In the company of… Victoria Tomlinson, as featured in the Harrogate Advertiser

15 June 2018 By Next-Up

In the company of… Victoria Tomlinson, as featured in the Harrogate Advertiser image

On 14th June 2018, The Harrogate Advertiser featured an interview with Next-Up Founder Victoria Tomlinson. Read on to see what she has to say on starting a business, rethinking retirement and more.


  1. In a nutshell, what does your business do and how did it start?

Next-Up helps people leaving full-time careers to use their skills in unretirement – that could be becoming a consultant, starting a business, helping charities on projects, finding a non-executive director or trustee role, becoming a speaker/writer, working with universities and more.

  1. What’s the most surprising thing about it?

No matter how successful you were in your career, the transition to ‘unretirement’ can be very challenging. Senior people have teams around them to test out their ideas, make them happen.  Now they are on their own. Many have no idea what to do next, others have ideas but not sure where to start with them. I have also been surprised in our research that charities find it so hard to get the trustees they need or help with projects – we really want to build on this area.

I have seen first-hand how generous people at this stage of their career are – we have an advisory board of 20 heavyweight leaders who have given time and expertise to help us shape Next-Up.

  1. What do you do?

I set up Northern Lights 28 years ago – Next-Up has evolved from that. In the last four years I have helped around 100 senior people with everything from writing their LinkedIn profile to shaping business ideas, creating websites and blogs or introducing them to people who need their skills.

We came up with the Next-Up concept last August and created the online membership platform, written online programmes and workshops, organised events, written guides and more. For now, I will be coaching our members and running our online programmes and workshops – but we are also training others to pick these up as we grow.

  1. How did you end up here? (i.e. what’s your career background?)

A graduate trainee and legal officer with Plessey Aerospace; (now) De la Rue selling banknotes around the world; joined EY, becoming director on the London office management team. Started Northern Lights, a PR business in 1989 and moved us into digital ten years ago and working in Dubai six years ago. We also moved into helping leaders with their personal branding and coaching them to have more impact. Next-Up is the next evolution – it’s interesting to be going techy with an online membership platform.

  1. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? (i.e. in your career)

I have never really had a ‘career’ so almost anything. It could be making wedding cakes (which I do for friends), landscape gardening, coaching. I have a dozen business ideas a year so maybe another business that fills a market gap!

  1. What motivates you?

Helping others and feeling you are making a difference – whether it’s businesses or individuals. I have mentored dozens of people over the years, from ex-offenders to students starting a business and helping a number of chief executives to make some really tough decisions – they can be very challenging but also enormously rewarding.

  1. What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?

The drivers of profit. I nearly went under a year in – I took on too many people in support roles when what clients wanted, and paid for, was more senior advice. We weren’t structured to meet client needs.

  1. What excites you about business?

Businesses solve the problems of our society and that is exciting.  We create wealth and employment. It can be incredibly difficult – I have never known anything as hard as the last recession – but it is exciting to find a new opportunity even in such tough times. It can be done – and we will/are doing it again with Brexit!

  1. What is your pet hate in business?

The ‘captains of industry’ who are paid extortionately more than their employees (who in the end are the ones doing the work and making their money) and who structure their business and their own pay to avoid paying taxes. They give business generally a bad name and are not representative of the millions of small business owners who pay and treat their employees fairly and pay their taxes with pride. I don’t mind anyone being paid well or making a lot of money if their employees are treated well and they are honest in their dealings.

  1. What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?

Don’t think of your working life as a ‘career’.  It will be a series of opportunities and make the most of each one. Even lawyers, accountants and bankers will find there aren’t really ‘careers’ in years to come – technology will do large amounts of these roles. They need to find their added value that can’t be automated – which is creativity. Say yes to lots of new things and above all, get into technology and have an open mind for everything new.

  1. Who in business do you most admire, and why?

Tricia Cusden – the 70-year old launched an online make-up business for older women a few years ago and is now a leading vlogger and hugely successful businesswoman.

  1. What moments of your career so far stand out?

It’s always to do with the amazing people I have been lucky enough to employ.  They have rallied, supported and inspired. Our team behind Next-Up is extraordinary – it’s been a time of big change. We’ve all had to get to grips with new technology and they have been brilliant.

  1. What sets your company apart from the competition?

Do we have competitors? So many people have said this is filling a market gap. 

  1. What is the most difficult challenge your business has faced? And what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?

The hardest part has been finding a website and marketing partner – a lot are still designing websites that are not much more than an online brochure with a bit of search engine optimisation/blogs, rather than the marketing being completely integrated to the website and the core business.

  1. Have you got a five-year goal for the business?

To grow the business to 5,000 members over the next few years. But above all I want businesses, charities and universities to think about the skills they really need and create a new market in using the talent of unretirees in new ways.

  1. Why is it good to do business in Harrogate?

We are at the heart of an extraordinary business conurbation – Leeds and Manchester particularly – and easy access to London.  I love the growth of the tech sector in this region with so many opportunities and Harrogate itself has amazing business talent – many live here and work in London in the week.  It’s a dynamic place to be!

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Written by Next-Up

Next-Up helps anyone over 50 who doesn’t want another mainstream job. We support organisations with a range of services for employees/partners as well as individuals themselves. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations.

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