‘PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CRAVING FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTION’: HOW ONE FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR HELPED BUSINESSES connect DURING lockdown

When women support women, wonderful things happen: a motto we truly believe in here at Sparkle Up North. That’s why our latest story features a female entrepreneur who has used her knowledge and contacts to help new businesses connect with others online while we have been in lockdown.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, nearly half a million new start-ups were registered with Companies House last year and in a survey of people’s career plans for the next year, 18% of respondents plan to launch their own business in 2021.

We spoke to Janine Friston, Founder of Promoting Trafford and The Accountability Lounge Facebook Group. We discussed the new business owners she has been supporting this year to find out why people are taking the plunge during these challenging times.

She told us: ‘I think Covid 19 has brought people, communities and business owners together in a way that will hopefully continue.’

Supporting local businesses

Twelve months ago, Janine was running Promoting Trafford, an online directory and mobile app that shares positive stories and helps raise awareness of businesses based in Trafford. She was looking to potentially franchise the business into other areas when the pandemic hit.

‘At that point, the focus became about promoting the community spirit, sharing what was going on in the community, positive stories, and just trying to keep people positive and let them know what help and support was available for them.’

It was a similar story in her popular ‘Local Women in Business’ group, which now has over 650 members all from the area in and around Trafford, to help them make local connections:

‘We were meeting every month, getting to know each other, supporting each other, doing spotlights and presentations… it has been a fantastic group to share good days and bad days, asking for advice and improving confidence.’

Janine says she feels business owners having to connect online has meant friendships have formed faster over the last year, with many feeling the benefits of these collaborations with people they might not otherwise have met:

‘We’re going to more meetings because networking on Zoom is easier for people in business generally. Normally, you’d have to spend time travelling to get somewhere, and it can be half a day gone sometimes by the time you get home.’

‘Networking online is quicker and more convenient for many people.’

What’s most important, is that Janine’s networking groups are allowing real, successful relationships to be formed:

‘I am often told how much the networking groups have built both friendships and businesses on the back of it. A number of the business owners’ original clients, who now go on to recommend them, came from being part of my business network.’

With government restrictions slowly being lifted next week, I asked Janine if she has any plans to return to face-to-face networking, or if she will continue to arrange for people to meet online?

‘I’m actually now in the process of planning our very first ‘Women in Business’ get together. I’m hopefully picking out a local restaurant for about 30 or 40 of us to get together, socially-distanced and within the restrictions of a restaurant.’

‘I think people are craving face-to-face interaction, I asked the group if anyone fancies a get together and the response was positive, even though it feels a little odd.’

But, she is very conscious that the relationships she has built for herself and helped others build online over the last year will continue, so the option to connect via Zoom will still be there for those who prefer to meet online.

The Accountability Lounge group

Whilst running her two groups, Janine has identified a group of business owners that need support and help when starting or running their businesses. As a result, she set up The Accountability Lounge group on Facebook.

‘When new business owners are starting out they need to grow their knowledge and confidence. For those already running a business, they may struggle to complete all their goals as they work IN their business or feel overwhelmed. ‘

‘The Accountability Lounge really came about because I like helping people. I’m not a coach, I’m not a trainer or anything like that, but I can give them my experience and my mentorship. I can give them my time and support, to listen, talk through their ideas or questions, make a plan with them and help them achieve their goals by being accountable for completing their to-do lists.’

The idea for the group is to provide courses, challenges, freebies, support and tips. Janine wants it to be a place where people could come and ask questions, where she, and members of the group can give them information to help, so  they can work through at their own pace.

‘I want to be able to help people by saying, ‘I’ve been where you are now, I’ve been through the questions you’re asking. Questions such as; Do I need to have branding? Do I need a website? What social media platforms do I need? How do you go about networking? All these questions and thoughts that people go through or worry about.’

‘I just like seeing people doing what they want to do. If you’ve got a passion to start a business, an idea or talent I can help you to go for it.’

So, what one piece of advice would Janine give to anyone just starting out a new business?

‘Do something you really love. You are going to work long hours, particularly in the early stages of starting out… You need to make sure you do something that you’re passionate about, and you know about, because you are going to be living and breathing this every day.’

Celebrating local business successes

While talking to Janine it’s clear that she, like us here at Sparkle Up North, is keen to celebrate the many success stories of some amazing, innovative business women in the north. There have been some positive tales from the past 12 months and she wants to share those.

That’s why, in June, she set up a ‘Local Hero’ award: her followers were invited to nominate someone who was making a difference in their community during the pandemic, and she would send them a virtual certificate for them to print out and display at home.

Earlier in 2021, she followed that up with another awards ceremony, The Trafford Business and Community Awards, which gained a lot of interest. It celebrated local businesses, community groups and individuals, and what they’ve achieved in the last 12 months:

‘In my head it was a small way to say thank you, but it just grew and grew into an amazing online event.  It’s a mixture of ‘Businesses of the Year’ in different categories and also community information as well – so superheroes of the community that have gone above and beyond.’

‘We had an online event, I had over 5 ½ thousand five votes within a week and myself and my two sponsors did a live Facebook stream to announce the winners. I couldn’t believe the amount of nominations I had, but since then 1000s of people have downloaded and watched the awards.’

