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By Laura Kingston

Kari Owers is founder and managing director at O, a creative agency located in Newcastle. The proud winners of over 60 awards, including the North East Best Small Company to work for, O has also been a PR Week “Best Agency Outside London” finalist twice.

She grew up in Northern Ireland arriving in Newcastle to study art and design at 18. Since then she has gone on to be a communications consultant for over 20 years, helping organisations understand the value of using a clear and consistent story to help with their brand communications, and how to use cross-channel communications to grow their business with everything from traditional press to social media.

Kari has worked with client’s including Dr. Martens, Flymo, British Gas, Miller Homes, Parkdean Resorts and many regional start-ups and fast-growing businesses. She was named ‘North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’, picking up the Susan Dobson award at WIN Awards in 2012.

That’s a very busy couple of decades! So O is 15 this year, is that right? 

It is. Turning 15 as a business is a big milestone for us and we wanted to go back to our roots and what matters to us as a company. Our team wanted to pay it forward to young women less fortunate in our community. I was scrolling through Instagram one night and saw a post about ‘Women Supporting Women’. It looked absolutely fantastic and many of the founding supporters of the initiative are businesswomen I admire greatly, but it was very London-centric and I had noticed there wasn’t any representation yet in the North East. I knew I wanted to step up as ambassador and help make a difference right here on our doorstep.

Can you tell us about the initiative?

Well it was set up by a group of leading female entrepreneurs, businesswomen and philanthropists who believe that all young women deserve the chance to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. It’s a pretty impressive line up of female founders, including Chrissie Rucker OBE, Founder of The White Company, Ruth Chapman, Co-Founder of Matchesfashion.com, Marcia Kilgore, Founder of FitFlop, Melissa Odabash and Dame Carolyn McCall DBE, Chief Executive at ITV.

The initiative is aiming to change the lives of 6,500 young women by raising £10million over the next five years, which will all go to support more young women through The Prince’s Trust programmes. 

So let’s talk about what’s happening in the North East…

Well, as a general starting point, The Prince’s Trust Youth Index reported that mental health issues are at their highest and overall wellbeing is at its lowest since the index was first commissioned in 2009. 

On top of that, there are over 55,000 unemployed young people in our region. Which unfortunately makes us the region with the highest youth unemployment in the UK currently. 

Year on year, the charity sees less women coming through its programmes than men. In the North East, they work with 2,500 young people and only 41% are female. The fundraising that we’ll be doing in the North East will all go towards helping women in our region and getting that percentage up. 

Young women are suffering from self-confidence issues and a feeling of ‘not being good enough in general’.

The Prince’s Trust Youth Index

I’m curious to know more about how you built a network in the region from scratch when you moved here. Did you find peers in the North East to be particularly supportive and welcoming?

My network has taken almost 25 years to develop but I have never found it hard to find people willing to offer business advice over the years. I think the important thing is to recognise who you get on well with in business and keep those people with you on your journey. Also, make sure it’s a two-way thing in terms of you being available to them for help and support too. I find you get back what you put in.

As the owner of a PR agency, and mother to a teenage daughter, what are your thoughts on the ‘perfection’ that young women hold themselves accountable to now and what can we do as women working in the media industry?

Social media has made everyone an influencer and certainly teenagers today are bombarded with information, at a time when they’re learning what their values and beliefs are. Whilst there is a ‘filtered version’ of reality in only seeing the best bits of someone’s life on a social media feed, actually there is a really encouraging rise of new influencers in celebrities, models, bloggers and the like who embrace being yourself, mental health and body positivity. I’m really encouraged by that. When we work with influencers in our marketing campaigns we are very mindful of their reach and power and choose wisely.

And finally (of course), North East favourites? 

Coffee – Greyjoy’s in Gosforth (I take my dog Beau) or Harvest Canteen in Jesmond for the Ouseburn Coffee Co blends.
 
Sound Mind & Body gym where I do PT twice a week – the friendliest and most experienced set of trainers I’ve met (and they have hair straighteners!)
 
Hotpod yoga in Jesmond – my weekend treat to unwind from a busy week
 
The Cookhouse in Ouseburn, the best food in Newcastle
 
www.watsonandwhite.coma female start up I helped to co-found. It’s my favourite place to shop affordable fashion online
 
Tynemouth markets – I can while away the hours
 
Everyman Cinema – I don’t get to the flicks much so a drink and meal delivered to your seat makes it a special event
 
Fenwick food hall – quite possibly my favourite place to spend a fortune 
 
RE in Corbridge – I’m an interiors junkie so it’s eclectic mix of bits always tempt me inside  

How can you get involved in Women Supporting Women?

You can help to transform the lives of young women in the North East through joining Women Supporting Women in three ways:

You can give personally – A bespoke, individual relationship with The Prince’s Trust, with many supporters typically committing gifts over three to four years

You can give through your company – Support given via funding from a business, which includes a tailor-made partnership, volunteering opportunities for staff and potential product collaborations

You can fundraise – Fundraising ideas include taking part in a Trust challenge event such as our Palace to Palace  bike ride or walk, hosting dinner parties, or organising a group challenge such as a trek or mountain climb to help raise funds

If you are interested in getting involved as an ambassador, contact:

Rhona Warcup – The Prince’s Trust – Philanthropy Manager [North]

E-mail:  rhona.warcup@princes-trust.org.uk  

https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/support-our-work/major-gifts/women-supporting-women 

http://www.opr.co.uk/

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