Inspirational Woman: Kate Hardcastle MBE | Founder of Insight with Passion

Kate HardcastleRetail is in my bones, all four of my grandparents worked in retail, yet we all had very different journeys within it.

Whilst I’m known as a retail expert due to my television work, I’m actually a consumer expert.

I trained academically at Salford University and INSEAD, and from the junior management teams in retail, manufacturing and importing, on a fast track to the boardroom.

I had the ambition to be a board director by the age of 30 and also to be running an international business by the age of 35 – and I’ve achieved both.

It has been at times a long and tiring road, and at 41, I hope to have a long way to go. Yet, I am proud of my achievements and have worked hard to support others as often as possible.

At Insight with Passion, the business that I founded in 2009, we have a ‘give back’ initiative called Access for All, and we have been delighted to support over 1000 micro businesses for free over the last nine years.

We are a business transformation organisation helping our clients to be the best they can be, simultaneously putting their customers at the heart of the business.

Our clients are based in the UK & beyond, with the furthest geographically being in Australia & New Zealand.

We also deliver keynote seminars across the world on a range of subjects that are highly regarded and attended, at pivotal events for sectors including travel, food & drink, and health & beauty.

As founder, my responsibilities include delivering projects directly for our clients, supporting the introduction of new customers that may wish to engage Insight with Passion, supporting our Access for All scheme, and mentoring and supporting our internal team and our team of expert advisors that work with us project to project.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think that whilst a lot of ‘business gurus’ talk about visualising your future success, being too rigid could see you missing unexpected opportunities. I like to understand, with my own mentor, areas in which I need to learn and grow to ensure I invest in my own expertise. I also need to ensure that as a business we are in tune with what is happening in the business world and that we’re adapting to opportunities. I know that I would not have a media career were it not for reacting to the unexpected, so my advice is to never be too rigid.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Hell, yes.

There have certainly been challenges, some are part of the tapestry that is running a business, yet some have been challenges that should not be a part of business life. Unfortunately, that has included discrimination and even bullying on occasion – and standing tall can be a very difficult thing to do. The best piece of advice I received was to try and not to take it personally, which, whilst being almost impossible at times, will help if you can keep an objective stance. You are your brand, and it is the only thing you will be known for from placement to placement. It must be valued, protected and real. When I have been faced with unacceptable behaviours, I have reported it and worked with the team to make a change – because it is not just about your treatment, but the future of others.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

We want to be paid equally, we want a clear route to career development, we want support for times in our life when we need more flexible working – for instance at times when we become carers for children or indeed for family members – and so if I could change one thing it would be swapping the talking for action. Simply put, it has been proven time and time again that more women involved with the running of a business make for a more successful business.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee? 

I have had the good fortune of mentoring over 20 women to date, and I can tell you that this has been an incredible experience for me, one that I have learnt from too. Of those 20 women, I am still in touch with many, two have actually become clients of mine, and most have gone from strength to strength in their own career. Being told that the process has at times been life-changing for many of them is a wonderful piece of feedback. Through Access for All and indeed my charity work I have mentored many more people and I find it so important to pass on the very real experiences you have as well as any successes.

I do use a mentor because, as a small business owner, it is extremely important to invest in my own development, and I have enjoyed learning from people like Dame Anita Rodrick.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I couldn’t just highlight a single achievement. I am the mum of three wonderful children and experiencing a twin pregnancy later in life whilst running a business was no small achievement.

Developing a business that has international reach is extremely rewarding especially as a lot of clients have instructed Insight with Passion following a testimonial.

Starting in media in 2009, so a very new part of my career still, and having the opportunity to present and front my own features now is something I have worked extremely hard to achieve as the world of media is highly competitive.

Of course, most recently receiving the Queen’s honour too.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Working with a variety of task-forces and businesses to create viable retail businesses to survive and thrive in the very challenging retail environment.

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