Tag: Help to grow business

Leeds professional dancer goes back to class

A professional dancer who has performed in the Lion King on Broadway has gone back to class in Leeds after re-assessing her own life. 

Leonora Stapleton now runs Be Body Aware, which encourages people to use dance and exercise for their own well-being. The company, which is being supported by AD:VENTURE, a programme for new businesses in West and North Yorkshire, was started in 2019, but its roots go back much further. 

Leonora was a successful contemporary dancer in New York when the 9/11 disaster happened. The tragedy, and a mugging a few weeks later, left her feeling dazed, but it was several years before she realised the full impact. Then in 2017, just a short time after her mother died, Leonora was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. 

In January 2018 I decided to have a mastectomy and went through a massive sense of shame and loss. The reality struck deep in my soul,” said Leonora. 

I had to come to terms with all the layers of the deep wounds I had suppressed. In addition, I recognised the resilience I had developed. Even though my life had changed from 2001, most of the time I had remained optimistic, despite my trauma. 

The breast cancer treatment left Leonora facing feelings of shame about her body and led her to thinking about how we feel about our own bodies. This experience set the seeds for Be Body Aware, which she started in October last year. 

Leonora runs classes and workshops on body image, dance and fitness for wellbeing, and body shaming. She took her work into schools across Leeds and was targeting colleges, universities and businesses before lockdown struck. She is now running dance classes on Zoom, but looking forward to returning to face-to-face work and building up her client base. 

But she admits the idea may not have got off the drawing board if it was not for the support from AD:VENTURE, which helps new businesses and those under three years old. 

“I came to them with literally one page of an idea and I wanted to run with that idea. But they helped me realise it is marathon not a sprint and I needed to plan properly, starting with a business plan,” said Leonora, who has had support from an AD:VENTURE business mentor and has attended several workshops, on topics like marketing and pitching. 

And despite being an experienced dancer, choreographer, speaker and a qualified teacher, who has a Masters degree in leadership and management, Leonora admits her confidence had been at rock bottom when she started the company. 

The breast cancer had really hit my self-confidence, but AD:VENTURE helped me create the foundations for the business and gave me the belief to do it, she said. 

AD:VENTURE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and has funding and delivery partners across the Leeds City Region which include the region’s nine local authorities. 

Sarah Carling AD:VENTURE programme manager,  said: Leonora’s story is an inspiration. It shows that with the right encouragement and advice entrepreneurs can find the strength and resilience to start and grow a successful business, even after difficult times.  

“We know that having the right support means businesses are more likely to survive and grow, which is why particularly now in the challenging times we are all living through the help, advice and support AD:VENTURE can offer are so important.” 

Leonora agrees. “Having a business adviser is like having a guide every step of the way. They are along for the ride! As an artist my brain goes everywhere, but having someone there helps me focus on what actions I need to take. 

“Sometimes in business you stumble. So, it’s great knowing someone is only a phone call away as you embark on your own adventure, she said. 

For more information about Be Body Aware go to https://bebodyaware.co.uk/ 

To find out more about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/ 

Leeds digital agency doubles office space to keep up with demand

A Leeds digital marketing agency has doubled its office space and taken on more staff to keep up with demand during lockdown.

Wildfire Marketing, which was launched by Billy Foulkes and Neal Foster in 2018, has moved into new premises at Thorpe Park Business Park. The agency, which specialises in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), has seen its turnover increase by 50 per cent since March.

The company, which has been given support by AD:VENTURE, a  programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), now employs seven full-time, with several regular freelancers, and has plans to take on more staff.

But Billy admitted the start of lockdown had been hard as clients looked to tighten their belts and cut back their marketing spend.

“It was tough, but by July we were back up and running again and the last few weeks in particular have been crazy on the sales front,” said Billy.

“I think at least part of that is because we offer a monthly rolling contract, rather than tying clients into a long-term retainer. It means clients know we will give them continual good service rather than sit back and just take their money.  A lot of people have been stung in the past by SEO companies, but we’re straightforward Yorkshire chaps and don’t work like that.”

