Kate Tyrrell is a passionate entrepreneur who has taken it upon herself to make driving electric a safer, more accessible experience for all. Her new company ChargeSafe, which she co-founded and is now CEO, strives to do just this, aiming to establish a new safety certification for chargepoints to make sure all users can access them without feeling vulnerable or undignified.
Kate has worked across a variety of fields, with experience in events and recruitment as well as running her own marketing agency. While much of her career has been spent in male-dominated fields, she believes in emobility there is a “conscious collective” striving for greater balance and equality. Yet there is still more to be done, of course.
Taking part in the EV Summit’s Empowering Electric Women webinar earlier this week, Kate spoke on the importance of safety for women at chargepoints, which are often found in poorly lit, isolated areas.
EDs: You had various different jobs before moving into emobility, including as a recruitment consultant and starting your own business. Could you talk us through some of these roles?
In 2015, I started KNOT Marketing, where my main aim was to support female-led startups with their marketing strategy. I have always been super passionate about supporting women who start their own businesses to gain independence and wanted to help however I could.
Working for start-ups is not the most lucrative thing to do and so I found myself in a tight spot at the end of 2018. It was serendipitous that I ended up working for a technical recruiter. I had no experience with engineering, recruitment or any idea how solar worked.
That job gave me so much value in that I gained knowledge of the renewable energy industry and started to gain a reputation for myself by securing relationships with key influencers in the solar, wind and electric vehicle (EV) markets.
EDs: How useful has acquiring that entrepreneurial experience earlier on in your career been going forwards?
My earlier experience as an entrepreneur has always been useful in understanding the importance of speaking to everyone in the room, networking and building relationships is fundamental to business development and you never know what may come from the next conversation you have.
I think when you build a business on the foundations of truly wanting to help people, that is a much more rewarding venture too.
EDs: What motivated you to then move into emobility?
During lockdown, it was hard as a recruitment consultant. Many of my clients had moved into reactive maintenance only and had many of their engineers on furlough – so my desk slowed down and I was eventually furloughed too.
It was a really difficult time for me with my mental health. I have always been about my career and suddenly, I felt like my purpose had been taken away. I knew the only way to get out of lockdown and my pandemic ‘rut’ would be if I was running towards something shiny and new.
So I reached out to Jordan at myenergi and she had the perfect role for me as the Events & Relationship Manager. With this, I began to take in the entire industry, long drives in my company EV meant I was always on the lookout for podcasts such as the Fully Charged, Take It EV and EV Musings podcasts. I wanted to be credible when having conversations with my industry peers and set out to learn as much as I could.
EDs: Effective communication is vital when it comes to encouraging the public to go electric. What are the most important things to bear in mind when trying to get people engaging with electric vehicles?
Twitter has been my best weapon in learning all about the world of EVs and the community there are fantastic. I think it is super important to stay grounded and remember how those first three months of driving electric felt. It was exciting, confusing and scary for me.
The EV industry is so progressive, we often forget those first three months and assume everyone knows what we are talking about when we discuss our reality of EV driving, which is certainly not the reality for someone who is considering making the move.
When trying to engage, it is important to understand the concerns that could be influencing the decision; is it charging availability, perceived range anxiety or price parity?
Everyone is different and it would be egotistical not to acknowledge that. Be kind, ask questions and have easy to understand resources on hand to support people to make a decision that is right for them.
EDs: Last year, you co-founded a new emobility business, ChargeSafe. What was your main motivation for doing so?
ChargeSafe was born from my own personal experiences using public charge points and too often, feeling unsafe when driving home late from business trips.
I felt vulnerable just charging my car and this led to the wider picture of how many chargepoints have been installed without considerations to lighting and security.
The more I investigated, the more I took issue with it and this soon came to include accessibility issues at charge points too. So I guess I’m back to wanting to help people again. I want to ensure that nobody ever has to feel unsafe or undignified when charging their car.
EDs: What are the main barriers women entrepreneurs in the sector, and in general, continue to face and how might we overcome them?
I don’t think it’s quite so bad in emobility but certainly the automotive industry has been very male-led historically, so getting a room full of men to take you seriously is often an obstacle for any woman starting out in business.
Personally, however, I have found in the emobility world that there is a conscious collective who seek a balance in the people leading the industry, to ensure we are getting a full 360 view of how our new world looks.
EDs: What advice would you give to young women aspiring to start their own sustainable business?
If the quiet voice in your heart wants it, you can’t ignore it. Learn the industry, understand your target market and speak to everyone in the room. If you are passionate about your business with your whole being, you can achieve incredible things.
EDs: Do you think emobility, as an emergent industry, is better equipped to break this status quo?
Absolutely, and I believe we already are. There are so many incredible women heading this industry up and even more young talent coming into the industry too. It is exciting to witness the dawn of a new era.
EDs: What would be your dream EV to drive and why?
My dream EV would be the Rolls Royce Spectre, I love the silent confidence and luxury of the brand. Also, the infrared technology in a Rolls is quite appealing, given the large amount of deer I have to dodge in a soundless car normally. It’s also a bonus that they are manufactured locally to me in Chichester, so no long haul shipping to worry about.