Totally Runable started out as a partnership six years ago between former elite athlete and 200m runner, Emily Freeman, and lawyer Natalie Jackson to support adult women who wanted to start running.
However, before long, the duo had expanded their services to work with schools, using running based activities to build girls and female school staff confidence in sport, exercise, and life. They now work with schools and community groups across the north of England, helping to measure and close the gender sports gap.
During the 2020 Covid lockdown, their services were extended even further with the creation of a CIC (community interest company) called See Sporty Be Sporty.
“We found that we were doing nice things for free but struggling to put enough time towards them without any funding. See Sporty Be Sporty, means that we can now apply for funding and dedicate time to these additional projects.”
Funding for one project allowed the team to create a set of inspiring posters about girls doing sport and distribute them free of charge to schools in the region. Another was a community project funded by Sport England during the January 2021 lockdown to help adult women start running.
“The programme mixed running with an online mindset session once a week and, for the first time, we never met the people we were working with in person. But after an 8 week course, they all completed a 5k run.”
In the early days, Emily and Natalie ran the business from their respective homes before deciding to share an office in Natalie’s house. Eventually, however, they outgrew that space and knew that commercial space was needed to grow their business.
They came across The Business Village when Natalie visited someone she’d met in a networking group. Looking around the site, she realised there were lots of advantages to being in a managed office that they were not getting at home.
“There are so many benefits to being able to work from home, but you are by yourself, and I love people, I’m a people person. I knew from the networking groups how much we valued seeing other people in the same situation, almost like having peers because we’d gone from having sensible grownup other jobs to doing something that a lot of people thought was a bit crazy, which was starting our business out of fresh air.”
Moving into The Business Village in December 2017, they soon found an unexpected additional benefit in the form of business support. The Business Village team were able to help them secure funding and offered business coaching, networking opportunities and introductions or connections with other businesses.
“We’ve been part of the ScaleUp 360 project and had huge support and advice from both Adrian and Kevin since moving here. But they also give little bits of support here and there and I think perhaps they don’t even realise how important those small interactions are in everything you do. We’ve had invitations to take part in projects that we would never have even heard about if we were still at home in my spare room.”
With around 12 times the space they originally had in Natalie’s home office, they’ve been able to grow the company and the team, bringing a third Director – Jenny Meadows, a former elite athlete, and World Bronze Medallist over 800m – into the businesses just before the pandemic in March 2020. They’ve always looked at how they can get to the next level and say the Business Village are always flexible and willing to talk through plans to help them grow.
“One of our company values is being ambitious and I feel that our ambition can be perfectly supported where we are even though we’re a lot bigger than when we started.”
Being in The Business Village has also given them some great opportunities for collaboration. One company, Silver Lady, manufacture and supply trophies and Totally Runable run competitions for schools which need trophies, so it made sense for them to work together.
They also work closely with the on site Bistro in The Business Village which offers a handy place to get food, source catering for training, or meet new people. During Summer 2021, they worked together on a Healthy Holidays fund project offering free holiday club places and breakfast/lunch for Barnsley children who were eligible for free school meals.
Natalie is also keen to stress that she has come across plenty of other women business owners located in The Business Village. “I think sometimes other people have the impression that running a business is a male thing and that’s actually not my experience here.”
She describes The Business Village as having a “community feel” and enjoys getting involved in fun activities such as organising an ‘Ultra challenge run’ a few years ago. Totally Runable placed treadmills outside the front of the building and people from companies in The Business Village did a 15 minute walk or run throughout the day to raise money for local children’s hospices.
“We love making new friends and met so many Companies doing that event. We’re always looking for more schools to work with or more organisations that might want to collaborate with us, so love having a chat over a coffee in The Bistro”
Speaking about their plans for the future, Natalie says that they are looking to grow across the north of England, working with more schools, and that they have every intention of keeping their HQ in The Business Village.
“We’ve been given the support and will keep getting it as we grow, why would we go anywhere else?”