Sophie Milliken founded Moja in FEBRUARY 2022 and is looking forward to working with an amazing team to build this new business. She is also the chair of Smart Works Newcastle, a charity that offers interview apparel and coaching to jobless women in the northeast. She’s also one of the co-founders of the City Ladies networking club, which has locations in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and London.
Sophie joined John Lewis’ graduate programme after graduating from university. She worked her way up the management ladder and ended up directing the graduate recruiting team at the company’s London headquarters. One of her most notable accomplishments was lifting the firm from 74th to 9th place in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers ranking. During this time, she completed her MSc in HR Management and was awarded a fellowship by the CIPD.
“Sophie co-founded her first business, SRS, in 2013, which offered graduate recruitment and employability consultancy services to employers and universities. This multi-award winning business was acquired in 2019 and she exited the business in FEBRUARY 2022. While at SRS, she wrote two bestselling books and appeared in the press, as well as on TV and radio multiple times, talking about business and recruitment. She also won a number of business awards, including Female Entrepreneur of the Year, Best Businesswoman in Recruitment, and North East Entrepreneur of the Year.”
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Sophie Milliken:
Describe Moja’s offerings that address the need of your customers.
Moja is a unique agency. We are making our own space for what we do, by offering a package which is tailored to each client’s needs to raise their profile and ensure their voice is heard.
Our clients already know the value of what we have to offer. They also know that the more people they reach, the more success will come their way. Our role is to help our clients find themselves in front of the right people, in the right places, igniting interest in their offering.
Becoming a trusted presence in an industry can lead to amazing opportunities, but growing an active network online and in-person can be a hard thing to do. I know all this as I have done it myself. This is why I founded Moja with clear principles: to forge opportunities for clients, grow their networks, and share their voice through multiple channels.
We want our clients to read about themselves in articles, become respected on social media, and be listened to in a hall full of their peers. At Moja, we won’t make anyone feel like they need to be better at what they do. They don’t. They just need to be heard.
What are the challenges you and your team at Moja come across in your day-to-day operations?
The main challenge our clients have is that they understand the benefits of raising their profile but are super busy growing their business so are time poor. They might also suffer from imposter syndrome and feel uncomfortable shouting about their strengths. Trusting us to shout about them works well and gets results.
In terms of our own challenges, we know it is hard to be creative when working remotely and so have taken up new office space in Newcastle city centre to create a pleasant work environment. We have a main office, training room and podcast studio space, providing us and our clients with a great space that meets our requirements.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
So many incidents, people, and books have influenced me. On a personal level, getting divorced and becoming a single parent within year one of my first business was really tough. It gave me even more of a purpose though and I think it ultimately helped me make the business successful at an earlier stage.
Exiting SRS was rough. It was like my second baby, and it wasn’t an easy decision to leave it behind. I take with me fond memories of my immediate team and wonderful clients, as well as all the incredible learning I did for Moja.
I’ve always found it easy to feed my motivation and get energy from vibrant people and inspiring books. I’ve always got a business book on the go and am actually just about to launch a business book club and podcast! A book that had a huge influence on me was Key Person of Influence, by entrepreneur Daniel Priestley. The concepts in that book opened my eyes to the power of becoming a key person within a niche market.
I’ve since got to know Daniel and he once told me that the book which has the biggest impact on your life is the one you write. He wasn’t wrong! My first book, From Learner to Earner, was released in October 2019 and became a bestseller in a number of categories on amazon. I wrote my second book, The Ambition Accelerator during the first lockdown and that achieved similar levels of success when it was released in February 2021. The Ambition Accelerator allowed me to interview women I admire, including Dragons’ Den and Strictly Come Dancing star Sara Davies MBE and Tech titan Jacqueline de Rojas. We created a podcast with the interview content, and I often receive messages from listeners telling me how it inspired them.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives Moja.
Values are everything to us. We treat people with respect and ensure we do everything we say we will do. “Delivering on promises is essential as your reputation lives or dies based on this.” We have a strong work ethic and work hard to achieve the best results for our clients. We work collaboratively as a team and with clients, and have a lot of fun along the way.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for Moja?
Having started in Newcastle, Moja will launch in Manchester and London and have a national presence. I want to grow the team and client base at pace and have another scaled-up business within three years, then explore the opportunity of a sale to a larger agency.
Aside from Moja, I want to see Smart Works Newcastle double the number of women we support and change even more lives. I also want to expand my non-executive director portfolio and work with 3–4 start-ups in this capacity. I’m currently awaiting confirmation of my place at a local university to start my PhD, for which I plan to research and study female entrepreneurship.
What would be your advice to budding Business Leaders?
Your support group is everything. People are either radiators or drains and you need to surround yourself with those that energise you. Find a tribe of business buddies that will be there when things are tough, those who will share the highs and lows with you. This type of group is invaluable in providing useful and constructive feedback and guidance.
A key time for me was when I set up my first business and met a diverse group of businesswomen through a networking event. We set up a group chat to bounce around business ideas and queries and over time, this evolved to meet ups on a business then personal level.
“Staying well networked in the wider business community ensures you always know somebody who can give you advice or an introduction when you need it.” I’m a big fan of paying it forward and always try to offer as much support as I can to help others on their own journey.