From the bright lights of London to the steel city of Sheffield, Rotherham born and bred entrepreneur Helen Williams believes in Health, Excellence and Wealth and instilled those principles in her business Helping Entrepreneurs Win (HEW).
She tells unLTD’s Jade March why swapping the glitz of the capital for the ‘vibrance’ of South Yorkshire helped mould the ‘relatable, motivational and inspirational’ HEW – and created a strong following along the way.
“When people ask me how I got to where I am today, I just respond with, ‘Because I’m brave and I back myself’.
“Our ethos for our business is, ‘You First’, and we weave that into all that we do with our clients.”
Before setting up her business, HEW Coaching, Helen Williams was working in the corporate world in London but escaped back to Sheffield in 2019. It is her life in the capital that has inspired so much of what she does now with clients – combined with the supportive business community of her adopted city of Sheffield.
She said: “In London, even though I was living an amazing life, with a great salary and commission, had access to fantastic perks, attended events like Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and Goodwood – I just didn’t feel fulfilled, and I found myself asking ‘what else?’”
At the time of talking – over a cup of Yorkshire Tea on Zoom – it is the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. Making reference to a post she shared on social media, Helen says that mental health isn’t just to be talked about during a week-long campaign. While that is great to do, mental health needs to be talked about every single day. A strong believer in nurturing mental health and personal growth, Helen applies this every day for her clients.
As a personal development coach and the founder of HEW Coaching she helps business owners to invest in themselves to create personal growth – which is then transferable into their companies.
But in her youth, like many university students, Helen didn’t know what she would be doing when she graduated or where she would end up. After graduating from university in Leeds with a Degree in Humanities and Social Studies, she held several sales and corporate roles in Doncaster and Sheffield – including corporate sales manager at Sheffield International Venues (now Sheffield City Trust).
Back in 2014, Helen made the big leap to up sticks and move to the fabled golden streets of London where she worked in events and sales for some of the biggest and most iconic events in the country.
I had to ask if she had met anyone famous while working in London – and she then went on to tell me that, in fact, yes … she met David Beckham and Prince Charles – only a few of the biggest names, eh?!
We practice everything that we preach. We are not a ‘fashionable’ coaching brand, and we don’t expect people to do anything that we wouldn’t do.
Helen landed herself on tables with top Michelin star chefs including Jason Atherton and the late Albert Roux as well as attending high-profile events like the British Fashion Awards and the Polo in Windsor.
But it wasn’t always managing big corporate events for Helen. She told me about her time at university, starting out in the events industry and her experiences that led her to set up her business.
“I’ve been adopted into Sheffield after working here for so long. After studying in Leeds I then returned to South Yorkshire and started my career here.
“I went through quite a tricky time during my most crucial years of studying – my parents got divorced, I was drinking and going out more than I should. I chose my course on a bit of a whim at the time, but actually the humanities and sociology side of what I did study is now really coming out in the work that I do with HEW Coaching.
“After not knowing what I really wanted to do after university, I went travelling to Malaysia and Australia. I came back and completed a Masters in Events Management.
“All of my paid employment has been within the events management sector in a variety of roles in hospitality, events, commercial and sales and have been predominantly in the sports and health industries.”
Our ethos for our business is, ‘You First’, and we weave that into all that we do with our clients.
While enjoying the high life of all things London, it wasn’t all business and liquid lunches. Helen was silently living with endometriosis – a disease that affects a woman’s reproductive system. “Undiagnosed for more than 14 years, I underwent various operations, testing and had symptoms that were really starting to take a hold of my life.
“I loved my job – but I needed something that I felt more in control of and a lifestyle that would fit in around me. I was working long and unsocial hours and it was doing me and my body no favours.
“I quit the corporate world and it wasn’t the job or the sector. I had a great job in London where I headed up the sales team for Twickenham. I was involved in selling corporate packages for high profile events like Wimbledon and Test match cricket at Lord’s – I’ve been so spoilt when it comes to the experience I’ve gained in events and hospitality.
“During my time in London I was really suffering with my health, though. I have lived with endometriosis for my whole life but for 14 years it was undiagnosed so I was living with it, without really understanding why my health and energy levels were constantly fluctuating.
“I really suffered with the working hours, demands of the job and the vast range of responsibilities and it was affecting my health. I just found myself asking – is living this high life in London worth my health and overall happiness? The answer was no.
“I had to put my health first, and although the luxuries and benefits of working and living in London have gone down, my happiness has gone up… which really is the most important thing.”
Re-evaluating both her life and her career, Helen set up in business for herself first in property and then two years later formed HEW Coaching.
