Does anyone else have networking fatigue?
With so many female business networks, clubs and events, how do you know which one to go to, which ones to keep at arm's length – and more to the point, are they worth it? Entrepreneur Emma Sinclair offers advice.
A collection of 150 ladies (and three men) gathered at the Barclays Forward Ladies Conference in Newport, Wales, this week, seeking inspiration for their businesses and career paths.
Women are, of course, an important part of the growth economy but with so many networks and events and initiatives, how can busy business ladies chose which women's events to go to? And is anything to be gained by attending them? Do these events inspire the audience – or speakers for that matter?
Entrepreneur Deirdre Bounds and I were invited to speak by Forward Ladies, a group set up 10 years ago by Etta Cohen to support the women's enterprise agenda. It started with a group of five and has since grown to over 15,000 members, one of many national organisations providing professional support to women at all levels and stages of business.
Deirdre's story, to cut a long story short, involved setting up a business from a bedsit called i-to-i and turning it into the world's biggest gap year company. At 42, she then sold it to FTSE 100 tour operator First Choice for an eight figure sum. She tells her story with great colour which may have something to do with her background in comedy or, as she says, "lack thereof". Booed offstage as a stand-up comedian by 400 people in 1995 was, she recalls, probably a good thing as it meant she focused on her gap year business instead of the business of humour.
I hugely enjoyed listening to her story. I'm inspired when people share their stories. Steve Cooper, head of personal and business banking at Barclays in the UK and one of the three lone men at the event concurs and thinks that access to female role models and mentors – a key element of Forward Ladies' work and many other grassroots organisations – has enormous value for participants.
He told me that "these events encourage women on their entrepreneurial journey and are a fantastic opportunity for ladies across the region to hear from inspirational and successful speakers as well as network and share ideas and knowledge." It's always a little odd when men earnestly try to sum up what us women are thinking, but, speaking to many of the ladies at the event, they concurred too.
I sat next to Mandy Desmond-Jones of Izco Accounting Solutions who came to network and left with a handful of interesting leads. Elsewhere Hannah Williams, currently a marketing assistant, told me that the event was the push she needed to start her own business.
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Newport International Group News Article Reviews: Networking