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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Life is good if you're a business woman in Northumberland

I would go as far as saying that Jack starting full time school has been life changing for me. Where as before I had a couple of hours in the morning to write, plan blog posts and content and reply to emails, I would always have to end my day at 11:30am to pick him up from nursery. Now I have FULL days free - every day! Far from being bored, I've been saying YES to everything. And there is a lot on offer for me to say yes to! It really is an exciting time to be a business woman in Northumberland at the moment.

iNorthumberland Conference

My first taste of my new found freedom was the iNorthumberland Conference at Linden Hall. I got the chance to spend the day in one of my favourite places amongst some truly inspiring people and learn a thing or two as well. 

First up was the inspirational Wayne Hemmingway (who founded Red or Dead and Hemmingway design). He was full of useful advice, hints and tips and his story about how he went to London with nothing and then sold his company for over £25 million was simply amazing. What I mostly took away from Wayne though was that you need to have strong company values and base everything you do around them. It pays to polarise opinion and be brave and bold in your decision making. Certainly food for thought!

After lunch we heard about all of the amazing FREE support that is available to businesses in Northumberland through iNorthumberland including online business training, seminars and workshops ranging from SEO masterclasses to cloud technology, cyber security and social media. Unfortunately I cannot make any of the September dates but I will be signing up to every course I can in October. I just can't believe this sort of support is available and it is all fully funded!

Before heading home to collect the kids from school I joined the Linkedin mini masterclass and picked up lots of hints and tips - I have been putting everything into practice (mostly posting, commenting and sharing for 5-10 minutes every day) and have already moved from being ranked 38% in my network up to being ranked 20% That is a massive improvement in only one week. Linkedin is like a 24 hour networking site for business and definitely worth investing 10 minutes of my time every day in. 

Northumberland Mumpreneurs

I am a director of the Northumberland Mumpreneurs and we hold a child friendly meeting every month where we inspire, support and encourage each other. I think September's meeting has been my favourite so far! We had a good attendance, listened and learned about iNorthumberland and Be Digital and then celebrated our founder Gemma's (from GA Bookkeeping) baby shower. 

Be Digital launch at Alnwick Garden

I was so excited to be personally invited along the the Be Digital launch at Alnwick Garden this week. Northumberland's 'Be Digital - Women and Broadband Challenge' is funded by the Government's equality programme. Business women in Northumberland can apply to be accepted onto the 6 month Springboard programme which has been designed by experts to inspire and encourage business women in Northumberland to be part of the region's digital future.

There will only be 20 successful applicants accepted onto the Springboard programme which will give women access to mentoring, masterclasses, meet ups and mastermind classes. I have never received any form of business advice, training or mentoring and although my North East Family Fun business is successful at the moment, I am struggling with the 'where next' so the springboard opportunity is something I would love to grasp with both hands. You can find out more and apply to the fully funded programme yourself here. Applications close at 5pm on 30th September.

Back to the launch though.......the room was full of female entrepreneurs.

My friend Chloe from Bumble and Bloom Media took to the stage to start proceedings and I couldn't have been more proud. I knew Chloe when she first started down the entrepreneur route and her success, recognition and confidence has been phenomenal! Despite being one of the youngest in the room she absolutely owned the stage and she is such an inspiration and role model to other women in the North East.

We heard from Layla from French Grey Tales and how her business started out in her garage full of spiders as a form of therapy to now a hugely successful company that is about to be franchised. A lot of what Layla said really struck a chord with me - try and give as much as yourself to others as you can. I try to do this in the way I help bloggers in the North East Network for Brilliant Bloggers and some of the women in our Northumberland mumpreneur group when they ask for advice about blogging or social media. I completely agree that sharing knowledge is a huge key to success - I think it helps to establish you as an expert in your field and plus it's just nice isn't it. What goes around, comes around.

Next up was Tanya from Cool Blue. Tanya moved back to the North East as a single parent after working in London for a large PR firm for 16 years. There was a bit of a gap in the market in Middlesbrough so she decided to set up her own firm. Her key advice was to 'just do it'. Don't spend too long over -thinking. I loved her analogy of riding a bike and comparing it to running your own business - you can think about riding a bike all you like but until you actually jump on and peddle you won't be able to do it. Business is the same - you can't learn until you are actually doing it! Tanya's business now has offices across the UK and turned over £2 million last year. Amazing!

Our final speaker was none other than Michelle Mone OBE who has just been invited to join the House of Lords. Michelle started life in a council house in Glasgow and started her own business in her street when she was just 11 years old. She had a real fire inside her and you could clearly see how much of a determined woman she is. Michelle has faced lots of ups and downs in her life and she had the room gripped with tales of how she nearly lost it all, how she coped with her marriage breakdown and how she had a rather embarrassing encounter with Bill Clinton. Her main advice however was that there are absolutely NO barriers in business. There is nothing you can't do - if you can't type, find someone who can and a way to pay them or if you can't get an appointment with a department store buyer, turn up and don't leave until they hear you out. Nobody is responsible for your success other than yourself. If your business is failing or not going in the direction it should, it's nobody else's problem - it's yours. Powerful advice but also very true I think!

After a few weeks of inspiring events I have a new mantra and that is to say yes to every opportunity. If you had met me a year or so ago I am a completely different person to who I am now. There is no way I would have had the confidence to attend an event like this or talk to strangers. It honestly does get easier though and now it is almost like second nature. I even found myself volunteering to create some film about the event!

It really is an exciting time to be a business woman in Northumberland. There are so many fantastic opportunities and I think we would be CRAZY not to accept all of the help and support we can.

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  1. Samantha this is brilliant - as someone who works to create business support programmes, I am so heartened to hear that for businesses like yourself it is working, that you feel a culture of support and inspiration in Northumberland. Fay, Be Digital


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