I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night than surrounded by a room full of inspiring, ambitious, intelligent women. And that is exactly what I did on the 8th April. Hosted by the British Library, Jessica Huie MBE and Vicki Psarias led a panel comprised of women who had gone against the trend and found ways to generate an income from something they care deeply about.
- Natasha Courtenay-Smith – digital marketing expert and author of upcoming The Million Dollar Blog book to be published in September 2016
- Simone Dyer – Executive Inner Life PA
- Indy Vidyalankara – Founder and CEO of Indypendent PR
- Emma Kenny – TV Psychologist
From setting up multicultural greeting cards companies, to blogging, to PR agencies, and life coaching, these women have clearly followed their passions in life, and were more than willing to share their experiences and expertise to help other women to achieve the same. The theme of the evening was, fittingly, collaboration – women (and men) working together; very fitting for the purposes of this blog!
The event began in a relaxed, casual way, and this continued throughout the evening. Vicki and Jessica put everyone at ease, and reassured us that however confident the speakers may appear to be, that everyone gets very nervous before speaking in public! Vicki spoke first, sharing her experiences first as a director, and then as a blogger with HonestMum.com. She spoke of the business benefits of blogging, particularly for small start ups – 126% more lead growth for those with a blog than those without! She encouraged us to be ambitious, but clarified that ambition does not mean pushing other people out of the way – there’s plenty of room for us all to succeed together. Vicki emphasised the value of our own uniqueness, of our own brands, and how we just need to develop them and present them in an authentic, professional manner.
Jessica spoke of the need for us to not restrain our own imaginations – “there is no glass ceiling on your vision”. She highlighted the way women question themselves, despite their many accomplishments, doubting whether they are ever really good enough, but that we just need to decide what or who we want to be, and then just go for it. She talked about the fear we all feel, but reassured us that it’s ok to feel scared, because that’s where the growth happens – “success dwells in that vulnerable space”. Jessica closed her speech with some practical tips we can all try to implement:
- Be very clear on who you are and your own mind
- Take calculated risks, even little ones, but do it regularly
- Be visible and brave
Next up was Natasha Courtenay-Smith, who founded TalkToThePress.co.uk and then sold it 6 years later to the UK’s largest news group. She was both amusing and articulate as she shared the story of building her website and the tactics she used in “reluctantly” negotiating the sale. Now that she has sold her website, and is starting again in essence, she recommended identifying your passions and aligning those with the market to ensure you build something you do actually like! She emphasised the need to start a website, start blogging, start talking to people; reach out for opportunities and they will come.
Simone Dyer spoke of her experience in the make up industry first, and how she used the opportunity to make connections with celebrity clients to facilitate a ‘career pivot’ into being a celebrity PA. She shared openly and honestly her difficult experiences, from marriage at the early age of 20, through the heart wrenching tale of her stillborn child, and eventually her divorce from her husband. She is channelling all of her challenges to help other women with her Executive Inner Life PA business – helping women to tidy up their lives. She emphasised the need to let go of how other people define success, and find out what it truly means for ourselves.
Indy Vidyalankara shared her experience of awakening, after passing out at work and realising that despite her extensive career successes, she wasn’t actually happy. She spoke of the need to observe that life-saving rule – put your own oxygen mask on before attending to anyone else. It applies just as well to every day life as it does the hypothetical airplane emergency scenarios! Indy described the liberating feeling of realising that fear was holding her back, and that it wasn’t real, it was just a story. She recommended that rather than letting fear control us, that we should feed off the fear, and channel it to be brave and achieve great things. She reminded us that there is plenty of support out there for us, and that we would be surprised to know just how many people there are rooting for us to succeed. She shared the practical tip of reaching into your past and finding connections that could help you with your current venture. She also recommended that we work with our friends, with people we trust and who share our values and vision.
The final speaker of the night was Emma Kenny, an energetic, inspiring woman who spoke from the heart. She reminded us that other people’s opinions are not facts, and that we need to stand back from what other people think we are, and focus on who we actually are – and then be passionate about that. She pointed out the significance of our individual fingerprints, and how they should serve as a regular reminder of just how unique every one of us is, and to never let anyone take that away from us. She also highlighted the well-known Pareto principle, that is surprisingly not more frequently implemented: 80% of effects generally come from 20% of the effort, so choose where you focus the effort to get the maximum results.
A recurring tip that arose through the evening was the need for us all to be comfortable with fear and failure – that it is only by experiencing these that we will grow and succeed. So I faced another fear, and stood up to speak again in the Q&A – I still felt that same shaky feeling in my legs, and acidic feeling in my stomach, but it feels like it gets ever so slightly easier each time!
The session ended with a sort of bidding/bartering event – women standing up to request a particular service, and offering to share something in return. It felt wonderful to see women helping each other, and working together in such open collaboration. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to experience this again! Have you been to anything like this? Would you be interested in coming along to something in London if I shared more details of the events in advance?