A MARKETING expert with business contacts across the globe is now focusing on building business links closer to home.
Tracy Sheldon, managing director of Skelmanthorpe-based Brug Consultancy, has become the first licensee to run businesswomen’s networking group Forward Ladies in the Kirklees and Calderdale areas.
She is busy drawing up a diary of events for the regional group, including free lunches for potential new members at the Heritage Centre at Lindley, the Elsie Whiteley Centre in Halifax and Woolley Hall and the Artroom in Wakefield; a social event at Dewsbury’s Bretton Enterprise Centre; a Mongolian stir fry demonstration and lunch at Temujin Restaurant; and a visit to Coca Cola’s Wakefield factory.
And she is determined to bring the benefits of the networking group to as many entrepreneurial women – and men – as possible.
Says Tracy: “I have spent the past 10 years in London working for a global company. I have also worked in New York, Boston and Paris. But Yorkshire is my home. I used to come home every weekend when I was working in London – and last year I came back here to set up my own business.
“I must have contacts for 5,000 people across the world – from printers and HR consultants to entrepreneurs of all types. “But returning to Yorkshire I needed to make new business contacts here. Someone suggested going to Forward Ladies because it also has a social, opportunity and development aspect to what it does.
“Over the past year, I have been to a lot of networking groups – ranging from the hard-nosed ones which demand referrals at every meeting to the ‘let’s have a coffee and waste two hours’ variety.
“Forward Ladies provides networking and business development opportunities, but it is also a supportive social organisation which aims to inspire professional women.
“They do things that are a little bit different. You get to socialise, but you also hear how people in business have tackled and overcome problems – and you can build up your network of contacts.
“You can choose courses to develop yourself and your business and there are even 50-50 meetings, where men are welcome to attend. There are a wide variety of members – from sole traders like florists and cake manufacturers to high-powered company directors. It doesn’t have an image of being nice and twee.”
Forward Ladies, founded by the original Forward lady Etta Cohen over lunch in 2000, is celebrating 10 years.
It began as a Leeds-centred organisation, but has developed to have members across the north and Midlands – from Liverpool and Chester to Leeds, Hull and Birmingham and the Isle of Man.
It’s website attracts 80,000 visitors a year, with an average 4 minute stay time and its newsletter goes out to over 11,000 people every week.
“It’s inspirational, influential and growing every day” Tracy says.
“I attended some Forward Ladies events and liked the freedom of choice about which events to attend and I liked the fact that a variety of businesses are involved.
“You don’t have to turn up every week, have a big breakfast and be one of only two women in the room.
“There are some really hard-nosed business people in there. It is not soft and fluffy. It’s a quality led professional network that offers you choice.”
Tracy’s track record is similarly business-like. Her first job was in a printing company, where she was its first-ever female apprentice.
Most recently, she was European marketing director for a leading packaging company with operations in more than 30 countries and serving sectors including healthcare and pharmaceuticals, media and entertainment, FMCG and home and garden.
She trained as a graphic designer with expertise in print and packaging before moving into general management.
Her career has encompassed design, advertising, innovation, product development and managing ranges for the likes of Gillette and Unilever.
She also worked on the development of brands such as Smirnoff Black.
As general manager for a creative company in London providing entertainment industry clients with design and artwork, she had control of a £34m turnover business and managed a team of 13 directors and 180-plus staff.
As European marketing director for a US group, she formed a new marketing team in Europe.
Tracy has more than 25 years experience in business – working in areas such as brand and product innovation, marketing, mentoring and coaching through to strategic change management.
She has spoken at conferences in Brussels and Hamburg and taken part in online seminars and social media workshops.
With Brug Consultancy – the name comes from the Dutch word for bridge and incorporates the initials of Tracy’s children Ben, Rebecca and George – Tracy aims to “bridge the gap” for client businesses needing help with marketing, project management, coaching and mentoring and strategic planning.
Says Tracy: “All businesses – from major corporates to family run firms and sole traders – need to understand their brand and what they are trying to achieve from their marketing.
“It is about getting the structure of the marketing right – and it doesn’t have to be complicated – I make marketing simple with The Marketing Machine.”
Away from work, Tracy finds time to help partner Iain run a girl scouts group in Emley. She has also served as a eucharistic minister at St Joseph’s Church and was a governor of St Joseph’s School.
Other interests include painting, poetry and cinema. Says Tracy: “It is nice to be get back to Yorkshire – where you get plain speaking and can talk to people openly and honestly.
“People here have good ideas and a sound work ethic. After all that has happened to Yorkshire’s industries, people have kept their heads up and got on with things. As a result, there are a lot of good businesses and strong people here.”