Introducing: Nikki Tapley and the Collabor8 Journey
Updated: Aug 4
Hi! I'm Nikki, the original founder of Collabor8 - People in Business. Here, I'd like to share my journey with you. The truth laid bare, so that you might understand who I am, how Collabor8 came about, and why it is what it is now.
I am so excited to be launching the all-new Collabor8 - People in Business as a CIC with a new mission, vision, new goals, but the same huge heart to help individuals to start and grow businesses that bring them fulfilment, excitement and empower them to grow and go further than they ever thought possible!
So here goes...
Starting out 2.5 years ago I was on a personal mission to find other people who were trying to grow business around family life. I had started a business and felt very alone. My family thought I was crazy to try and grow a business whilst on maternity leave. But I'd always run businesses for fun - it's the only thing I've ever really enjoyed as a hobby, and I was ready to ditch the 9-5 as soon as possible!
Personally, one of the hardest things I found about running a business of my own, having made the leap of faith to exit my solid professional career, was the fact that my family and friends didn't have any empathy for me in my situation. They didn't understand my challenges. They weren't interested in hearing about my latest wins, my worries, or my fears. They would just tell me to go back to work - mainly because they thought that was what I should do in my own best interests.
But they didn't understand. That entrepreneurial spark inside of me couldn't be extinguished. It's a part of who I am...do you resonate with this?
So I fought alone...The ups and downs of winning new business one minute, and feeling like a complete failure the next. I'd taken on a business partner who unfortunately decided she had other ideas and wanted to take the business in a different direction which would never achieve what I had originally mapped out as the ultimate goals.
When my business partner and I realised our differences were insurmountable, we amicably went our separate ways, but I felt lost. I was at a crossroads - it was give up or figure out a new way forward.
That's when I reached out to the world, put myself out there and took responsibility for meeting my own needs for support by turning to Facebook to connect with others.
And so it began. I was only ever intending to form a small group of people who would become my support network, who in return I too, could help with my own talents, skills, knowledge and experience. But as my little group grew, and grew, without meaning for it to happen, I realised I had found a new calling.
I wanted to give my clients notice and set my former business aside as I decided I wanted to serve all these amazing business owners with my time and my whole heart. But I knew I couldn't afford to work on this project for nothing when my family needed income.
I took advice from a mentor, someone who I respect deeply for his freely given time. And off the back of his suggestions, I created a membership and sought support from those in the community, and offered them informal gatherings and my continued support of the group as a sort of energy exchange. I had a good number of sign-ups from around 30 people, many of whom have become firm friends and two have even become business partners!
As time passed I started being approached for help, so I started using my mentoring skills, creativity, people skills and strategic planning abilities, combined with my knowledge of business, marketing, PR, and experience working in and with a broad range of industries and markets, to help others who were part of my network, which was growing all the time.
Increasingly I developed a heart and a passion for helping new business owners in ways that were more than just about business strategy. They needed encouragement to believe in themselves, help to connect to the right people at the right time, knowledge and resources, and access to information that would help them grow and find the confidence they needed to go forward. The business part of me and the Social Worker in me who was all about empowering others, started working together and I was loving it!
And so it came to be that I became a full-time company director, with a consultancy business AND a support network for business leaders (aka Collabor8). All in the space of just a few months. Much to my family's dismay I made the decision to leave the Social Work profession officially, and gave up my qualified mental health mentoring role with university students, where I had continued working part time, so that I could put all my focus into mentoring and supporting start-ups who needed encouragement, confidence, a clear plan, and some accountability to help them crack on.
But boy, has it changed since those early days! Mainly because I too have changed. Back then I just wanted support for myself and to help those around me in my immediate network and to grow a business so that I could help others 1:1 here and there to make a living.
Now, my heart is to serve and change lives on a much wider scale, and make a BIG social impact. I give so much of myself - my energy, my time, my love, my help, to others, that I couldn't give more if I tried. Whereas back then, I did it for me, now I do it for what I know is the potential inside of me to achieve good.
What has changed the most is the belief that I can do it. As I have grown myself, so too has the vision.
I can't believe how much things have changed - how much I have changed - even since last year. But thanks to the support and encouragement of a key few people who see something a bit different in me and through divine intervention, it's happening. Then, I thought small, living month to month. Now, I dream big, and the best thing is understanding that I am not in this alone - it's ALL about collaboration. In fact, one of the biggest things I've learned is that no leader can ever function in isolation. Team is everything. True leadership is to form teams and see their strengths, skills and, yes, weaknesses too. To set aside the self and to embrace togetherness and unity.
And whilst it's VITAL to look after myself, these days I've set my ego aside. Don't get me wrong, I celebrate who I am because my unique talents are a gift. I celebrate my achievements because of the impact they make in the world, not because of the fact that I made them happen. But there is no pride. Only a will to make a difference.
Leading a business has become a passion, something I embrace, and desire to empower others and equip them to go further. I am walking in my purpose, but now I want to help others to do the same and more besides!
Collabor8 is going to change lives in a really meaningful way. Exciting things are coming and I just know that this project is going to change the face of business support in the UK.
I'm now on a mission. A mission to change lives. A mission to build communities up and in particular to see women rise up. To bring kindness and generosity into business and see social change as a result. A mission to encourage and equip families to change their futures and those of their next generations. To champion entrepreneurship. To raise awareness of the importance of identity, of mental health issues, of walking in your purpose. And so much more.
So as you can probably tell, I've been on quite a journey these past few years. And now? Well now, we're ready to relaunch Collabor8 with a completely new offering. And the bonus is, I'm pretty sure that this is going to be one HUGE adventure!
The new Collabor8 isn't about functioning as Nikki Tapley's support network. It's about changing lives. Providing quality education and training for budding entrepreneurs and growing business leaders. Providing social and emotional support for those who need it. Opportunities for collaboration and peer-led learning. For personal and business growth. And much more besides, but it's not clear enough how the next part will work just yet for me to share that! All through the power of collaboration and partnership working. There's no way I could do it alone. And thank goodness, I don't have to.
So hopefully now you've heard a bit about my journey, and why Collabor8 is where it is now. Having hopefully read snippets of the website you'll see that I'm now given to helping people in a really practical way, but that's also about you playing your part.
Whether that's encouraging others and being an active member in our Hub, partnering with us to help us to share your expertise with those who need it as a Sponsor, sharing information with us to help people connect with your free business support services, or other ways that I might not have dreamed up yet, the best place to start is by either joining the Hub, or contacting us. So head to the Hub now or fill in the Contact form on our website to get in touch.
Before I go, I'd like to acknowledge my amazing Co-Director and partner in crime, Elyse Burns-Hill, my business partner extraordinaire, my confidante and friend. I'd also like to acknowledge the support of my very best friend, soul mate and husband, who has put up with me spending most waking hours in my study working since 2016! My friends Steve Dimon, Alex Elliott and Hannah Easthope - all three incredible people, all mentioned here because of the huge impact they have had on my life, some over a longer period than others but all three immensely valued, for no reason other than that they care (and I love them too!) without agenda. Finally those who have given me their time and advice beyond that which I deserve, of whom there are a good dozen but I don't wish to embarrass anyone! There are also those I've made friends with on the way in business, you're all such a wonderful part of my journey.
Thankyou to you all for your love, support, encouragement and friendship. Now let's go and make this launch happen! Ready...steady...goooooooo!!!