‘That was what people needed at the start of 2021, as we were in lockdown again… Even at the end of the night everyone was asking when the next event will be! ’

For Janine, these are proof that anyone who has an idea for a business or campaign must do what they can to make it become a reality:

‘You never know what’s going to come from your idea, think big and be positive.’

Since then Janine has  won the local ‘Business Leader in the Community’ award for International Women’s Day, as well as been a finalist in the Altrincham and Sale Chamber of Commerce Business Awards for Micro Business of the Year. 

Things are on the up for this female entrepreneur, with more initiatives in the pipeline – including a local online business magazine and a ‘Women in Business networking group and podcast!

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Janine for sharing her story with Sparkle Up North and wish her the very best of luck in 2021.

If you’d like to be considered to be included in our online magazine, drop us a line on sparkleupnorth@gmail.com or follow us www.twitter.com/sparkleupnorth www.instagram.com/sparkleupnorth and www.facebook.com/sparkleupnorth

‘If 2020 hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have taken the online route’: FROM NAIL TECH TO BUSINESS COACH DURING THE PANDEMIC

Here at Sparkle Up North, we want to showcase the amazing work northern female entrepreneurs have been doing, despite the effects of Covid on their businesses and their own health. In the third of our featured stories, we spoke to Michelle Mills.

When Michelle first started her business, she had no idea it would lead to her coaching other female entrepreneurs and creating an award-winning podcast.

A stay-at-home mum of three, whose partner often worked away from home, she knew she needed a career to progress in and a business to grow to take her away from being ‘just’ a mum.

‘It wasn’t even about the money, it was more for me,’ she told Sparkle Up North. ‘I knew that I needed something for myself to be productive. I knew that I needed something to focus on to get me through it. Otherwise, my mental health was just going to go into a big decline.’

She began a crafting business, crocheting items for children and making cloth nappies, before moving into slime and then press on nails. As a qualified nail technician of 10 years it was something she really enjoyed and she ended up setting up a YouTube channel to go alongside the business:

‘They were kind of like craft channels. My income was selling the craft items and the content I was creating and putting out was all secondary.’

But, as many of us know, being a mum and running your own company takes up a lot of time and so editing her videos soon became too time-consuming, she decided, instead, to focus on making her product.

But she soon discovered a passion for helping other business owners and found her passion for creating content reignited, deciding to revamp her YouTube channel in the form of a podcast.

‘There’s a limit to how many sets of nails I can make in a day, whereas there’s not a limit to how many people I can help in a day. That was a ‘pivot’ moment for me there and I have engagement on my podcast that I would never get in a group.’

Coaching fellow women in business

Michelle says that it was always her goal to become a business coach while her children were young, she has found her calling in helping people launch and scale their businesses – something they often can’t or don’t want to, do on their own:

‘All the tedious things that other people don’t like doing, that’s what I like to do! I’ve built so many successful businesses myself, I realised I couldn’t keep changing what I was doing, so I decided to change what other people do instead.’

As a coach, Michelle has worked with lots of women and men who have an amazing idea for a business, or something that they are really passionate to create, and she’s also seen that often they don’t know the steps they need to take to make it a success.

‘I come off a call with a client and I’m so vamped. It’s like my little addiction: starting everything up and going through the launch process, taking things back to the drawing board. And that’s what people need help with.’

Following her own good advice, she has decided to niche down to helping small business owners to grow their CEO mindset enabling them to scale up and think bigger:

‘If I’d known eight years ago, what I knew today, God, I’d be retiring now. Yeah, I really would be able to retire because I would just be able to put everything in to practice.’
Moving her business online when the pandemic began.’

Just as many women in business have had to move their sales and services online over the last year, Michelle looked to do the same with her products. It was a huge success and she is certainly positive about the affect Covid 19 has had on her:

‘I think if 2020 hadn’t gone on, I would definitely still be working as a nail tech, I don’t think I would have taken the online route as quickly as I did.’

It’s clear that running her business heavily through social media has helped Michelle on her road to success. She explains it has allowed her to reach out in a completely different way:

‘I’ve always been an introverted extrovert. I find that by connecting to people online, I get my message across better than if you meet me in real person. I’m not as bolshie as what I seem online.’

And that’s clearly resonated with a lot of female entrepreneurs. Since moving online, Michelle has found her voice and is helping women through her Facebook group and now, her podcast.

Award-winning podcast, She Makes Biz Talk

At the beginning of this year, Michelle’s podcast “She Makes Biz Talk” was named “Best Entertainment Podcast” in the Podcasting for Business Indie awards, even though the podcast was only 6 weeks old at the time of entry.

Michelle was, and remains still, massively proud of her accomplishment – rightly so we think!

You can find out more about Michelle here, with her fab podcast here and the episode which features our very own Amy Downes: The Content Planning Wizard here.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Michelle for sharing her story with Sparkle Up North and wish her the very best of luck in 2021.

If you’d like to be considered to be included in our online magazine, drop us a line on sparkleupnorth@gmail.com or follow us www.twitter.com/sparkleupnorth www.instagram.com/sparkleupnorth and www.facebook.com/sparkleupnorth