She said: “Towards the end of 2019 and after more than five years living in London, I made the decision to move back to Sheffield and base my business from here.
“I love Sheffield and the South Yorkshire region. I’ll always have a soft spot for all things Northern – I grew up here, I love the people, the potential of the city and just the general vibrant vibe.
“Sheffield is a fantastic base for HEW and I live in the city centre which is a great location for networking, getting out and about and meeting clients and contacts. There’s always somewhere to go and grab a quick coffee and catch up.”
With both UK and international clients, Helen, alongside her now business partner Lauren Brady, leads a team of four.
Sheffield is such a vibrant city, and I really can’t wait to get back into the face-to-face realm of meetings and networking events.
“We pride ourselves in all things ‘real’ and we want to reflect that in everything we do and deliver for our clients. We want to be relatable, motivational and inspire people with real life experiences and tangible things to implement into their business.
“Our ethos for our business is, ‘You First’, and we weave that into all that we do with our clients. We take the time to get to know them, understand their needs and really work with them on a one-to-one basis to get the best outcomes.
“We talk about the prioritising of you, your needs, your health and what really makes you fulfilled and happy. We’re always talking about how to get the best out of you!
“When we say real, we mean people recognise that in us and they can relate to us. We believe that to get the best out of people you have to be yourself for them to feel comfortable to be themselves.
“One of our main values is individuality – when we’re talking about the corporate world, we feel that sometimes that can be missed, so we highlight this is a strength that needs to be recognised.”
Helen always reminds her clients that, ‘it is never too late to prioritise you’.
“We let our clients know that it is okay to be you, we encourage them to embrace confidence to express their individuality and I believe that because myself and my business partner Lauren do so, they are then able to mirror those beliefs and values and take them back into the corporate world.
“There is so much I do around personal development, mindset and people-to-people care that needs to be implemented into the corporate world rather than it all being largely around performance, sales and finances. I think people’s fulfilment levels would rise which actually in the end would lead to happier and more successful people.
“I would really like to see a shift in the corporate world that encompasses more of a focus on personal development, learning and individual growth within businesses. Corporate identity is one thing but actually organisations are made up of sometimes hundreds of people that need be recognised.”
When the world went online at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, HEW was ahead of the curve with some of their business already operating via Zoom.
As well as one-to-one coaching and group sessions, HEW is also developing an online learning platform for people to access training modules. Although adapting to the virtual world, Helen can’t wait to get back to face-to-face working and networking.
“Sheffield is such a vibrant city, and I really can’t wait to get back into the face-to-face realm of meetings and networking events. We do a lot of public speaking so it will be great to be out there again. Although I think there is a space for resources online, I think it will form just part of a wider package for our clients,” she said.
“We predominately work in the UK, but we have worked with clients across the world including in Australia, Italy and America – so, being online is definitely a perk for us.
“Networking is vitally important to both me personally and our business. When I returned to Sheffield it was a case of me building a new network and I have done that both via social media and physical networking. I have found partnerships with organisations key to building the success of the business.
“As well as the involvement with The Sheffield College, I have just been part of Sheffield Hallam University’s mentorship panel on the accelerator wellbeing programme.
“Networking is invaluable to us, and it is something I advise my clients on. We always ask our clients ‘who can you connect with to help somebody else and add value to your network?’”
While hearing Helen’s story it is impossible not to feel inspired. I asked her about her biggest inspirations and how she has got to where she is.
She said: “I’ve always had a strong head on my shoulders, and I follow a strong entrepreneurial streak within my family as my dad is a business owner. I always knew I wanted my own business when I was in my early 20s, but I just didn’t know what in at that time.
“I am a product of very big, bold decisions. I would say that I take a risk when a lot of people don’t make that decision. When people ask me how I got to where I am today, I just respond with, ‘because I’m brave and I back myself’.
“I’ve always been the first in my family to do anything big. I was the first to go to university, I was the first to move to different cities and change jobs to gain experience. My dad was a major inspiration – however, he was the realist when it came to me being the one making the big decisions.
“He was worried about me moving away from the corporate world and going from having everything to starting again. He was just making sure I was aware of the risks, but I knew it was the right thing to do and I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made to be in the position I am today.
“We have created HEW Coaching with real experiences and that is what people really like and can really relate to.
“We practice everything that we preach. We are not a ‘fashionable’ coaching brand, and we don’t expect people to do anything that we wouldn’t do.
“We lead from the front with everything. A lot of what we have created, what we have based our business model on and the tools and the techniques we implement has been formed from our own direct experiences. We are in the arena with you – pushing boundaries, building businesses, learning and growing in all areas of life and business. To me that’s what it is all about.”