Business Q&A: Zara Jackson, Network Scientific
Mar 20, 2024
Photo of Zara Jackson, CEO of Harrogate company Network Scientific, sitting on a pink chair.

This is the latest in a regular series of Business Q&A features published weekly.   

This week, we spoke to Zara Jackson, founder and CEO of Harrogate-based Network Scientific.

Tell us in fewer than 30 words what your firm does. 

We help scientific business grow. We offer recruitment services, sales and marketing, all aimed at helping clients to grow their sales.

What does it require to be successful in business? 

A good work ethic and a thick skin. Being prepared to just get stuck in, no matter what you’re doing.

What drives you to do what you do every day? 

Relentless ambition! I recently found out that I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and one of its features is that you just keep on going. I don’t stop from morning to evening.

I want more – nothing’s ever enough. We’ve achieved at least 20% growth in turnover and profitability each year since Covid, but this year I want to reach 30%.

What has been the toughest issue your company has had to deal with over the last 12 months? 

Recruiting our staff. Hiring good commercial scientists is quite a challenge. That’s why I’ve set up a model of hybrid working where everybody can work from home, so long as they work in the office at least once a week. We employ people based as far afield as Huddersfield and Teesside, and we can’t expect them to come in every day.

Which other local firms do you most admire and why? 

Impression Recruitment – we’ve worked with them from day one and they’ve helped us with our recruitment.

Also Extreme Creations – it’s really inspired me to see how they’ve grown their business.

Cloud Nine‘s growth is very impressive, and I saw they also got voted one of the best places to work in the Sunday Times.

And I can’t forget Artizan – I love that business! I used to do a lot of volunteer work with differently abled people when I was younger (and had more time available!). We need more of those companies that bring inclusivity into the town centre.

Who are the most inspiring local leaders? 

I have no idea. I’m coming up blank!

What could be done locally to boost business? 

I think the council needs to invest more in the high street. It’s struggling, it’s tired, and more investment is required to attract people into the town centre. Harrogate BID is doing a lot, but we need more if I’m to be able to get people to relocate here.

Also, with Viper Rooms closed, there’s no nightlife any more. When I first came to Harrogate in 2006, the nightlife in Harrogate was one of the things that really attracted young people here. But that’s gone now, and people go to Leeds instead – and that makes selling the town to young scientists that much more difficult.

We also need more inclusivity to boost local business. I have two employees who are currently observing Ramadan. We offer a private space for them to use as a prayer room here but we’ll be moving offices soon, and when we do, we won’t have that space. Harrogate Islamic Association are currently fundraising to develop a building in town into Harrogate’s first mosque. We’ll be donating to their efforts during Ramadan this year.

Best and worst things about running a business from Harrogate? 

There’s a good business community in Harrogate that’s really supportive and close-knit. I’m quite cut off from it now that I have young children, but when I was first starting out it was a big help. Harrogate also very picturesque. If I’m having a stressful day, I’ve been known to have a walk round the Valley Gardens – and it helps.

The worst thing is trying to recruit younger employees. It used to be OK, and I’m sure it could be again.

What are your business plans for the future? 

Growth. I’ve never wanted to have any external stakeholders. Network Scientific was launched from my back bedroom and I’ve built it up from there, so I just want to carry on growing it organically. I’ll be happy if we stick to growing at 20% a year, but I want more.

We’re quite well known now in the UK, so we’ll be targeting more European and US work.

What do you like to do on your time off? 

Spending time with my family and getting muddy with my children. Nidd Gorge is brilliant, and in the summer we take our bikes to the greenways and cycle to Ripley.

I’m a footie mum as well. I thought having two girls that I might be spared standing on the sidelines in the rain, but my eight-year-old plays football six times a week!

Best place to eat and drink locally? 

I like the Smith’s Arms at Beckwithshaw. It’s relaxed and the food is good, so we always seem to end up going back there.

I like the Giggling Squid and Lucia too, but that’s closing and reopening soon, so I hope the new restaurant is as good as the old one was.

  • If you know someone in business in the Harrogate district and you’d like to suggest them for this feature, drop us a line at [email protected]. 

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