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Sheroes and Heroes: Fast Forward 15

Fay Sharpe, founder of Fast Forward 15 introduces Jackie Mulligan as her first Shero for the new FF15 feature series.

Week one

I’d like to welcome Jackie Mulligan as my first Shero on this new FF15 feature, every week we hope to spotlight someone from our industry that is making a difference, doing their bit or has created a successful business. I first met Jackie five years ago when she offered to one of the first mentors on my FF15 programme. She was dynamic, full of great ideas and a great mentor in our FF15 community. In this feature, Jackie tells us a little bit about herself.

Who is Jackie Mulligan?

I am Dr Jackie Mulligan. I have worked in the UK for lottery, theatre and events. I have also worked in academia in the Caribbean, where I led international research projects as well as teaching and researching and had the opportunity to be one of the founding mentors for FF15.

I had been in my last academic job for 11 years and was old enough to know better when I took the leap to fight for my local high street. I always had a passion for small enterprise, place and community and could not bear to see the decline of local businesses when there seemed to be an easy way to level the playing field.

Whilst writing my PhD thesis which was all about creativity and social psychology, I started to realise the importance of our physical environments and people on our state of mind and motivation and it encouraged me to address my growing concern on the negative impact of declining towns on our mental health and well-being.

So, I packed up my academic career, my almost finished thesis and founded in 2016. ShopAppy enables communities to browse, book and buy local with easy click and collect after hours and over Covid-19 I added local delivery.

I had an idea, no tech or retail experience but I did have a strong motivation to make a difference and felt passionately that it was time to shape a better further for places.

The journey has been tough, more of a climbing wall than a learning curve but the key is I have learned so much along the way. For Covid-19 we pivoted the business to include delivery and we grew from 29 towns to 102 towns in three weeks. We are now starting ShopAppy in over 120 towns and we have a partnership with VISA. I have also been working with Saatchi and Saatchi on a rebrand and our first billboards.

It is hard work, involves many sleepless nights and personal sacrifice, but I feel a sense of purpose and urgency that drives me and now my team of 10 people forward.

I have lots of tips from this experience, but my key ones are to take chances and to do things you believe in. You must understand that success is as much about know-how, as it is about know who and realise that when you are creating something new, there is no road map.

There will be bumps. But just keep going.