Sharon MacArthur, Red Handbag; “C” word is the spark for consultancy venture

Confidence is a key attribute to have in the cut-throat world of business and it’s this – or rather the lack of it – which encouraged Sharon MacArthur to launch her own consultancy business.

A young woman commented on Sharon’s striking red handbag in a shop queue, wistfully claiming that she didn’t have the confidence to use her own new cream handbag in case it got marked and damaged.

And Sharon’s advice?

“If I were you I’d take your cream handbag out of the wardrobe, put a mark on it yourself, somewhere you can’t see it. Then you won’t be stressed any more about using it, as the thing you are most worried about will already have happened! Then you can use it, can’t you?”

Sharon McArthurAs a result of that chance conversation, Red Handbag was born in 2014. Sharon realised that she wanted to help more people – predominantly women – gain extra confidence that would make it easier for them to progress in their chosen career.

From helping women with confidence issues in the workplace, she quickly expanded the business and now helps all manner of companies to develop brilliant leaders.

Running a company, though, can be a lonely place so Sharon signed up for Newcastle University Business School’s Captured scheme to gain extra confidence of her own. She was matched with John Souter, head of customer services at transport operator Nexus, who is helping her to forge new contacts and explore fresh ways of promoting her business.

Sharon said: “It’s nice to have a bit of support when I don’t have any staff of my own to bounce ideas off. I wanted to find out how someone from a large company viewed my business and the way I operate. Just having that support gives me the confidence and assurance that I’m on the right track.”

Sharon, who previously worked as a senior sales manager at software giant Sage, is now focused on developing her business and inspiring more professionals to embrace the power of that “C” word. A firm advocate of mentoring, networking and sharing ideas, she believes that local businesses would benefit if people talked to each other more.

“It would be great if Captured could be extended so that you spend more time with the mentors and you’re able to network more with other small businesses on the programme,” she said. “Maybe the business school could host a networking event every three months. That would give people more opportunity to talk to each other, share contacts and perhaps even trade with each other.”

For further information on Red Handbag, visit