Profile: Emma Howarth

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Entrepreneur Emma Howarth plans to set up her own apprenticeship scheme. She met Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright

EVERYONE needs a mentor, who can provide support and counselling when times are tough.

Entrepreneur Emma Howarth found her role model close to home. She has always been inspired by her mother, Clodagh, who taught her to believe in people who might not have had the best start in life. She has used this philosophy as the bedrock for her business career.

Ms Howarth, who runs the specialist recruitment firm Langton Howarth, is still in awe of her mother; a single parent who brought up two teenagers, while working hard to make ends meet.

“My mum has worked at the Young Offenders’ Institute in Wetherby for many years, teaching life skills,’’ Ms Howarth said. “She also acts as a godmother to many of the young people there.

“Her belief in education and rehabilitation never ceases to amaze me, as well as being an amazing support to me throughout my career. There are people out there who haven’t had that, they need an opportunity, they need a chance. We should have more of a social conscience.”

Ms Howarth is determined to put these principles into action at her company. Back in 2006, Ms Howarth decided to establish a recruitment business in Harrogate with just a desk and a PC.

Born into a mill-owning family, she’d worked for other recruitment firms, but believed the time was right to take the plunge and branch out on her own. At the time, the UK economy was booming. The new business venture was also a way of fulfilling a childhood dream.

“I used to love going into the family mill, with these big looms that worked 24/7,’’ she said. “I now live on the same street. The firm had a big boardroom and big panels. I remember sitting on one of the chairs in the boardroom and kicking my legs against it and thinking, ‘One day I would like to have a business of my own.’

“That was a defining moment for me.”

Ms Howarth was certain she could make her mark on the male-dominated recruitment world by finding a niche. She chose life science, healthcare and beauty because they are “what makes the world go round”. She and her team find candidates who will work for companies that are seeking cures for a host of lethal diseases.

Much of the company’s success has been driven by its relationship with the Merck Group, and AstraZeneca has just hired Langton Howarth for its Cambridge site. Its projected turnover is £1m. Today, around 30 per cent of the firm’s clients are based in Europe. It recruits staff for many of the world’s biggest laboratories and scientific companies. The family business, which moved from Harrogate to Leeds in 2009, has around 15 staff, and Ms Howarth is proud of its track record in providing opportunities for youngsters who are fresh from college. She believes that many young people are facing challenges caused by rising house prices and the cost of going to university.

She said: “It should be our responsibility as business owners and managers to nurture them. I would love nothing more than for an apprentice that I have helped and supported to take over as the head of my business.”

Like her mother, she has a great deal of empathy with youngsters who have taken some hard knocks.

“A lot of them are street-smart as well,’’ she said. “They have to be self-reliant, resourceful and resilient because they’ve had real hardships in their lives. You can take that into a business environment, which can only better British business.”

Ms Howarth believes her company is helping people to enjoy better lives because it specialises in health and beauty recruitment, which includes pharmaceuticals, life sciences and medical diagnostics.

She added: “You’re increasing life expectancy and ensuring that people have better healthcare, because people that we are placing are developing, manufacturing and distributing equipment. Lipsticks and fragrances make people feel better about themselves. We work with companies that design, develop and manufacture testicular implants and also breast implants for re-constructive surgery, so it’s not just about cosmetic enhancement.”

Ms Howarth’s passionate focus on her business has helped her pick up a number of trophies – she received the inaugural Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Scarborough International Business Forum and she was shortlisted for the Business Woman of the Year Award at the Sue Ryder Yorkshire Women of Achievement awards in 2012. But is it easy to find the right staff?

“Having spoken to my peers, we’re all in the same boat,’’ she said. “It’s very, difficult. The people we look for are unique because of the type of culture that we have. You have to be very passionate about your market and your industry.We’re looking to formalise an apprenticeship course for Langton Howarth, and we’re working in conjunction with a college. I don’t know how the business is going to grow,

“I’ve never had a figure that we should be ‘x amount of people by y’. It’s more about the people. We wrap our business around them. It’s very much a meritocracy, because we’re a small company we’ve grown organically and we don’t have any external shareholders or investors.

“It is quite a white knuckle ride in recruitment. But it’s really exciting if you excel at it.”