There are few women who can – or indeed would – turn down the chance of working on a Bond movie.
But that’s just what Tees Businesswomen Awards-winner Laura Hepburn recently did.
With lack of funding for her fledging company, Greenology (Teesside), the tenacious Teessider dipped in and out of the film industry where she had been a successful assistant director, to keep the revenue rolling in.
“I’m a career chameleon,” said Laura, who has also worked as a set designer, in hospitality and on TV and film production in shows as huge as Game Of Thrones, Fantastic Beasts and Gentleman Jack.
“In my joyous past I’ve never done anything straightforward.”
The Beatles-inspired movie Yesterday, alongside legendary director Danny Boyle, led to a firm friendship and the offer of that Bond gig.
“Who needs a Bond man when you can be a Bond girl,” laughed Laura, while taking part in the Thirteen-sponsored Tees Business online chat Talking Business.
“Besides, the film industry isn’t as glamorous as you think. Being up at two in the morning up to my neck in mud, rat and pig poo about three years ago filming the movie Tolkien to get the effect of it being in the Somme, was not glamourous, let me tell you!”
Laura explained how being able to pivot – especially since the onset of Covid – has paid dividends for her as a businesswoman.
“People have to be adaptable, this last year has proved that, and while I’ve had a very colourful career, it shows an ability to change really quickly – and thank God because we’ve had to adapt Greenology so many times.”
Last year, despite the challenges, was a great one for Laura. Not only did she win the coveted Breaking the Mould trophy at the Tees Businesswomen Awards, but Greenology (Teesside) went from strength to strength.
The company’s base in Middlesbrough specialises in tyre recycling.
“End of life tyres are a massive problem,” explained Laura. “People tend to tip or burn them or they are dumped in the sea or in lay-bys.
“There hasn’t been a really good way of dealing with them until Greenology devised a way of shredding them and turning them into new products such as marine-grade oil.
“Not only are we building a huge plant to do more of this, but we have been winning contracts with the likes of JCB and Pirelli – big tyre contracts with people who are trying to be sustainable.”
Despite her success, Laura has had to jump through hoops to get this far and is passionate about easing the path for future women in business.
“The issue is funding,” she said. “It’s just very difficult, especially when a start-up is run by a lone woman. There are barriers to accessing a region’s funding unless you have been there a long time, but there’s also the fact that women founders are the hardest to fund.
“I sit on a board with Natwest and do a lot of speeches for RBS, and we’ve found that because women generally care for kids or older family members they may not have a mortgage or equity they can put against a business.
“I worry about the next generation of women who we are encouraging to go into business and make a difference in the world if there isn’t that financial support there for them.”
Laura admitted to being vocal with the Northern Power Women to make sure that we, as a region, are levelling up.
“If we are encouraging the treasury to come to the north or we are going for a free port, we must make sure that we are looking after the next generation and that it’s inclusive and diverse.”
On a personal level, Laura doesn’t hold back about her own ambitions.
“In five years’ time I will ensure that Greenology is rolling out amazing technology which will benefit not just Teesside but the UK as a whole.
“I will also be running the Bank of Laura, so if women are as brave as me and want to start their own business, I will be able to fund them where they didn’t tick the boxes.”
It seems if anyone can do it, Laura can!