Women in Tech: Rebecca Hopkins
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
My name is Rebecca Hopkins and I own the Sports Technology Awards Group, a series of companies which includes ENS, the UK’s longest-standing independent sports PR agency, and The Sports Technology Awards, the leading global celebration of tech-led innovation in sport.
What were you doing before you decided to launch your business?
I was freelancing at BT, working on its sports sponsorship portfolio, most notably the ’99 Rugby World Cup. My boss there, Paul Leonard, told me that if I set up my own agency, he would commit to using me. It was a great way to get started.
Getting involved in tech is still a hot topic for women, what was the motivation for you?
I come from a fairly techy family and the joke was that the gene had somehow bypassed me. Consequently, I have always been aware of things happening in tech and could see that technology was the single biggest force affecting the sports sector. At the time no one seemed to be doing anything that formally recognized this work or galvanized the sector, so I saw our opportunity and jumped in.
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Originally the awards were planned as a single ceremony with the idea that it was going to be the ‘tail on the dog’ of ENS’ business, giving us some IP of our own. However, the immediate success of the awards meant we ended up with two great dogs! It was clear that there was an ongoing opportunity that I am so proud we are seizing in a variety of fresh and exciting ways.
Regarding my greatest accomplishment? Anything done in a company is a collective endeavor, especially when it is achieved in tough times; trading successfully through the recession as an SME was a colossal challenge – and I was very relieved when it was over!
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
I’m sad to say that increasingly it is gender, for two reasons. Firstly, people seem much more interested in supporting and promoting men, and help for women is largely lip-service. Secondly, it’s frustrating that more women don’t back themselves in the same way men do. To cite an example, I strive to make the STA judging panel 50% female and have only been successful once; this is because 99% of men gladly participate whilst 90% of women decline. Women say they are too busy or don’t feel qualified – something men very rarely say.
What has that process been like for you?
Fun and rewarding but very hard work. Anyone going into business expecting it to be easy is in for a shock, there will be tough sacrifices, so it must be worth it and only you can judge that.
Who are your target audience?
The global sports sector as well as technology and commercial organizations looking to work with it
What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
Think about why you are stuck; if you have a good proposition, sound research, a realistic business plan, the right team, sensible funding and the commitment, what is holding you back? You need to be informed, confident, realistic and brave; don’t be scared to fail, avoid it but don’t fear it. I can’t work out why failure is often deemed so shameful, the person who never made a mistake never made anything. Every business person gets it wrong at some point but errors should be about why you made the mistake and how you respond accordingly.
What plans do you have for your business in the coming 12 months?
2018 is set to be a busy year with the launch of several new initiatives, not least of all The STAs Asia-Pacific, which will be an annual event taking place in China in late spring. We have great local partners, enjoy the support of the Chinese government and the sports / technology sector there is set for impressive things. I am excited about the role The STAs is set to play in the Asian sports market.