Spotlight On … Louisa Leontiades
1993 leaver Louisa defines herself thus: "Entrepreneur. Blogger. Analyst. Geek. Half Greek. Woman". This intriguing combination almost sums up an Alumna who, after achieving success as a strategist and financial analyst in the telecoms industry, has this year launched her own online business consultancy firm whilst simultaneously blogging about her experiences as a female entrepreneur.
Louisa joined Withington in the Third Form, and left in 1991 after completing her GCSEs. Whilst at School, Louisa's favourite teacher was Miss De la Portas, who taught her English Literature, although her favourite subject is slightly trickier to decide – "does lunchtime count?!" Louisa remembers her time at Withington with great fondness, and is grateful for an education which gave her "'a true appreciation of the power that women have to be able to challenge historically patriarchal systems". The effects of this feminist education are evident in the ethos of her business today.
After leaving Withington, Louisa studied International Business and French at the University of Plymouth and got a Masters in Business and Finance from ESSEC in Paris, graduating in 1998. She followed this with an MBA in Business Administration and Finance from the University College Dublin in 2004. A successful career in financial management in the technology & telecoms industry followed, and Louisa spent three years as Head of Decision Support Excellence of Vodafone, a role which brought her many lessons and further inspired her own business model of "collaboration, vision and democracy."
The arrival of daughter Freya in 2010, Louisa's "motivation and inspiration", led to a dramatic shift in priorities and a desire to balance her professional achievements with family life. The idea for her own consultancy firm was born: "I decided to create a company that actually helped women work at three in the morning when they were wide awake from breast feeding, and men to work on Sunday mornings and instead spend Friday afternoon attending their kids' school play. If it works for me, then it works for everyone who wants to join me."
Louisa launched Investment Impact earlier this year, and success has come slowly but surely ever since. The company offers a virtual management consultancy service, allowing clients ranging from large corporates to sole trader's access to the range of products and professional expertise available online through the company's website, www.investment-impact.com. A sustainable business model is at the heart of Investment Impact: virtual consulting significantly reduces any carbon emissions, and a portion of the company's revenues are donated to The International Tree Foundation each year to offset their clients' printing demands. The consultants she uses are able to work around their family life and commitments, and the online nature of the business means that her pool of expertise is not limited by geography but is instead worldwide. In line with Louisa's personal love of computer games, the consultants gain points and rankings through excellent feedback, thus gaining more opportunities for virtual assignments.
Louisa has made social networking an integral part of her business, and is keen to use technology to deliver effective solutions for both her clients and colleagues. Her blog, www.diaryofayoungstartup.com, is a fascinating and irreverent insight into the decisions and actions which are shaping her new business, and is published in high-profile online publications The Huffington Post and The Urban Times. Louisa's family life features heavily in her blog, and it is plain that she ‘walks the talk' when it comes to working to achieve the elusive work-life balance that is her aim.
Her Withington education has also borne fruit in Louisa's second embryonic company, Show ‘em Who's Boss, an online tool box which offers female entrepreneurs support with planning and running their own business and which enables women from richer countries to subsidize free distribution of their expertise to women in less-developed areas of the world. "You really notice the solidarity of women when you have a child. Suddenly you have an immediate and lasting bond with anyone who has a womb irrespective of background. Women across the world will shift mountains to help another woman – especially if it involves bettering her life and her circumstances." That project is due to launch later this year and many of her former classmates have donated their expertise already, with one Elaine Johnston (1991 leaver) poised to be the Chief Blogger!
Louisa divides her time between London and Gothenburg with her partner, Gosta, and is currently expecting the couple's second child. Of her endeavours, she says, "We all have dreams to change the world and it's a little scary that I have suddenly found myself challenging the entire system of Corporate 9-5 life. But you know, I bet Emmeline Pankhurst didn't fully know the can of worms she was opening either." Spoken like a true Withingtonian!
Published: 22nd November 2011