Image credit: @CMBoggiano
Wow, to think that this happened just last month! The world feels so very different right now.
The last #FemaleTechFounder event was a very convivial affair with our brilliant speakers discussing learning curves of 2020 and more.
In case you missed it – and the podcast will be out very soon – here’s a short recap of what happened.
The event kicked off with a Q&A panel discussion on what was the biggest learning curve during the last year with Lauren Riley (@MissLaurenRiley), Founder and CEO, The Link App and Susanna Lawson (@SusannaOneFile), Co-founder and CEO, OneFile.
It was particularly apt to hear from Lauren as she spoke at the very first virtual #FemaleTechFounder event back in April, as the UK adjusted to the then new stay-at-home restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus. The event took place as part of the 2020 Leeds Digital Festival and you can read all about it here.
Eight months on, Lauren shared how one of her objectives prior to the pandemic – remote working – had now been achieved. “It’s about focus and prioritisation. Before I was regularly running myself down. To be made to stop… brilliant.”
Susanna shared about going from literally thinking she couldn’t do this to having her eyes opened up to how a business can be run remotely.
OneFile’s already successful business has grown during the lockdown – the Manchester-based company has taken on 14 new staff including people who live in London and Liverpool.
They are now aiming for a hybrid model of office and home working going forward.
As discussion went on to the unexpected benefits of the lockdown, we learnt that many more people are taking early retirement, or starting businesses than you’d expect – reflecting and making personal decisions that may otherwise have been put off.
Lauren shared observing first hand how tech adoption has gone ahead 10 years in 6 months – “long term adoption for tech is going up”. While it’s never easy being the person to motivate the people under you, she added, the pandemic has been an opportunity to identify the features that would be useful for clients so that when things do ‘restart’, The Link App can be much more commercially minded going forward.
After the Q&A discussion, which was way more riveting than the brief summary above, Naomi Timperley (@naomitimperley), Project Director, FreelanceHER100, Non Exec and Consultant, Alt Theory introduced the community to the FreelanceHER100 scheme, a great initiative she is spearheading to provide training to 100 female freelancers.
FreelanceHER100 is a unique fully funded 12 week business accelerator for women by women working to launch and grow sustainable businesses in digital, creative, media and technology from across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester and Lancashire. All you need to qualify is a UTR number and applications close on 24th January 2021. Learn more about it and sign up.
After Naomi came the networking session which flew by, as it always does. Bonus points for everyone who came in some sort of Christmas regalia, especially Peter who came dressed as Santa!
A natural communicator, Catherine had us all engaged and riveted by her account of the journey in starting and growing the employee benefits company to 55 employees, using a bootstrapped approach from the outset!
“Big lessons… we started really simply… a platform that pulled employee benefits like cycle to work, childcare vouchers into one place”.
“Our tech platform developed through client-led strategic development – when someone asked for a feature we said, yes we can do that, this is what it will cost.
Next time someone else came, we could offer it to them”.
It really is worth listening to the podcast to get in to the detail but Catherine also shared the challenges encountered as they grew to the stage they needed a senior management team.
“We were doing £15 million turn over, without a finance director… our day to day accounts were good but there was no forecasting and rudimentary planning.
We put a structure in place.”
She also shared about the rebrand that saw the company change from its original name The Salary Exchange to Caboodle.
The name reflects the fact that they offer the whole kit and caboodle as far as employee benefits go.
It was one of the more practical lightning talks we’ve had at Female Tech Founder – full of helpful advice for aspiring startup and scaleup founders. We’ll certainly be sharing the podcast far and wide.
“Is there another event?”, I hear you cry?
Indeed there is! Come along to the January event!
The first event of 2021 is on Wed 27 January, 12-1:30pm, register here!
Joining us will be Patricia Keating (@TrishkeatingMcr), Executive Director, Tech Manchester and Patricia Gestoso (@p_gestoso), author of Life under lockdown with more speakers to be confirmed. Learn more about the next event and take part in our pre-event polls!