Joanna Drake meets five Cheshire women taking control of the way they work

“It’s all about finding the happiness in what you do. It’s about being with people who fill your cup up and bring you joy.” As a prominent figure on Manchester’s tech scene, Amelia Bampton might be one of the last people you’d expect to be championing fun at work, but she’s one of a new wave of women taking steps to reclaim working norms and put the joy back into the nine-to-five.

“Work’s such a huge part of who we are, yet for so many people it doesn’t bring them happiness,” said Amelia, who lives in Wilmslow. “That’s completely crazy to me – I get such a lot of pleasure from being at work, being productive and meeting new people. I hadn’t realised quite how much until the first lockdown happened and I – like many – ended up working full-time from home with two young kids in the house.

Great British Life: Amelia Bampton, founder of C2 Coffee and CollaborationAmelia Bampton, founder of C2 Coffee and Collaboration (Image: Karen Staniland-Platt)

“It became crystal clear that I need physical human interaction to be happy; I didn’t realise how much of my personal joy came from being in the office until that was taken away. As lockdown ended, I wanted to share that moment of clarity with other people, so I launched a city centre remote working club – C2 Coffee and Collaboration – where people from all walks of life can meet once a month, share their stories and enjoy the experience of working with new people.”

The C2 community is broad, spanning everything from software developers to holistic therapists. It’s the mix of people that makes it work, Amelia says. “A lot of modern work has become quite transactional; it’s about getting things done, not about enjoyment or fulfilment. I want to change that.

“The club allows people from different backgrounds and sectors to meet and mingle. Sole traders get into the city for the day, enjoying the city centre vibe and the feeling of working in a group. People who are employed in bigger businesses get a change of pace, location, and outlook that’s really valuable.”

C2 is just one example of the many female-led networking, empowerment and support groups popping up all over the country – like Passion and Purpose, a networking club headquartered in Cheshire. Founder Karen Staniland-Platt, from Lower Peover, started the club after leaving a career in marketing to pursue photography.

Great British Life: Karen Staniland-Platt. Photo: Graham FlackKaren Staniland-Platt. Photo: Graham Flack

“Passion and Purpose works exclusively with women in business. It’s all about helping them to feel confident in promoting what they do. We meet monthly as a community of women who support and inspire one another and, while we’re together, I snap away on my camera. At the end of each session all members walk away with a a fresh set of images and headshots that they can use however they need – in their marketing, on social media and so on.”

It's a niche concept but one which has caught the attention of plenty of women in the region. In fact, the original clubs in Cheshire and Manchester have been so successful that Karen has now launched in Leeds and London, too.

Like many of the members, Karen is a working mum. She runs the business around a busy family life, offering the flexibility and autonomy to make her life work, but also fulfilling a creative need – something her marketing career had not touched. “I realised that I needed to scratch that creative itch and photography was my way of doing that,” she said. “It makes me happy and I feel incredibly lucky to say that this is my job.”

Her story is echoed by Wilmslow resident Caroline Kelf, otherwise known as DJ Flourish, a female empowerment DJ who left a career as an executive PA – a job which ticked the boxes but didn’t spark her passion – to chase a dream.

Great British Life: Making a living from what she loves: Caroline KelfMaking a living from what she loves: Caroline Kelf

“I love music and I love people,” she explains. “I’ve always been happiest when I’m in charge of the tunes at a party, watching people respond to the changing energy in the room as the beat drops, so I eventually decided to see if I could make that feeling part of my work.

“I bought some decks in my early 40s and learned to DJ from scratch. I rediscovered music I’d forgotten and started making mixes. Eventually I locked onto the idea of combining music with the growing trend of wellness and self-care, and the concept of the self-love rave was born.”

As an existing fan of personal development and with an interest in female empowerment, the two areas paired naturally for Caroline. “I love helping women feel joy, celebrate themselves and lose themselves in music,” she says. “I feel so privileged to be able to call this work. It’s brilliant to hear so many women’s stories of how my gigs have helped them, but it also helps me – it fills my own cup up, far more so than any 9-5 could ever have done.