As well as the office in Leeds, Wildfire Marketing has a base in London, with some clients down south, but most in Yorkshire. The agency, which also provides website development and social media management services, was shortlisted in the Start-up of the Year category in the Leeds Digital Festival Awards 2020.

Wildfire Marketing was given a £4,000 grant from AD:VENTURE to pay for equipment including a 60-inch TV screen to display work to clients, a sign, sofa and chairs in company colours, and new PCs and monitors for the growing team. They have also received mentoring support from an AD:VENTURE business coach.

Billy said: “The mentoring and guidance we have received through the AD:VENTURE programme has been invaluable to us as a young start-up business.

“Without the funding from AD:VENTURE the business wouldn’t be what it is today. Having a modern headquarters to show off to clients will help us establish ourselves as one of the top SEO agencies.”

AD:VENTURE’s  funding and delivery partners are from across the Leeds City Region and include the region’s nine local authorities.

Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer Economic Development at Leeds City Council said: “It is impressive to see companies not just surviving, but also thriving during this difficult time, and I would like to congratulate Billy and Neal for all their hard work and initiative.

“It also shows that giving support to local businesses is vital, especially in in the current climate, and can help create much-needed jobs. Support programmes like AD:VENTURE are so important for the local economy.”

To find out more about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/

For more information about Wildfire Marketing go to https://www.wild-fire.co.uk/seo-leeds/

Entrepreneur hits right notes with Leeds app company

An entrepreneur who switched from classical music to app and web development is hitting all the right notes with his Leeds company looking to top £1m turnover.

Sam Ducker, who came to the city to study music, set up Lucky Duck in 2017 after deciding there were not many career opportunities playing the clarinet. The company now employs eight people full-time, is moving into new offices in Mabgate and has an office in London.

Lucky Duck works with some of the biggest, household-name tech companies in the world designing apps and complex websites. Its expansion has been supported by AD:VENTURE, a  programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Despite the lockdown Sam plans to take on four new employees this year and a further five next year. Turnover is expected to double this year from £350,000 to £700,000 and top £1m by the end of next year.

Sam says he has been entrepreneurial since he was a child; he sold sweets to his classmates at school, and has always wanted to run his own business. But he spent several years working for companies in web and app development before studying at Leeds College of Music

Sam said: “When I graduated I worked out there are literally only a handful of professional clarinet players in the country; so I went back to my plan of setting up a business.

“I was tempted by the idea of running a bar, but I had always been fascinated by the internet. Fourteen years ago my older brother who was an aerospace engineer said I should get into maths, physics and programming, and learn how to work with computers and technology.  So, I have him to thank.”

Lucky Duck was launched by Sam in his bedroom and soon grew. But Sam admits he was not so good at the admin side of the business.

“That’s where AD:VENTURE came to my help. They literally sat me down and helped me do all the stuff like accounts, sales and funding applications. And I had a brilliant mentor who has helped me every step of the way,” said Sam.

“I really can’t say enough good things about the AD:VENTURE programme. They are there for you to help your business thrive and they really encourage entrepreneurship in the region.”

As well as one to one mentoring, Sam has been helped with access to funding, including an AD:VENTURE grant of £2700 that supported a digital marketing campaign and purchase of virtual meeting kit to help the business adapt and thrive during lockdown.

Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer of Economic Development at Leeds City Council said “Lucky Duck are an excellent example of how digital start-ups are contributing to the region’s economic growth. It’s an incredibly challenging time for all businesses, so to see a young company thriving and creating new jobs is a positive boost for everyone. Supporting new and growing firms is an important aspect of our wider growth strategy, and we are proud to partner with AD:VENTURE to offer much needed support to help our young firms in achieving their ambitions”

Support available to businesses from AD:VENTURE also includes professional workshops, accelerators, grant funding, access to networks and specialist sector advice. To qualify for AD:VENTURE support businesses must be less than three-years-old or pre-start.

AD:VENTURE’s  funding and delivery partners are from across the Leeds City Region and include the region’s nine local authorities.

To find out more about Lucky Duck go to https://luckyduck.digital/ and for AD:VENTURE https://ad-venture.org.uk/