22nd March 2017

Day one – Northern Powerhouse Female Founders trade mission

Awake at silly o’clock as my body has yet to adjust to the time difference over here in Atlanta, so thought I’d put down my thoughts on day one of our trade mission.

So far it’s been absolutely fascinating. Nothing like I expected, but then, I really had no clue what to expect because this is my first ‘mission’ as well as my first time to Atlanta.

My first impressions of Atlanta are:

  • It’s like a warm, southern American version of Manchester. Seriously (weather apart – although the storm they ‘threw’ for us last night made me feel more at home!) everyone is so friendly, welcoming, helpful and wanting you to love their city that it literally could be Manchester – it’s probably the first time I’ve ever been to another city that I felt like I could actually be tempted to leave my beloved Manchester for …but calm down, Sandy, early days…
  • It’s truly (TRULY) diverse. Yes we talk about Manchester being diverse and in our communities we are, but what I realised yesterday, spending a day in several meeting and conference rooms all over Atlanta, is that we are far from it. In any room in Atlanta, only half the faces – in the room and on the panels – will be white. Can we say the same? I think not. And this, we learned, is because their mayor of 40 years or so ago started a system of quotas for work and this has been carried on through the decades. Now I’ve never been a big fan of quotas but looking at the impact these have made in this city and I’m persuaded to think again. Hmm
  • It’s beautiful and it’s BIG! Like many American cities, everything is done on a grand scale. We visited the HQ of the Atlanta Chamber first thing and Churchgate House would fit into its lobby. Well, into the coffee shop in its lobby. The city is vast and sprawling – we travelled for 40 minutes by cab to the British Consulate’s house (as you do!) and were told this was still seen as the ‘centre’ (center) of Atlanta!

So Day One had us, as I say, at the Chamber HQ being talked through doing business in Atlanta and all that the city would have to offer us. We heard talks from lawyers and accountants, from businesspeople from the UK who’d set up subsidiaries here and flourished and from various Chamber and other representatives. All in all, a really interesting start to the trip – and, again, everyone so keen to help and inspire.

We then moved on to the WEI (Women Entrepreneurs Initiative) project HQ in a fascinating place called the ‘Flatiron Building’ due to the fact that it actually is shaped like an iron! We spent several hours listening to various panels of brilliant people, helping us understand how to engage with the various diversity strands the city still offers and how to access funding, then following a walk around WIE (an incubator for women owned businesses) we had a final networking session, before jumping a cab to the Consulate’s house for tea.

Being British, we led the party out of the air conditioned splendour of the reception hall into the back garden so we could enjoy a little fresh air in the amazing surroundings of this British Government-owned palacial home (which we were told by our driver, would retail for around £4m #justsaying).

Anyway. All in all a truly fascinating and enlightening day and I haven’t even mentioned the brilliant ladies who I’m sharing the trip with and who I feel extremely privileged to be one of. I have a feeling that knowing them alone will make this trip worthwhile.

So a big thumbs up so far. Honestly, before embarking on this voyage of discovery I was dubious. A whole week out of the office is quite an investment and I wondered if it would be nothing but a distraction at what is a very exciting and busy time for Tangerine as a business. But, so far, I feel as if I couldn’t have been more wrong. And if things continue as yesterday, I’ll never have been more delighted to be so wrong!

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Sandy Lindsay MBE, Chair, Tangerine & The Juice Academy