Meet the Team – Gaynor Matthews

Job title – Business Growth Adviser at Business Ready

How long have you been at UWSP?

I started in my current role at Business Ready in January 2020, just a couple of months before the first lockdown.

What did you do prior to joining UWSP?

I would describe myself as something as a start-up expert, having worked with and advising start-ups for over 30 years.

At the start of my career, I joined Sovereign Hardware Ltd as Finance Assistant, and was promoted to Operations Manager then Director within three years.  I’m still extremely proud to say that at that time I was one of the two youngest female Directors listed at Companies House – the other being Karren Brady.

By the time I left Sovereign, I was ready for a change.  Entrepreneurial by nature, I took my first foray into consultancy and spent the next 4 years working primarily with companies who had found themselves in difficulty.  Everything I learned at that time has stood me in good stead; there is very little which fazes me these days, and there are very few problems I can’t resolve in one way or another.

My last client as a consultant was Trinity Rymat, specialists in machining and precision engineering. The business had a team of top-notch engineers but was failing because of the way it was run.  In short, I bought the company out of a CVA, coached the engineers in how to engage directly with customers, effectively transforming them into quasi-salespeople.  I successfully ran the business until I was approached to join telecoms firm Hipcom.

Hipcom were one of the first to introduce VoIP services into the UK, which really disrupted the market at that time.  My role as Director was to lead everything related to strategy, finance, investment, contract negotiation and HR. I remained in the business until its acquisition by a US multinational telecoms provider for £17 million in 2013. When I left the business, I found that my entrepreneurial itch needed scratching again.

I created a private investment group which put money into six tech start-ups in the Midlands including social network for education, a couple of shopping apps, and data analytics for live events to serious games. I facilitated the deals and guided them through fundraising, product design, technical development, marketing, as well as helping with day-to-day operations.

I’m particularly proud of a collaborative project creating “WOWHOW”, an innovative augmented reality beauty app which helps the user apply makeup correctly to their facial features. Getting it off the ground involved raising £250,000 in private equity, and the app has now been downloaded all over the world.

This and my previous experience led to me co-creating myNexus – a super smart matching platform for entrepreneurs to connect to potential investors.  Investment at early-stage is difficult to find and riddled with bias, particularly around the female founder or underrepresented groups. I’m determined to change this and create a level playing field for all.

I have also recently become a NED for Counter Culture, an online beauty shop for ethical & sustainable brands. This exciting venture uses the experience I gained at WOWHOW and the reality check given by my teenage daughter that beauty should not cost the earth.

Sum up your day-to-day responsibilities

At Business Ready I can use my experience to give tangible, honest advice on how businesses based at UWSP can take the next step forward, whether through helping them address weaknesses, apply for grants, or connecting them with other firms who can help them solve a problem or enhance their offering.

What I tend to do is get to know the companies first and identify what they excel at and where improvements can be made. Quite often, start-ups begin with fantastic ideas, but can become overwhelmed with other issues like finance, marketing, and so on. I often act as a sounding board to the businesses I work with – they know they can come and talk to me.

When companies are looking to attract investment, I make sure they have everything in place to put them in a strong position before pitching to investors. And many firms I work with only have one shareholder who owns the whole company – so I advise them on how having new investors can change the dynamic of their firm.

My role is about being a friend to the businesses. I am in contact with them every couple of weeks, and from my previous experience I know when to take a more hands-on approach and when to back off.

Every business is in a different position, and it’s great to tailor my approach to each one to enable them all to grow and thrive as much as they can.

Which companies are some of your biggest success stories?

One of the best success stories for me was being involved in the success of Clubbie – a social media platform for grassroots sports clubs and individuals to share video highlights.

I was able to connect Joe Wheatley, who was running Shottery United and had developed his own app Club Bubble to help with club admin, with Chris White, who was running Clubbie. I saw a really opportunity for two similar people to connect and help their businesses grow.

Together they turned Clubbie into an app which combines the two functions, and I have also helped them attract grant funding. The growth of the app also attracted the attention of the Football Association, and Joe and Chris were in discussion with the FA to see if it could upload fixtures directly onto the app instead of grassroots clubs having to do it manually.

It’s a great example of what I’m able to do to help start-up businesses. Making the right connections can be so important, and it can be very difficult to do on your own.

I’ve also helped special effects company Hollywood Gaming improve their ability to market themselves by introducing them to marketing mentors and explaining the best way to highlight what they’re good at.

They have recently launched a new area of their business, Immersive Hollywood, to provide multi-sensory experiences for its customers, and I’ll be helping them promote that side of the business to investors.

I’ve also been guiding a number of female founders who are creating apps, but can’t say too much about them as they are still in proof-of-concept stages. There should be exciting times ahead!

Where do you live?

I grew up in Birmingham originally, and now live in Knowle near Solihull with my husband and daughter.

What do you do away from work to relax?

I’ve played golf for 20 years and met my husband through it, but I tend to only play on holiday these days. I also support my daughter with horse riding, which she loves doing.

I’m also a keen cook, and I’ll try my hand at anything.