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Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley: My life in 10 answers

Rose Marley has recently taken up the role of CEO at Co-operatives UK, the network for Britain’s co-operative businesses. With a strong background in creative industries, technology, the gig economy and entrepreneurship, Rose is a passionate advocate for social enterprise and values-led business.

What has been your Best Life Project to date?

Leaving the music industry and becoming a social entrepreneur, and setting up at SharpFutures. The experience has also led to my appointment as CEO of Co-operatives UK to complete the circle.

2. The unknown … what challenges did you have to overcome?

In my 20s I was travelling the world as a music manager and so I thought, living my best life. But when I became pregnant, I realised I wanted a different, far more nurturing and impactful existence. The biggest challenging was the culture shift of moving from the high pressured and high performing entertainment business into the public sector as a social entrepreneur operating in areas where there is a market failure. Social enterprise is so much harder than enterprise. That challenge never goes away.

3. In hindsight…..what would you do differently?

So many things! I would have been less angry, not be that Northerner with a chip on her shoulder (although that did serve me well from time to time).

4. Next steps?

To shout about the UK’s best kept secret – co-ops! There are 7,000 co-operatives in the UK with a combined turnover of £38m billion and a tried and tested business model that is fair and equitable – ultimately my next steps are to help grow the social economy and contribute to developing a fairer future for all.

5. What lifestyle changes has lockdown made you consider?

I have started paying more attention to my health and have started running, not every day but it’s a start.

6. Kissing frogs …. is there an unexpected person who has helped you and, if so, how did they do it?

The Manchester music scene icon, Tony Wilson was a great influence on me, surprising because we disagreed A LOT. I was COO of the music event ‘In the City’ set up by Tony. He was a hard taskmaster and whilst his alternative business style taught me how not to do things, he did teach me how to galvanise support.

The late great Tony Wilson

7. My Inspiration ….who or what inspires you?

I was brought up surrounded by some phenomenally impressive women. My mum, Margaret, who was widowed with three young children who put herself through Open University and became a headteacher; My grandmothers (I have three): Grandma Dolan who was still an honorary Brown Owl at 98, my Grandma Egan who ran her own business and Grandma Marley from whom I get my sense of community and sisters, cousins, aunties, friends – I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful women.

8. How do you relax or do you struggle to relax?

I never have a problem relaxing and can easily spend a day doing nothing.

9. Guilty secret pleasure?

Coronation Street!

10. Words of wisdom

‘To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Main pic by Greater Mancunians

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