Looking back over ten years of togetherfriends
An interview with Helen King the founder of togetherfriends
Why did you start togetherfriends?
I can’t believe it, but I started togetherfriends almost 10 years ago. It was a time when I was between jobs, not sure where life was leading, so had the idea of setting up a business. I had a few ideas, but togetherfriends was the one I went for, as I love my female friends and was aware that female friendship is hugely important to wellbeing.
The idea came about when I wanted to go for a walk, but none of my existing friends were interested and I realised I needed some new friends. I decided to create a friendship site where women could connect and make new friends.
How did you get started?
It started with an idea, but then to make it happen I hunted out an IT company who understood where I was coming from. Annie at the Specialists totally understood the concept from a female perspective, so I was and still am delighted to work with her and the team. They built the website with my total input on layout and design.
I had absolutely no experience in social media, marketing, writing blogs/newsletters etc so it has been a huge learning curve for me (and one which I am rather proud of!)
What has been the scariest/most challenging thing you have had to do?
I’m quite a shy person so having to get out there, out of my comfort zone has been hard at times. For example being interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds; and when I featured in the Daily Express, alongside Sheila Hancock who was talking about loneliness after the death of her husband John Thaw.
What tips would you have for someone thinking about starting their own business?
- Do your research
- Start small
- Test out the market
- Live within your means – don’t overextend yourself financially
- Base it on something you are interested in and knowledgeable about
- Use your networks and contacts
- Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others early on
- Be open to feedback and criticism and be willing to change your idea if you are getting a strong message about improvement.
- Seek a mentor
- Look at funding/grants available.
What have you discovered about friendship on your togetherfriends journey?
Female friendship is hugely important to a woman’s wellbeing. Whether we live alone or with a partner/family, we need friendship from other women. Women understand each other and a good friendship offers a huge amount of support and fun! Friendships don’t stay the same throughout life – people move, get divorced, have a family, change jobs, lose someone close to them and all these and more can affect a person’s friendships. And it is important to recognise that some friendships run their course and come naturally to an end, and that is ok. It is more important to keep growing and developing yourself with new interests/hobbies and to find people who are in the same frame of mind as you at a particular phase of your life.
What has motivated you?
More than anything the positive responses I have received from members. When I receive an email of thanks about a new special friendship that has blossomed through the site, it all seems worthwhile.
How has your life changed over the last 10 years?
Life has changed quite a bit for me over the last 10 years, mainly as my children have left home and are now living independent lives. My caring role for them has ended and I have also lost my elderly mother who lived close by and who I cared for almost every day. But I have such fond memories of looking after her and continue to have close contact with my children – it’s great to see them grow into such independent and resourceful adults – and they are now great fun to go out with for a night out or a shopping trip!
Life has definitely got easier – I now have more free time to do my own thing. My husband and I have also grown closer now that the caring demands have diminished. I have an interesting time ahead though as I head towards retirement and older age, not sure how I feel about that!