorkshire Evening Post on mental health and family life as well as a Mind & Body fitness column for Yorkshire Weekly newspapers and in 2020 her first published book was released documenting her life from “self-harm to self-love to be truly successful.”

Sophie is born and bred in Yorkshire, runs her businesses, coaches digital skills and creates content from home whilst looking after two young children, being active in her local community whilst enjoying dance and studying fitness & mental health in her spare time.

She is a regular spokesperson on radio, TV and in the press talking about mental health, wellbeing, diverse families and her own challenges living with severe Anxiety, Depression and Chronic Fatigue.

Here’s some of Sophie Mei Lan’s main accolades:

As featured regularly:

  • ITV This Morning and Good Morning Britain
  • BBC local and national radio
  • Metro
  • BBC Two
  • Huffington Post
  • Channel 4
  • Local and national newspapers

Awards:

  • Blogger of the Year 2020
  • Top 10 Yorkshire Influencer 2020
  • PR Week/ Third Sector Campaign For Good Award 2019
  • Business Advantage Award 2019
  • Top 10 Parent Vlogger 2018
  • NCTJ Awards for Excellence: Scoop of The Year Award and Campaign of the Year Award
  • Amnesty International Media Award

Qualifications: 

Post-Graduate diploma in Broadcast Journalism (University of Salford, MediaCity)

National Council for Training of Journalist (NCTJ) Accredited (and award-winning)

BA Hons in Philosophy and Italian with Social Sciences (University of Manchester)

Other Qualifications: Mental Health and Gym Instructor – Level 2 (studying both level 3)

Random passions: 5 A-levels and 13 G.C.S.E’s in foreign languages, English Lang/Lit sport, dance, bellydance qualification, Zumba instructor, Breastfeeding Peer Supporter Level 2 and Individual Lash technician! 

My career story:

I always dreamed of doing big things and making a change in the world despite struggling as a child with mental health problems, being from a diverse family and lack of opportunities in a deprived area. But it was my background which gave me the best platform to grow as an empathetic and ambitious person who had experienced the worst in life but also an appreciation of what was truly important, whilst still battling with my demons of eating disorders and self-harm. Bizarrely, it was belly dancing at a local church hall that led me to appear on TV and in film, which started my journey into the media industry. This gave me the opportunities and the income to pursue my dreams as a journalist, documentary maker and presenter. I thought I had landed my dream job when I was working as a journalist in national news, winning international media awards and being a young mum.I had overcome so many hurdles to create connections, study hard at university and, I had used my work as an entertainer and language studies to travel the globe. I even got funding with a newborn baby to get qualified as a Broadcast Journalist due to my diverse circumstances and my knowledge of seldom-heard communities of which I was from. But when I fell pregnant with my second child and I struggled juggling work, studies, running a business and home life, past traumas and my underlying disabilities took their toll on me. During my darkest times when I felt disconnected, I turned to blogging and vlogging online as a form of therapy and community. My mental health and wellbeing content started to resonate with other people who were successful ‘on paper’ in their career but struggled behind closed doors which caused health, relationships and family struggles. Little did I know this was not only the birth of a newborn baby but also my career as a mental health and wellbeing blogger and vlogger. I continued to make documentaries on northern communities and mental health issues for BBC and Channel 4 News through Evoke Media Group which I co-own with my best-friend and film-maker Daria Nitsche, as well as, freelancing as a digital journalist for Daily Mirror, Metro, Huffington Post and The Big Issue.

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