Former Garlands pair launch Call Agents UK business

TWO women who lost their jobs when one of the North East's biggest call centres closed are flying high with their own company.

Sharon Atkinson (left) and Rachel Barnes (right)

TWO women who lost their jobs when one of the North East's biggest call centres closed are flying high with their own company.

Rachel Barnes and Sharon Atkinson were used to working with major clients, such as Vodafone and Orange, in their previous roles managing inbound and outbound call activity at the Garlands call centre on Teesside.

But the centre shut last year, leaving them out of work, and that’s when they decided to explore their entrepreneurial instincts by starting up on their own.

“We had never run a business before,” says Rachel. “Sharon and I worked in unrelated professions before meeting at Garlands, then got experience of working with some of the biggest phone operators who were our clients. After we lost our jobs, we decided to start our company. We had been seriously thinking about it for a while, so when we lost our jobs it gave us the final push.”

They drew on their background at Garlands and created Call Agents UK, offering clients a call answering service and also bespoke telemarketing services.

“It makes sense,” insists Rachel. “Many companies don’t have the resources to pay for a full-time receptionist, there’s also the recession.

“The idea to launch our company came from looking at London and the US where virtual receptionists are massive. It means you never miss a call, never lose out on the chance to do business.”

Due to their connections with Teesside, they decided to establish the business in Middlesbrough, at Teesside University’s Business Park.

They now employ six people at their office and are working with some major clients.

Rachel and Sharon approached Business Link for advice on developing their business and also to explore access to funding.

Business Link advisor Karen Jones said: “This business has come a long way in a short period of time and has benefited from funding and one-to-one advisor support.

“I have worked with the business for a couple of months and have personally seen their confidence grow so much that their original target market has now changed to allow them to work with larger clients.”

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