Meet the Local Leader: Leisa Pickles

Meet the Local Leader: Leisa Pickles

Posted: Thu 5th Oct 2023

Enterprise Nation is on a mission to take the loneliness out of entrepreneurship. Through our local meet-up campaign, we're offering a ready-made support network to small business owners across the UK and Ireland.

These monthly meet-ups wouldn’t exist without our army of Local Leaders – amazing individuals who are passionate about supporting small businesses and are committed to their local communities.

Here, we meet Leisa Pickles, your Local Leader for Nottinghamshire.

Leisa, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm the chief go-getter at Find me the Leads, a business I founded in 2018 to help food and drink brands get their products into more places and in front of more people. I offer sales outreach and support for food and drink. 

I am a solopreneur, meaning I wear many hats within the business. I have a background in FMCG, having spent 15 years at Mars selling chocolate, cooking sauces and pet foods.

On the back of the Help to Grow: Management Course, I've started mentoring female food and drink founders as well. It's been rewarding and something I definitely want to explore further.

Away from work, I like to read (mostly non-fiction). I also enjoy walks with my miniature schnauzer, Buddy, and I'm quite partial to the occasional glass of Sauvignon Blanc!

Food and drink is a vast and varied sector. What's your niche?

I support independent food and drink brands primarily. The word independent can be translated in two ways – independent food and drink brands, or brands that want to get into more independents.

These are typically outlets within what I call the speciality buying food sector, where people go to eat, drink and discover food and drink products that aren't in a supermarket. They're prepared to spend time to look, sample and read about products with a good backstory, strong provenance and that people aren't afraid to pay a premium for.

The reason is that I come from a corporate background, working in sales for a large organisation. When I left that world, I realised that there are so many great food and drink brands out there that are all trying to get themselves heard and seen, but they've got quite a lot to contend with because the big players dominate such a large amount of space.

The smaller brands just don't have the skills, resources or expertise to navigate those networks to get to the key decision-makers. And that is where I come in, as I'm good at unpicking bigger networks to get to the right people. I want to be the voice of the undistributed and fly the flag for the little guy.

What inspired you to become an Enterprise Nation Local Leader? 

I've been involved with Enterprise Nation ever since I started my own business back in 2018. I'm constantly amazed by the quality of the support provided to small businesses and I genuinely believe that helping entrepreneurs to succeed is at the heart of everything the team does.

I saw that the role of Local Leader for my area was vacant and jumped at the chance to bring together small business owners from my area to share experiences via a regular meet-up. I've now been a leader for just over a year.

Tell us a bit about the small business scene in Nottinghamshire.

I continue to be astounded by the diverse mix of small businesses that exist in my area. I have daily interactions with businesses from the retail, hospitality and service sectors.

What strikes me most about businesses in my area is the desire to really make a difference and to add value to their customers and their community.

What challenges are businesses in your area facing? 

At our summer meet-ups, we were discussing seasonality. Do you have it in your business? If so, how do you manage it?

Everyone agreed that this summer has been particularly difficult compared to previous years. Projects that would typically take four to six weeks are taking eight to 12 weeks.

The common chatter was that motivation levels were down because business has been tough, and that's impacting people's willingness to show up and be present. And then there's also an element of not being sucked into this spiral of doom and gloom and actually focusing on what's possible and working towards that.

Why should small business owners in and around Nottinghamshire consider joining your monthly meet-up? 

It's just such a great way to get to know other small business owners from the local area who are experiencing the same opportunities and challenges as you.

Come along, ask us for help, tap into our collective brain, and expand your local knowledge and network. Finding out what's happening in your area can really help you grow and develop your business.

Tell us about recent small business successes that you've seen at your meet-ups.

We had a lady who's consistently attended the last four or more meet-ups. She runs a product-based business and was struggling with Instagram as she was involved in that idea of "let's all club together and like each other's posts".

This led to her growing an audience that was absolutely not her ideal customers. She was having a "bit of a nightmare", saying that she was posting but no one was listening.

Every time she attended a meet-up, there was somebody in the group who knew a lot about Instagram, and she got loads out of it, even connecting with some experts. We would have breakout rooms, where she would discuss it in more detail and every time there was somebody in the group who was able to offer her some more advice to build on what she had received the time before.

What can entrepreneurs attending a meet-up for the first time expect?

It's really informal. You get the opportunity to introduce yourself and your business. Come with an open mind, and be prepared to share, listen and contribute. We're a small group so you can't be silent as we rely on everyone's interaction and involvement.

After the introduction, we do a bit of a "what's hot and what's not", topical issues that everyone's talking about at the minute. This potentially gives people discussion points for the breakout rooms.

There are generally two lots of breakout rooms, and I try to mix it up so that similar businesses aren't in the same room. I try to match people based on what they might need support with instead.


Enterprise Nation: Small business local meet-ups

Small business local meet-ups with Enterprise Nation

Local meet-ups take place every month. Find your nearest and reserve your place

Hi, I am Amanda, Enterprise Nation's content manager.

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.