Janet Bebb – A journey from banking to starting my own business.

Janet Bebb is well-known within the Kirklees business community.  She has claimed the colours yellow and blue as her own as they have become synonymous with Janet and her company’s brand.
We met with Janet to dig beneath the brand and to learn about how her 27 year career at Barclays paved the way to starting her own business, Social Progress.

1. The Early Years

Queensbury, Bradford is where it all began for Janet Bebb where she was educated at St. Joseph’s College situated on the fringes of Lister Park. Like many entrepreneurs schoolwork didn’t come easy and Janet left school with only a handful of qualifications.

Janet gained a wide variety of skills from the many roles she held over the years. It was many years later she found the reason she hadn’t enjoyed school work was due to dyslexia. It was a chance-discovery that happened when her son, Alex, was diagnosed whilst attending Kirklees College, she noted similar tendencies and got tested.

Through her work in key areas of employee engagement she discovered that 1 in 6 adults (around 10% of the UK population – 6.3 million people) have some form of dyslexia. Whilst at school she would implement solution orientated strategies, as is the case for many people with dyslexia without even realising they are doing so.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that dyslexia was officially recognised by the UK government.

Lister Park, Bradford.

2. Realising a potential for leadership at Barclays

On leaving school Janet’s first job was in banking at Barclays Bank where she remained for 27 years, gaining huge experience across many aspects of banking and the business world.

For number of years when her children were growing up, Janet worked in the call centre at Barclays which was less than inspiring.. as anyone who has worked in a call centre in the early days will be able to tell you.

Janet was singled out for team leader roles in her early career as she was always keen to develop ideas and encourage teamwork. So she sought out opportunities to increase the team productivity as a way of energising and developing herself and that of the team.

Janet took the customer service call centre team she was a part of from 35th out of 70 call centres across the UK, to number one.  By using her skills in motivating people and improving systems and processes, she was awarded a Barclays Gold Eagle Award for the amazing uplift and performance improvement.

The success of the call centre project plus the experience gained in supporting and dealing with people led Janet to change direction into change management and a new project covering 18 branches throughout West Yorkshire. It was a great project but Janet realised that once a particular system and new ways of working were implemented, Janet would be out of work … a scary prospect but also a challenge to be faced.

3. A scary prospect is a challenge to be faced

Janet faced the challenge head on and decided that the most obvious route would be to utilise her skills in developing a career in training. Janet went to work with a training provider during which time she gained qualifications as an NVQ Assessor.

As with all things it was time for Janet to move to her next development and she gained a contract with National Day Nursery Association (NDNA) who had the regional contract to deliver a government led employer engagement programme called ‘Train To Gain’. This was identifying skills gaps in businesses and sourcing funded and non-funded training for day nurseries and health and social care provision throughout Yorkshire and the Humber.

Janet never thought those early days would lead to such a diverse and successful path and the introduction to a great mentor and supporter Bob Styring. Bob invited Janet to his team at Business Link Yorkshire, a well-respected and renowned Government initiative helping businesses grow and develop across Yorkshire. She worked with many businesses to deliver business support to SMEs as using the IGB model – Information, Guidance & Brokerage.

Business Link Yorkshire provided a fantastic service but with all things comes change and Janet was well aware that with funding reduced for this type of business support, the service was due to close down and so she started to use LinkedIn as a means of considering the next steps; it proved invaluable and found herself making connections and helping others to find their next paid employment.

This development led Janet to widen her thinking and opened new doors to find her perfect business idea.

4. Starting your own business at 50+

With a little bit of luck, lots of hard work and planning, Social Progress was formed in October 2011 when Janet was 51 years of age.  Since then has blossomed, she chose to set up in the Kirklees area as this has been her home town for some thirty years, having moved here to renovate a dilapidated barn with her husband in 1990. They lived in two static caravans and had two children whilst doing the lion’s share of the ground work and building works which took four years (it was discovered the building didn’t have sufficient foundations and so this had to be done too) before bringing experts to finish the project off.

Hardly the young entrepreneur we often think of, it just goes to show age doesn’t matter. It started small, working from home and has now grown into a well known & trusted business with office space in Honley and Holmfirth. The ‘SoPro’ team includes two full time members of staff in Alex and Luis, two part time members of the team in Esther and Rebecca; and Mel, who lives and works from her home in France.

Janet also works with Enterprise Nation and Facebook on two projects; Facebook She Means Business which supports female entrepreneurs and start ups and Facebook Blueprint Trainer Network as a Lead Trainer.

Social Progress focus on social media strategy, planning, outsourced social media marketing and provide training via open workshops, 1 to 1 or group in-house training. They also provide training externally to many groups and companies, deliver training through the high growth, start up AD:VENTURE programme and Digital Knowledge Exchange and are approved providers of the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges Skills Service supported by Leeds City Region LEP & ESF funding

Who would have thought all those years ago when I thought I struggled at school I would now be an entrepreneur and business owner helping people develop their businesses, helping my community and earning an income for doing something I absolutely love.

And to show Janet doesn’t stop, Social Progress also developed their own Twitter Wall called Big Screen Social that can be used by themselves and other PR, Events & Marketing professionals to display social media hashtags, images and messages at events, conferences, trade shows and festivals.

5. A leader within the local business community

Janet is now involved in many local community activities including being an active member of Honley Business Association, an Advocate for the Kirklees Council Business Hub, Holme Valley Fairtrade Group and is a non-exec Director at fairandfunky, a community interest company with the mission statement: to empowering people to take little steps to change the world. fairandfunky deliver interactive and creative workshops to schools and community groups, run events, host SCRAPtastic community workshops and are the go-to organisation for local and global sustainability education in Yorkshire.

Social Progress also partner with Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Ramsdens Solicitors, The Media Centre and Better Telecoms to bring a free monthly networking event at Café Ollo, The Media Centre on the third Wednesday monthly (9am to 11am) that supports businesses in the Kirklees area.

Kirklees is such a great place to set up and run a business. Not only does it provide easy access to other towns and cities in the region; Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Wakefield, Manchester, Barnsley & Sheffield but Kirklees has it’s own thriving business community. A community that support one another and collaborate.

-Janet Bebb, Social Progress.

Big Screen Social will be returning for KBC 2020. Tweet with the conference hashtag #KirkleesConf to see your posts make the BIG screen.

Social Media Partner