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Be courageous and always stay open to opportunities

Sheffield’s digital sector is experiencing high growth both due to indigenous start-ups and businesses relocating to the city from elsewhere. Businesses cite Sheffield’s enviable talent pool, accelerator programmes and industry hubs as major draws to the city.

We spoke to serial entrepreneur Mel Kanarek of Sheffield Digital to understand what motivated her to start her own businesses and why in Sheffield.

What were your early ambitions?

I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I was interested in everything from literature and drama to horse riding and motor sport to bionics and artificial intelligence. I expected to have a career but I never imagined I would do so many different things.

Who supported you to start up your business?

This is the third business I’ve been involved in starting up – all three times have been in Sheffield. The first time was in the early 90s and I went on a number of training courses through Enterprise Allowance, which helped me understand basic things like tax and managing finance.

Peers and business networks have always been important sources of support, although the types of networks I get value from have changed a lot. I think the key is to never be afraid to ask a question and to be generous with your knowledge and experience in return.

Looking back, I realise that I had entrepreneurial role models in my family and I’ve always had encouragement to do my own thing.

Why did you decide that Sheffield would be a good city to start a business up in?

I’m not from Sheffield originally but I’ve been here 26 years now and it is my adopted home. I’ve seen the city go through a real renaissance and my first two businesses were built on providing services to other growing businesses in the city.

With Sheffield Digital, the clue is in the name. We’ve set the organisation up in response to the needs of the city and the digital businesses based here. Our goal is to build a thriving, sustainable organisation that helps make Sheffield a globally recognised centre for digital excellence and innovation.

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and what is the most rewarding?

For me, the most challenging thing about running a business has always been managing time and priorities. I think I’ve got better at it over the years, but I still have to be vigilant about it. The most rewarding thing is having the independence and autonomy to make things happen and then seeing the results.

If you were giving careers advice to your 14 year-old self, what would you say?

Be courageous and always stay open to opportunities. And never be afraid to ask for help – it’s not a sign of weakness.

Sheffield Digital is the association that connects, promotes and represents the people and businesses who make up Sheffield’s digital industries. Contact the Invest Sheffield team to learn more about relocating your business to the city or Business Sheffield for free and impartial business start-up and growth support.