Sophie Flynn, 29, is chief financial officer of Transact365.
She was previously a midfielder for Blackburn Rovers Ladies, where she played for the club for over 10 years before hanging up her boots to become a co-founder of the leading payments fintech company.
Launched in 2017, Transact365 has grown 300% over the last year.
Scott Rogers was not only an inspirational figure in my football career but also when I went into the fintech world. He was my football coach from aged seven all the way up until I was 22, but he also wanted me to progress my education outside of football.
There wasn’t much girls’ football when I started and I was always playing with boys. My dad was one of the managers of a local team and this young lad called Scott asked if he could help out with training and matches.
He soon took over the team, I got scouted with Blackburn aged 11 and Scott pushed for me to bet on myself to make the grade. He was then with me all the way as he later became Blackburn coach before joining Liverpool women.
I always wanted to be a footballer but professional opportunities weren’t there as they are now. I had to make a decision whether I study as well and my mum was the driving force behind my academic career.
I loved maths and so I went to St Mary’s College, Blackburn to study accountancy, business and PE, juggling my daily studies with football five nights a week.
I also took a job at McDonald’s; there were seven of us in the family and we all worked. I didn’t really have a life but I loved it.
At 18, I got a chartered accountancy apprenticeship with Manchester-based Azets and passed all my exams while playing professional football. At away games I usually had my head in my study books and Scott was supportive in both roles. He believed in me and it is one reason why I made my debut at Ewood Park against Arsenal as a 15-year-old. Scott made me realise no matter what my age or gender, I could achieve it with hard work. That filled me with bundles of confidence.
Off the pitch, I found myself in a nine to five role and I began to lack motivation. In 2017, aged 24, I handed in my notice and worked with my uncle for a short while in corporate services. We had clients in the payments industry and by chance we met up with a client in London where we spotted a gap in the market.
With our payment and finance backgrounds, we launched Transact365 in 2017. It was hard for the first few years and I had to teach myself everything about the payments industry and was always learning on the job. But we have seen the rewards today and it’s great to also see some of our early clients grow alongside us.
I’ve always been in a team environment and learnt discipline since I was a kid. Football isn’t an individual sport, neither is working in a company with 45 members of staff. Now we’ve grown, you feel like it’s a duty to work hard to provide a business for them to work in. The fintech industry is always evolving and thinking fast, like football, has also been a key ingredient.
I’ve seen a huge growth in young people starting their own companies. Where I live in Manchester, there are alot of business owners, where only a few years ago, people were coming out of school, getting a job and working through the system. Now there is so much more reason and accessibility to go it alone.
For me, it’s the flexibility and luckily I realised that I didn’t want a rigid job being confined to working for somebody else. It’s great to see young people being successful and being able to take the risks.
I’ve also got the freedom to make my own decisions, like being able to give back and sponsor Blackburn Rovers. Some of my old team-mates have gone on to great things, with Keira Walsh, Ella Toone and Georgia Stanway part of the Lionesses’ Euro22 success. I wanted to show support and several of my friends still play for Blackburn today. The money is still not there — wages are around £700 per month — compared with the men and they still have to work full-time jobs, despite the uptick in women’s coverage.
Everyone comes from different upbringings and foundations, but fundamentally if you're hard-working and passionate enough, you can succeed.
I had managers in my football career where one bad pass and they were down your neck. Players didn’t want to get the ball after that. It’s the same in the corporate world; if you have someone watching your every move, you won’t necessarily get the best out of your staff.
In an environment where you try something new and don’t get chastised, your confidence can flourish. We give our staff freedom to make decisions on their own, to give them belief without having to ask. Finding the best ways they want to work, you can then get the best out of them.