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Women In Business: Hackney Social Support Food Start-Ups, Tackle Unemployment And Help Stay-At-Home Mums

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There's a lot to love about (and to learn from) Kathryn Tyler and Nikki Cochrane co-founders of Hackney Social.

Not only are they two hard-working and successful career women, but they've got big hearts, big ideas and a big sense of community.

Firmly rooted in Hackney - having both lived there for more than 10 years - they became increasingly concerned about rising unemployment, particularly among women and mothers.

But one industry, they tell me, is bucking the trend in terms of recession.

hackney social

Nikki Cochrane (left) and Kathryn Tyler (right)

In the past two years, food start-ups have created 271 jobs in Hackney alone and the industry shows no sign of slowing down.

But anyone with a chopping board, fresh herbs and fresh ideas can sew seeds for a food start-up, the challenge - say Kathryn and Nikki - is to stay up.

So, the two women put their business heads together and came up with a plan to kill two birds with one stone: simultaneously supporting food start-ups and tackling unemployment among stay-at-home mums.

Intrigued, HuffPost UK Lifestyle caught up with Kathryn to find out more.

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How was Hackney Social born?

Nikki and I were having coffee in a cafe in Hackney one day. Despite the good food and environment, it was completely empty - while another just down the road was bursting at the seams.

We realised that the reason business was booming at one end of the high street and not the other, was due to buzz and excitement - both of which could be helped along through social media.

But to build a brand online, you need to know what you're doing. And the brains behind these start-ups are experts in food, not necessarily social media.

There is a lot to be learned, but consultancy is expensive.

We wanted to make it affordable, so set up our own training and resources.

It's complicated stuff, how do you break social media down?

The content and format is tailored to food start-ups.

Social media advice can be so generic, it won't always translate for their business. We give concrete ideas in a simple way.

We've created recipe cards and a social media cookbook as part of our training package, that breaks information into bite-sized chunks. And is presented in a style people will understand.

So you're teaching start-ups to manage their own social media accounts?

Yes. But there is another strand to Hackney Social, an initiative called Digital Mums - where social media will be outsourced to stay-at-home mums.

We are training up mums in Hackney as ‘Community Managers’ - a low cost apprentice to manage local businesses social media.

They're perfectly suited to the task - mums spend a lot of time online and using social media, they are also used to juggling lots of things and level-headed nurturers.

And the job can fit around their family's needs - everything is remote.

The unemployment rate among women is rising, and part of the reason is motherhood. A lack of part-time work and often outdated skill set makes it difficult for women to get back to work after having children.

By providing digital training to make mums into community managers, we're helping both food start-ups and women.

How do you see Hackney Social growing?

Over the next 12 months we will try to get some seed-funding to help us grow.

We started in Hackney, but could expand the programme to other areas that need support and we want to be running an in-house support service for businesses.

For Digital Mums, ideally we'll have developed a scalable mentoring plan. We're currently working on the pilot, but want this round of mums to mentor the next. Eventually, Nikki and I want a mum in every single business.

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What is the main drive behind Hackney Social?

Passion. This isn't about making money, it's a not-for-profit model. We really care - that's why our training days are so cheap, if not free.

We want to bring people up and make sure people give back.

We're passionate about where we live. It's a fantastic place, but it does have problems.

More and more women are out of work and childcare is sky-rocketing. We're feminists, how could we not want to help other women?

You talk about passion, are you also passionate about food?

Hugely so. We are big foodies. We're very excited by everything going on in Hackney - there are exciting and innovative food pop-ups all over.

We've got out finger on the pulse. The food scene is something we are very passionate about anyway, so half of the time it isn't like hard work!

How do you know each other?

Nikki and I met at a spa in Thailand, at a fast - ironically, seeing as we now work together in food.

The fast was intense, but we bonded and became really good friends.

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Hackney Social is in addition to your normal jobs? How do you find the time?

We both work full time. But we split jobs between us - I've been writing recipe cards for example, while Nikki has been recruiting our Digital Mums. We also set time aside each week to catch up and work together on various things.

Our work is very relevant to what we do, so that helps.

I work for The Innovation Unit, a social enterprise that champions innovation as a way to solve social problems, and Nikki
is business assistant and social media manager at M&C Saatchi.

It can be tiring, but we're both so passionate about food that half of the time Hackney Social doesn't even feel like work!

Hackney Social offer bespoke training packages starting at just £50 and also give out free resources. Find out more here.

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