Meet the mum of three who is championing women entrepreneurs in York

YORK business coach Tracy Burleigh makes no excuses for setting up the all-female networking group York Women Mean Business (YWMB).

"We keep it women-only because it is sociable networking. If it had men in the mix, it would change it," insists Tracy, who has grown the group to almost 1,800 members since its launch two years ago.

But she's quick to make clear she's not anti-men. "I've nothing against men, I like working with men," she says. Just as well; Tracy, aged 44, is the sole female in her family of five: her plus husband Dave, 11-year-old son Dev, and grown-up lads Dan and Jim.

And she's just launched a mixed version of her networking group, York Means Business, open to both men and women.

But helping women in business has become her passion – she's also recently set up satellite groups of YWMB in Harrogate and Leeds.

There's a new website too (; essentially a directory of women-run businesses.

And if that were not enough, Tracy has organised the first Expo for YWMB members on Saturday, October 27.

Around 100 women in York – all members of YWMB – will be showcasing their products and services at this ambitious event at the Park Inn hotel, North Street. It will run from 10am to 4pm; entry is free and a goody bag and glass of fizz will be given to the first 100 guests on the day.

It's a new direction for the group which Tracy set up via Facebook in March 2016. Originally the idea was for her to build a resource of local businesses run by women that she could dip into to help her own clients.

"I wanted to know about web designers, copywriters, logo and brand developers to be able to recommend them to clients – so I started the group for those reasons," she says.

Tracy knows all about running your own business – she has been at the helm of several over the years, including running a bridal shop and wedding planning business in Malton.

She left school after taking her GCSEs aged 16 and soon had her first child. She worked all sorts of jobs while her children were small, in garages, hotels, bars and restaurants. And she cut her commercial teeth at CCP, starting out in customer services in the call centre and working her way up to new product development and project management.

Today, she divides her time between clients and building up her networking groups. Back in 2016, she could not have envisioned how successful YWMB would become. This year, Tracy was invited to Facebook HQ in London and now has a hotline to the global social media giant which is keen to learn how groups like YWMB operate and use the platform.

"They wanted to understand how we use the group – and we get access to new things they want to test before they get rolled out. They like the fact that we are a community and that we support each other."

And this, insists Tracy, reflects how women network differently from men. At the monthly meet ups, members post their business cards into goody bags for women to take home, rather than spend the evening trying to "sell" themselves to one another. The idea is that women get to know each other, get to like each other, learn what each other does, and build business relationships on the back of that.

"It's advertising without advertising; selling without selling," says Tracy. And it works. Even if a member doesn't need the service of someone else in the group – they might know someone who does. In that sense, it is classic networking, but without all the bits that many people dislike, including Tracy.

"I don't like any of the networking I have done," she says, her face falling as she recalls giving one-minute pitches over cooked breakfasts in hotel dining rooms. "I don't like the formalities. I don't like that you have to pay a yearly fee."

Membership of YWMB is free and there is a small charge to attend the monthly meet-ups. It is open to women in the York area who run their own business, or who are senior decision makers in their company.

It covers a vast area of skills and services, says Tracy, from cake makers and make-up artists, to web designers and graphic artists, to accountants and even a former GP.

Many of them will be taking part in the Expo on the 27th. Besides seeing what these businesses offer, there will be opportunities to buy food and drink from members as well as products (candles, cakes, pies, stationery, art, soft furnishings) – and even try out some of the services they offer. Visitors can even have a go at cocktail making.

Tracy hopes it will give the exhibitors a publicity boost and show the people of York just what is available on their doorstep.

"It's for York to realise what's here. These businesses need celebrating," says Tracy. "People can come along with their family and discover things they might need for business – and do some Christmas shopping!"


WHETHER you want to find a local business or service, get some inspiration for your own company – or simply have a fun day out shopping and trying something new, YWMB's first Expo aims to offer something for everyone.

There will be products to buy and a host of activities, including health and wellbeing services, to try too.

Around 100 local female entrepreneurs will be showcasing their services and products at the all-day event next Saturday, October 27, from 10am-4pm a the Park Inn by Radisson, North Street, York.

Here is a list of some of the local businesses taking part:

Camilla Grayley Garden Design

1st Byte IT & Telecoms

Emma Langton Coaching & Hypnotherapy

Indigo Greens estate agency

Inc Dot Design & Print

ASAPay Ltd

Francesca King Ceramics

The Yorkshire Handbag Company

L'Atelier Natalia Willmott

Lucy's Pop Choir

York Proms Limited, Rebecca Newman Soprano

Cut & Chase


The Sugar Florist

She Loves York

Claire Cutler-Casey Kinesiologist

WhizzBang Science

Stationery Geek

Pink Lily Photography

Neal's Yard Remedies Organic