Interview with coaching psychologist Donna Bradshaw, the University’s first Entrepreneur Coach in Residence

Earlier this year, coaching psychologist and founder/owner of Prospect Business Consulting Ltd Donna Bradshaw joined the University of Liverpool’s Intellectual Property (IP) Commercialisation as the first Entrepreneur Coach in Residence 2023. We caught up with Donna to find out more about life as a social entrepreneur, her plans to support academics who are seeking to become an entrepreneur and top tips for future founders of spin-out and start-up companies.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a coaching psychologist with a focus on supporting a variety of people, from entrepreneurs to creatives, to frontline staff and whole teams. I am particularly interested in helping individuals and teams during the start-up and transformation of businesses and organisations that make an impact on society.

I am also the founder and owner of Prospect Business Consulting Ltd, which entered a formal partnership with Well North Enterprises Community Interest Company (CIC) in April 2022. Both teams combine decades of expertise in regeneration, place making, leadership/team/organisational development, and have a portfolio of work that includes leadership programs, NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICS) organisational development, coaching and more.

In addition to my work at Prospect, I am a social entrepreneur and a CIC director, and I am part of the team running a leading arts and music venue, the Carlton Club, in Manchester, supporting people and the community through our social activities.

I began my career as an accountant, but quickly moved into business psychology and I worked as an academic at Manchester Business School for a number of years, focussing on management and leadership within the public sector. Eventually I left to set up an enterprise that would translate knowledge into socially useful and practical tools for organisations and teams, winning Manchester Business of the Year, among other achievements. I’ve been working in this transition space for a long time, moving ideas from within a university culture into a business culture and I want to provide support for those working to achieve this today in a way that didn’t exist 20 years ago when I first did this.

How did your role here come about?

Prior to taking up the University role of Entrepreneur Coach in Residence, I had the pleasure of working with Professor Kate Black on the development of her spin-out company, Meta Additive, which turned out to be a successful exit in 2021. It was an incredible journey, and our collaborative experience became an impact case study for the University. As well as this, I provided ad-hoc advice and support to other research spin-out founders. It was through this relationship with Kate that I got involved in coaching with the University.

Kate was interested in my work, and we began a coaching relationship several years ago. I worked with her team in engineering, and she began to consider the idea of starting her own enterprise. I worked with Kate and her team through the journey, and when she spun out as Meta Additive, I joined her board alongside Emma Nolan, Head of IP Commercialisation. Through this, Emma invited me to work on the University’s ‘Future Founders Programme’ designed to help academic researchers demystify the management of new ventures. I delivered two sessions on building high-performance teams and combining academic and entrepreneurial mindsets, and the feedback was great. I also provided follow-on personal development coaching to the 2022 Future Founders Programme alumni.

Kate said: “I would strongly encourage new Future Founders to access coaching support. The enterprise journey is intense, exhilarating and demanding, and everyone looks towards you as the leader for support, direction and decisions.  I found that external advice, coaching and mentoring was invaluable to create some reflection space, keep up personal resilience and to think about my personal impact.  Donna’s style balances support and constructive challenge and she brings in decades of experience of working with many different kinds of leader which is invaluable to draw upon.  It is vital to look after yourself and develop your own leadership.”

Tell us about your new role as the University’s Entrepreneur Coach in Residence 2023

My new role as the University's Entrepreneur Coach in Residence 2023 will run from January to December 2023, and it's funded through the University's Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Through conversations with Emma, we discussed how I could provide coaching and training to future founders that generates learning and transformational change. Essentially, the idea is that all future founders will be able to access me as a coach and ad-hoc advisor, and I'll be delivering workshops on several topics, such as building high-performing teams, leading through difficult conversations and negotiations, and more.

Coaching is not just about providing mentoring and advice, it's about unlocking the potential that individuals hold within themselves and providing clarity on sequencing their priorities, building a team, finding time, staying motivated, and dealing with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Many future founders don't initially recognise themselves as leaders, so through coaching I will be helping them claim their space and take their business forward in the way they intended. I aim to provide transformational interventions that help people through their personal leadership journey and ultimately make some big decisions that may be new to them.

Overall, my role as the University of Liverpool's Entrepreneur Coach in Residence for 2023 is an exciting opportunity to help future founders unlock their potential and build their leadership skills whilst promoting translational research at the University of Liverpool.

How will you support individuals and teams during your time here?

I aim to provide a range of support through my role, both in the immediate coaching sessions as well as creating longer-term resources to support future entrepreneurs to come.

With the support and guidance of the University’s Enterprise Board, previous founders and University teams, I will be developing a digital playbook to describe the skills, mind-set and behaviours of a Founder/Entrepreneur to support the targeted development of individuals and to help inform future content of the Future Founders Programme. This could potentially support the early identification of high potential individuals, and has potential to evolve as a resource as learning deepens. I’ll also be looking at other universities and how they create thriving incubators and hubs that welcome academics and encourage a range of different career paths for academics.

In addition to continuing to deliver training through the Future Founders Programme and Making an Impact programme, I will be delivering Coaching Programmes for key individuals in a tripartite relationship with the IP Commercialisation team, pre and post-spinning out. A typical programme for one individual would be for four-six sessions, over six - eight months duration.

I will be acting as an expert advisor to enterprises on issues relating to their personal, organisation and team development, ranging from specific challenges or issues arising, or providing general advice and guidance ‘drop-in’ sessions on topics.

I’m really keen to embed equality, diversity and inclusion into our work. There is so much innovation and science addressing global challenges that doesn’t always make it into the world. I think the key to success is through inclusion, bringing in a range of talents and supporting diversity. I actively ask questions and challenge bias throughout my couching, whether it’s in terms of thinking, or the kind of people recruited to a team. I believe the world needs new leadership, and we can't do that if we are excluding people.

Contact us

You can follow Donna on LinkedIn and contact the IP Commercialisation Team at for further information.

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