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Local woman named Midlands Entrepreneur of the Year

A local entrepreneur who launched a social media management company in lockdown, has been named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Midlands StartUp Awards 2024.

Katie Wilber, who stepped away from her role as a wedding planner to establish Cotswold Connected in 2021, beat off stiff competition from across the region to win her category.

Based out of the Ilmington home that’s been in seven generations of her family, the 28-year-old social media guru has helped a range of businesses achieve exceptional results – from small start-ups to international brands. One of her customers even went viral on Instagram with 2.9 million views, and gained nearly 10,000 followers over three months. Katie’s professional support has also enabled businesses to grow.

Midlands StartUp Awards 2024, Katie Wilber, Cotswold Connected

Katie’s success comes after several years spent working in events, an industry which ultimately took its toll on her mental health but which also led her to the world of social media marketing.

She said: “When I think back to the beginning of my business, the saying ‘sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were’ comes to mind. It began when I was at my lowest and has made me stronger, more resilient and with more belief in myself than I ever thought possible.”

Alongside social media management, Cotswold Connected also offers social media training, auditing and event content creation.

No stranger to awards recognition, Katie won Best Online Business at the Stratford Herald Business & Tourism Awards, in 2022.

Of the latest accolade, Katie said: “This is a huge honour and recognition of years of hard work. With over ten years of marketing experience, specialising in social media, I’m passionate about using my expertise to help businesses grow. Many people find social media overwhelming with its constant changes, however, I love that about it.

“Focusing on organic content, I take great pride in staying up to date with the latest news, trends and algorithm changes, ensuring that Cotswold Connected stays at the cutting edge of the industry.”

The UK StartUp Awards were established to highlight the success of startups across ten UK nations and regions, including the Midlands, and to celebrate the achievements of entrepreneurs in all sectors of the economy. Katie will learn if she is the national winner of her category, at the finals in Tring in September.

Harriet Rees, CIO at one of the Awards’ supporters Starling Bank, said: “Turning an idea into a successful business takes a lot of courage and dedication. Congratulations to Cotswold Connected on winning their category in the Midlands and making it to this year’s UK national final. Start-ups need certainty to plan ahead. It’s great to see so many thrive, especially in these challenging economic times.”

Over 114,000 new firms were created in the Midlands in 2023 and according to Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE, creator of the awards, this demonstrates the growing importance of entrepreneurs to the regional economy.

He said: “Start-ups are the life of any economy and that is especially true in the Midlands where new businesses are contributing to job creation, innovation, and prosperity across the whole of this entrepreneurial region.

“It’s been an honour and a pleasure to read the stories of those founders who have spotted the opportunity and taken the risk to launch their own venture. All of the winners have demonstrated that they deserve to win their categories and I’m looking forward to having the ‘best of the best’ from the Midlands competing at the UK final later this year.”

Today Katie is happy to find herself back in wedding planning mode as she counts down to her own big day, in May next year.