From Lockdown business losses to strutting forward for northern business women with new magazine and community
- New magazine to showcase women in business up north
- Two Yorkshire mums have set up Sparkle Up North magazine & community to shine a spotlight on businesses, brands and influencers in the North of England
- Business owners Sophie Mei Lan and Amy Downes launch pioneering and ‘sparkly hub’ to support female-run businesses out of Lockdown and beyond
- “It can be hard for women to even have the confidence to identify themselves as business owners in their own right, let alone shout about their success and find unwavering support, no matter what challenges they face.” Sophie Mei Lan
- Sparkle Up North supports businesses up north, curating their stories through magazine articles, blogs and vlogs as well as sharing tips, a supportive community and upskilling how-tos.
It’s been a year of resilience, hurdles and setbacks for many but two female entrepreneurs are determined to add the sparkle back to the business community by launching a new magazine and online community to showcase the best northern businesses and influencers.
Two Yorkshire-based business women wanted to transform the lives of female-run businesses, brands and influencers by sharing their stories in a new magazine which showcases “the best businesses in the north” with a passion for highlighting northern talent, championing businesses up north and to grow a ‘sparkly community’ together following the challenges of the Pandemic.
Multi-award-winning business owner, Media Consultant and “Blogger of the Year” Sophie Mei Lan and fellow Small Business Owner and Influencer Amy Downes launched Sparkle Up North – a new magazine, online community and learning platform on International Women’s Day as they want to change the perception of the north and women in business as well as sharing the wide range of transformational success stories of businesses, brands and influencers here.
Journalist, Wellbeing Influencer and Media Consultant Sophie Mei Lan started her career as a journalist by setting up a blog “as well as getting a part-time dancer job” to fund her studies, young children and to use her passion for community driven journalism to shake up the media industry online and offline in the mainstream media.
She said: “Even the barrier for women in business… from leaders to personal brands, from online influencers to people managing a job, family and a business… it can be hard for women to even have the confidence to identify themselves as business owners in their own right, let alone shout about their success and find unwavering support, no matter what challenges they face.”
Single Mum-of-two Sophie, 32, who lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and originally from Sheffield knows what a juggle it can be managing her work as a journalist, business owner and online influencer alongside family, health and home life.
“Not to mention my need to spend time with my daughters, to eat well, sleep and exercise. It can be hard trying to ‘do it all, especially without a cheerleading community around you!”
Sophie turned to online media, such as blogging and vlogging, as a young mum, to vent her struggles with mental health problems and her passion for cheerleading those who “don’t fit the status quo,” like her, she says.
She won awards for her human rights blogs and mental health vlogs whilst being a student at University of Manchester (BA Philosophy, Social Sciences and Italian) and later University of Salford (PGDip/NCTJ Broadcast Journalism- funded by Journalism Diversity Fund/NCTJ) which secured her work freelancing at Channel 4 News, ITV News and BBC News whilst working from home in Yorkshire and setting up all female media company Evoke Media Group.
Sophie, who continues to work as a newspaper columnist, mind & body fitness influencer and now published author, said: “I have been stubborn about staying up north despite all the amazing opportunities London had to offer, I was determined to create my own opportunities for myself and others up north through setting up my own businesses.
“I originally set up an influencer marketing network alongside creating my own content online and in the press.
“Blog Up North has been a great platform over the years to connect northern influencers with brands and media opportunities as well as setting up what’s on guides for Yorkshire and the north of England.”
But as lockdowns meant that TV documentaries and feature films came to a standstill in her company, she focused on writing newspaper columns “my huge luxury and honour to write about social affairs and mind & body fitness” as well as working online as a media consultant @TheSparkleCoach…
Sophie was determined to emerge from Lockdown even “stronger and sparklier than before” and to help other women like her. After chatting to fellow mental health and flexible working influencer Amy Downes aka the Content Planning Wizard, the pair who have a shared love of feminism, football and media, decided to set up Sparkle Up North – a magazine to share positive business stories up north to showcase and support northern business women.
Mum-of-two Amy Downes, 37, who lives in Leeds originally from Ipswich, said: “The last 12 months has been horrendous for many but after every storm, the sun must come out and I believe amongst the sad stories of businesses closing, there are also tales of incredible business people who have adapted their business through the pandemic so that it not only survives but thrives.
“Lots of these are women who have overcome terrible circumstances and those are the entrepreneurs we want to shout about for Sparkle Up North.”
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.
Together the pair have launched Sparkle Up North Magazine and Community as a social business in its own right.
Sophie added: “We’d love to hear powerful stories from business owners and for women across the north to join our online community of entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds, all adding sparkle back into the northern economy and showcasing the incredible skills we have on offer.”
Sparkle Up North
Spreading sparkly business stories
Showcasing the magic of northern businesses, influencers and brands.
Supporting businesses up north curating their stories through magazine articles, blogs and vlogs as well as sharing tips, a supportive community and upskilling how-tos.
Northern stories. Online Courses. Business and Influencer Communities.
Get help spreading your sparkle online with the Sparkle Up North team, we’ll help share your story through our new magazine, PR training and supportive community.
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
- BBC Two
- Huffington Post
- Channel 4
- Local and national newspapers
- 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
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.’