Couple taking networking to a new level

Emily and Simon Coy. Pictures by Helen Rowan Photography.

As the Chesterfield Business Expo returns this month, Fiona Stubbs meets the couple taking networking to a new level.

WHEN Emily Coy couldn’t find the sort of business exhibition she yearned to attend, she knew just where to turn…

Her husband, Simon, already owned the franchise, The Business Network Birmingham, which connects senior decision makers, business owners and directors through networking lunches in the UK’s second city. 

So, why not take that skillset to create a similar brand in their home town, but in the form of an exhibition?

The result is the Chesterfield Business Expo, which launched last October at Casa Hotel. Its success has led to a second exhibition – to be held at Casa on April 24 – and now the Expo looks set to become a twice-yearly fixture on the Chesterfield business calendar.

Emily, who runs Business Butterflies, a business coaching practice working with female entrepreneurs, says: “There are nearly 10,000 businesses in Chesterfield and there’s so much scope to do more to help them promote themselves, raise brand awareness, increase sales and to network.

“I’m a local small business and I wanted the opportunity to be part of a large business exhibition – but there wasn’t anything locally that fulfilled that need. I was frustrated that in a town of this size, with so many businesses, there wasn’t a platform to showcase our work in this way.

“Simon and I felt that, between us, we had the skillsets and contacts to launch something in Chesterfield. We took the view ‘let’s give it a go – and if there’s the demand, then great’.” 

Simon adds: “We live in Chesterfield, yet I travel to work in Birmingham to host business events. I shared Emily’s frustration at the lack of an all-day business exhibition here and I thought it was an excellent opportunity for us to make it happen.” 

Both have found their niche in supporting businesses after previously pursuing other careers – and, largely, as a result of meeting each other. 

Emily graduated in Business Studies from Sheffield Hallam University and spent 15 years as an accountant, predominantly working with small companies, before turning to business coaching through a national franchise. 

Simon, meanwhile, worked in financial services until embarking on his own change of direction. “I became disillusioned,” he says. “I was about to turn 40 and decided I wanted to spend the rest of my working life doing something that gave me satisfaction.”

Then based in Bristol, he became a coordinator of Spice Bristol Cardiff, a membership club which runs activities for adults including walks, meals, adventure activities and holidays.

When Emily joined Spice as a member, their future was sealed. Seeking more time at weekends and during evenings to spend with Emily and keen to run his own business, Simon took on the franchise The Business Network Birmingham. His work includes hosting business events for up to 70 people every month at Edgbaston Stadium. 

Emily was also seeking a change from accountancy. “I realised I didn’t have a passion for accounts but I did for the businesses I was working with and the relationship I had with them,” she recalls. “I’d have amazing conversations and learn so much about the businesses. 

“Simon suggested business coaching might be a great fit for me and, when I learned more about it, I thought ‘that’s what I should be doing!’ Having an impact on someone’s business, helping them to succeed and grow, is what drives me – and my accounting background gives me a good grounding in many ways.”

The couple married and moved to Chesterfield in 2014.

Simon explains: “I have friends in Matlock and, whenever we visited, we said how lovely it is in Derbyshire. But, while I liked the idea of living in Matlock, Emily had been to university in Sheffield and preferred a city environment. 

“Chesterfield was the perfect compromise – bigger than Matlock and smaller than Sheffield and within easy reach of both!”

After five years as a franchisee, Emily realised it was time to develop her own brand and she launched Business Butterflies at the start of this year.

“It combines my passions for helping small businesses and wanting to empower women,” she explains. “Sometimes, as women, we go on a different business journey than our male counterparts – and that benefits from a slightly different style of business coaching.

“I wanted to develop a brand that represented me a lot more; it’s more feminine. The butterfly represents the transformation that, as women, we go through in many ways – in life and also as business owners. We hope to emerge from our cocoon and soar successfully. I felt that metaphor fitted into what I want to do.

 “I have a tried-and-tested methodology based on The Pumpkin Plan, by American author Mike Michalowicz. This helps business owners to achieve success by using structured programmes to help them with business strategy. In doing so, we tackle the obstacles they may face in growing their business.”

The Chesterfield Business Expo allows both Emily and Simon to share their love of business for the benefit of their adopted town.

Emily says: “Simon’s very much the visionary, with great ideas and expertise in the sales and marketing aspects. I’m more about the structure, process and project management.

“That combination has led to the success of the Expo. We had all bases covered. We brought in other experts where needed, through our sponsors. Having their skillsets has been magnificent and their support is incredible. We’ve got an amazing team around us. It’s important that we work with people who share our values, who care about Chesterfield and want to support it.”

Local sponsors of both events include branding and digital agency Eat Sleep Think, business telephone support company Paperclip and printer Minuteman Press Chesterfield.

Stoneacre Motor Group has signed up to be the main sponsor of this month’s event, while Casa Hotel continues its support as the Expo grows – with the number of exhibitors increasing from 33 to 44.

“We estimated that we had about 300 people – across exhibitors and attendees.”

“We estimated that we had about 300 people – across exhibitors and attendees – in October and we’re hoping for about 500 this time,” explains Simon. “In addition to the exhibitions, we see the Expo as a business brand. We’re planning additional networking events for senior business owners to come together. I’d love to see Chesterfield Business Expo synonymous with high quality networking and relationship building.”

Emily adds: “A lot of thought has gone into every aspect and we were blown away with the support and the success of the first Expo. Businesses asked for another one!

“What we hadn’t expected was that so many people already knew each other, so it was more than an Expo. It was a touchpoint for people to reconnect as well as to meet new contacts.

“Having established that there’s a demand, it made sense to go ahead with a spring event. Now we’re looking at two per year – in April and October.

“The success of the Expo is partly down to us and partly down to the exhibitors – the effort that went into their stands. We’re providing the vehicle but it was having such a range of businesses that made it so special – and this month’s event builds on that with even greater diversity. 

“We’ve still got traditional manufacturing in the town and we can be extremely proud of that heritage. But we also have growing professional, tech and IT sectors. From there we get other businesses that either feed into them or feed from them. 

“Professional services feed into the local economy, bringing the need for offices, housing etc. It’s an ecosystem. There are also niche businesses working away quietly, becoming experts in their field.

“The thing about Chesterfield is that it’s relatively cheap to live and work here but it’s also geographically well connected.”

Simon and Emily insist that the Expo is complementary to – not in competition with – other business groups in the town.

 “We’re not competing with organisations such as Destination Chesterfield or the Chamber,” says Emily. “We are also Chesterfield Champions. We share the same goal at the end of the day – we all want economic growth for Chesterfield.”

Editor’s Note: Learn more
about Chesterfield Business Expo
and Business Butterflies at: