Alex Cooper won her first piece of business fair and square after just a week of trading. Cooper Edwards is an executive search and selection firm; Alex explains how she found her niche.
What did you do before you started this business?
I spent the early part of my career working in various sales and project management-type roles for manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers operating in the automotive, packaging and food and drinks sectors before turning to recruitment in 2006. I headed up the industrial division of an international recruitment agency, establishing the office in France from scratch. After another few years working in executive search, I decided to leverage my knowledge and extensive network of contacts and found my own executive search business and hence, Cooper Edwards was launched in 2017.
What inspired you to start up?
Running my own consultancy gives me the autonomy to focus on the clients that I want to focus on and spend as long as I need to on each assignment. I’m really passionate about making perfect placements for both clients and candidates and having the time to spend getting to know both parties enables me to do this. The recruitment industry can be very fast-paced so it’s nice to be able to do things my own way and provide that level of aftercare for both clients and candidates that is often missing in bigger agencies.
Tell us about your business in 100 words
Cooper Edwards is an executive search and selection firm based in the North East which specialises in local and global, mid to senior management and board level recruitment for businesses operating across the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and subsea, capital equipment and FMCG sectors to name but a few.
Founded in 2017, we bring to the table a global network of contacts and over a decade of experience making senior appointments for UK entities of overseas organisations and overseas subsidiaries of UK businesses to support them in their global growth strategy.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
In layman’s terms, it’s my job to help companies succeed by finding talented people to go and work for them.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I’m really lucky that my husband also runs his own business, so I’ve been able to learn a lot from his start-up experience and build on this for Cooper Edwards. Most of the placements I make for clients are for senior management roles so the candidates and clients themselves are a great source of information and advice because they are the ones closest to the market.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Starting my own business is something that I have always wanted to do so when I finally decided that the time was right to go solo, I prepared for it by saving up funds well in advance which enabled me to get off the ground, free from debt and without the stress of finance applications. Landing my first client early on was also a big help, as it meant that I had a steady income coming in pretty much from the word go.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
When I first started the business eight months ago, I didn’t really know what to expect, but hitting the ground running and landing my first assignment after just one week was definitely not it! The role was for a Managing Director position with a company I had never worked with before so there was no history, I won the business fair and square so this was a really proud moment for me. Since then, we have been extremely busy and haven’t slowed down at all. Having doubled our year one target as early as six months in, we are constantly pushing and smashing our objectives!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
I make it my business to get to know my clients’ businesses and really get under the skin of how they operate. By working alongside clients as a partner when they’re recruiting staff, I’m able to provide a really personal service which I think really differentiates Cooper Edwards from some of the larger recruitment agencies.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
When I first started out, I thought I would find it quite stressful, but actually, it’s quite exhilarating! I love the freedom that comes with being your own boss and the confidence it gives you to work how you want to work.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Like in many industries, technology is changing and shaping how recruiters do business and it will be up to business owners to grow and adapt to these changes in order to stay ahead of the game, which is what I plan to do with Cooper Edwards. In the next five years, I would like Cooper Edwards to be recognised as the go-to firm for executive search in the North.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find your niche, believe in yourself and work hard. I also think there is a lot to be said for just listening as well. Listen to your clients, take the time to really get to know them and their businesses because they’re the ones closest to their market and they can tell you everything that you need to know about how to succeed within it.
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