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Meet Harrogate women executives who are making waves in the world of research

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“We went to PC World, each bought a laptop with our own money, and off we went,” says Jennifer.

It was 2019, and since then we have seen Harlow Consulting, a Harrogate-based research and assessment agency, thrive despite having to battle a global pandemic.

The company’s turnover reached £122,000 in its first year and is expected to exceed £700,000 by the end of the year.

Clare Vokes and Jennifer Brennan of Harlow Consulting.Photo: Charlotte Nelson Photography

Our first researchers joined us in September 2020, and in 2021 we moved into gorgeous offices just a stone’s throw from RHS Harlow Car.

Clare and Jennifer worked together before founding Harlow Consulting, but after turning 40 around the same time, both felt ready for a new challenge. So they set out to create the kind of business they wanted to work for, investing in people and the planet while providing innovative work that would make research more widely available.

Their skills complement each other. Jennifer is strategically focused and enjoys analyzing market trends. Clare, on the other hand, enjoys wading through large amounts of data and extracting key information.

This yin and yang approach has certainly paid off, with Harlow Consulting’s revenue growth exceeding 200%.

The pair now manage a team of seven and have diverse clients including the NHS, Historic England and the Home Builders Federation.

From the beginning, the pair were determined to create a positive work environment for the team.

“We always told ourselves that if someone woke up in the morning and was afraid to come to work, we had failed,” says Jennifer.

Aiming for a great work environment is one thing, making it a reality is another.

But Jennifer and Claire make it a pillar of their business ethos. For example, full-time staff are paid benefits.

“Some people used their pocket money for foraging courses, and we went out and did pottery courses. The idea is to spend money on activities and hobbies that aren’t work-related,” says Claire.

In addition to this, employees get 10 months of volunteer work days and an additional Friday off each month.

Both are from Yorkshire, Jennifer from Leeds and Claire from Harrogate. We hope their success will inspire others to start their own businesses.

“In my experience, it can be difficult for women to have the confidence to move forward, especially if they have children, and if they have a break, it can be difficult to maintain that career trajectory,” says Jennifer. “But we would definitely encourage other women to do what we’ve been doing, because it means you can work on your own terms.” It’s a lot of work, so you can’t say you can have it all, but building your own is really rewarding.”

They feel that, apart from being good at what they do, their success depends on building strong relationships with both employees and customers.

“We work hard and are very determined, but I think a lot of it is in relationships. “I’ve always had him quit his job for two reasons: because of people or because he was bored. There is absolutely no boredom here.”