‘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.