Meet the PR expert who moved to the Dales on a whim

Sharon Davis decided to move to the Yorkshire Dales on a whim four years ago and has been using her PR skills to tell untold business stories, writes Ismail Mulla.

Sharon Davis moved to Hawes in 2016.

On the face of it, nothing about Sharon Davis screams rural life. Born and bred in London, she only really got to experience another city when she went to Nottingham Trent University.

However, in May 2016 she decided to do “something really crazy” and spend the summer in the Yorkshire Dales.

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Her now husband had also joined her and found a job working for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Sharon Davis set up her own PR business, Dales PR and Marketing.

It was the first time in her life that the PR expert had nothing tying her down to her home city of London as she was re-evaluating what to do after deciding not to operate an agency anymore.

That summer led to Ms Davis leaving the hustle and bustle of London for the idyllic surrounds of Hawes.

Along the way she inadvertently discovered that her PR skills could be utilised to tell previously untold stories of businesses in the Dales.

Ms Davis trod a familiar path into the public relations industry. She started off as a journalist, working for the BBC for two years.

Ms Davis also launched a women's business network.

She said: “I’m one of those people who followed the route from journalism to PR. I started out in local radio in 2005 and I did that for a few years.

“I found the throw-away nature of news a bit of a challenge. Secondly, when I was in the newsroom I could see that there were so many businesses, who sent poorly written press releases or just poor information.

“I thought with a bit of guidance they could actually do really well.”

When she did make the move up to Hawes, Ms Davis quickly came to realise that her job options were quite limited.

She has also launched a virtual Christmas market.

She said: “When it comes to jobs you’re talking hospitality and working at the Wensleydale creamery.

“For me, there were no real viable career options. I did do some waitressing for that summer that I came. I met loads of fantastic people.

“Then taking me up to Christmas I did a stint in the creamery as well. I did really embed myself in the community. I would say it was that that actually enabled me to set up a business later.

“It’s the sort of community that if you go there and they don’t really get you or think you’re too big for your boots, they will completely shun you.

“Having worked locally and seeing people when they come to the hotel for a drink and seeing them in the creamery, it really helped me to build genuine relationships that are at peer level.”

Ms Davis faced a choice. Either go back to London and do what she knew in an environment she was familiar with or “do something different”.

That’s when Ms Davis started doing some freelance PR work, which she eventually turned into Dales PR and Marketing.

The business now has two other employees plus a regular freelancer who works with it every week.

However, her time in Hawes has seen Ms Davis turn her hand to more than just PR. She has also set up Dales Business Women, a business network that is attracting women from across the Yorkshire Dales.

In fact the group has 52 paying members but also has another 25 to 50 women who engage with it organically.

“It is quite far reaching,” Ms Davis says. “While it may not be in York or Leeds a huge number, for where we are here it is quite significant.”

The idea for the business network came after Ms Davis realised that a lot of people in that part of rural Yorkshire had sideline businesses in addition to a regular job.

Personal reasons also played a part in setting up Dales Business Women. In 2018, Ms Davis became a mother.

She said: “I realised I wasn’t going to be the type of mum who was going to sit around in mums’ groups talking about the best brand of nappies.

“I needed to find people who are like-minded.

“One of the things I admired about people locally is that a lot of them maybe did work in a hotel or a pub or the Wensleydale Creamery, for example, but they all had sidelines.

“They would be selling candles or doing something on the side. In that way they are really industrious.”

This summer Ms Davis decided to extend her work with businesses in the Dales by creating the Dales Christmas Markets.

The market is virtual, enabling sellers to congregate on one platform to exhibit their wares. It has attracted ‘vendors’ from beyond the region.

Ms Davis said: “The market itself launches on November 19. There will be a weekend of activity but then the actual website will run until Christmas.

“We’ve got local businesses in the Dales on our books. We’ve got businesses from across the North. It’s virtual so there’s that flexibility.”

Operating a PR consultancy from such a remote location has its upsides but also comes with its downsides.

“The massive advantage for me is that there is no other PR agency for a long while,” Ms Davis says. “I guess the downside is that people don’t know what PR is so there’s a bit of education to be done there as well.”

She added: “One thing that I find is more significant here than in London is word of mouth. Here referrals are held quite strongly.”

There’s also the downside of not being able to network with figures from the media as easily.

Recently, Ms Davis and her family relocated to Richmond to be closer to the road network and Leeds.

While a move to the Yorkshire Dales maybe a dream for many people, Ms Davis admits that it was “really difficult” to adjust to rural life.

She still misses her family in London and also the buzz living in a city gives her.

“For me, and it’s a very personal thing, Leeds is the most similar place to London in terms of its diverse make-up,” she says. “Sometimes I just need to go there to feel normal again.”

Her advice to other black London-born female entrepreneurs looking to break the mould is to “just do it”.

“When you’re one of the first it will be hard,” she added.

Ms Davis’s decision to move to the Dales may have been “crazy” at first but she has certainly carved out a niche with her expertise.

Curriculum vitae

Title: Director, Dales PR and Marketing

Date of birth: 16/02/1984

Lives: Richmond, North Yorkshire

Favourite holiday destination: Ghana

Last book read: Overcoming Underearning, Barbara Stanny

Favourite film: The Post

Favourite song: Sweet Mother - Prince Nico Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz

Car driven: Vauxhall Astra

Most proud of: My daughter Ama

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