“I’m all about getting women into a safe space where they can let go and tap into something fun. Forget about what you look like, don’t worry if you can’t dance, ignore your insecurities and just feel the music – it’s so powerful and it makes you feel incredible.”

Tapping into self-love is a big part of what has propelled each of these women into different working set-ups. For Wilmslow-based performance coach and workplace wellbeing facilitator Sarah French, self-love has been the driver behind her own career change.

Great British Life: Sarah French. Photo: Karen Staniland-PlattSarah French. Photo: Karen Staniland-Platt

For fifteen years, she progressed up the ranks in high-pressure, high profile corporate companies. Eventually, she pushed herself to burnout trying to live up to the expectations of others and the impossibly high ones she had for herself. “I knew something had to change after collapsing with a panic attack on a rush hour London underground train in 2011,” she said.

Through her recovery from burnout, Sarah discovered that her challenges were not, as she first thought, due to poor self-care, time management or even outdated corporate culture - although these certainly played a part. “When I faced up to myself and was honest about who I was and what I wanted, I started to be able to change the pattern.

“Life is dramatically different now. I work for myself, which allows me to be flexible for my two primary school-aged sons, and also means I can choose who I work with – no more corporate culture clashes or toxic attitudes! I’m happier in my own work, which means I’m happier in my family life, too.”

Sarah's passion for empowering her clients to create joyful work environments where people feel comfortable being themselves is palpable. “I know how it feels to have work worries dominate your life and for your self-confidence to be at rock bottom. But I want everyone to know that we have way more power to create change than we think we do.”

Sarah isn’t the only coach finding joy in helping others while also making employment work for her. Sara Maxwell, from Wilmslow, is a wealth coach who uses her expertise in the financial services industry to help people understand their money. A professional certified and accredited coach, and qualified financial planner, she set up The Wealth Coach to bridge the gap between advising people on wealth management and empowering them to make the right choices for their own values.

Great British Life: Sara Maxwell. Photo: Karl CoppackSara Maxwell. Photo: Karl Coppack

“I spent over 20 years in corporate financial services, helping people who already had wealth decide how best to grow it. People need to understand their money, but they also need to understand their own relationship with their money. I set up The Wealth Coach to link the two sides together.”

Sara’s approach to work couldn’t be further from her corporate finance career – her Instagram feed is awash with colour and she works from a campervan as often as she can, with her dog Ron for company. “I’m doing work that I enjoy, the campervan gives me freedom to work where I want, and Ron’s always there as my emotional support! I love that my office can be the city centre one day, and the side of Pickmere Lake the next – that makes me happy and brings me a lot of fulfilment that I’d never had when I was working full-time in the city and travelling around the country.”

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated changes in the way we work, with many people now enjoying a remote or hybrid working pattern. This rapid change has undoubtedly facilitated a shift in attitudes to work and these five women are testament to what life can look like when you find the joy in your work.

As Amelia Bampton says: “Work doesn’t need to be drudgery, suits and nine-to-five. It can be joyous and wonderful and a life’s purpose. When we find that, that’s the sweet spot – that’s what it’s all about.”

Get social

Amelia Bampton @amelia_career_boost_club

Karen Staniland-Platt @withpassionandpurpose

Caroline Kelf @ravewithdjflourish

Sarah French @sarahfrench_uk

Sara Maxwell @yourwealthcoach_

Future events

Catch Amelia at the next C2 Coffee and Collaboration Club on Friday 23 June, at Colony Flint Glass Works, Manchester. Tickets will be available through EventBrite.

DJ Flourish will play at Womanifest, a two-day personal development, wellbeing and empowerment festival for women taking place in Frodsham on 15 and 16 July. Visit for tickets.

The next Cheshire Passion and Purpose networking clubs are on June 12 and 16. Visit to sign up.