Continuing on from Part 1 of Marie Claire At Work Live, there were three choices of sessions after lunch: ‘Starting your business: top tips on getting it right’, ‘How to avoid burnout & change your working style’ or ‘Demystifying coding & the web’. I embraced my inner entrepreneur and chose the first option, which was facilitated by Miranda McMinn (deputy editor of Marie Claire). The panel included Sharmadean Reid MBE (of WAH nails), Julie Deane (of the Cambridge Satchel Company), Kate Unsworth (of Vinaya) and Amy Hanson (of the Small Steps Project).
In response to Miranda’s query about the value of the right idea before starting a business, Sharmadean Reid spoke about the need for having the right motivation being more important. If you’re motivated and passionate about what you want to achieve then there’s no reason it won’t work; it just needs to happen. Sharmadean founded her nail empire after being frustrated that she couldn’t get her own nails done the way she wanted, in the atmosphere she wanted. She now has pop up shops across the country, her products are stocked in Boots nationwide, and she was awarded an MBE in 2015! Sharmadean shared her experience of maturing over the years since she had founded her brand – advising that she now weighs up the commercial benefits before blindly agreeing to promotional events. But she also conceded that, had she been so guarded at an earlier stage, her brand might not have grown as naturally and organically as it did.
Julie Deane referred to the strength that we have in knowing what we don’t know, and then just researching it. She founded the Cambridge Satchel Company with just £600 during the summer holidays after she had promised her daughter that she would change schools in the new term to avoid the bullying she was experiencing in the school she had been attending. It was this commitment to her daughter that fuelled her need to build a company that had the potential to cover private school fees, and quickly! Originally an accountant, Julie created the website for her business herself, by learning how to code! She shared her experience of being betrayed by her manufacturer, and the rash decision that she made to take her leather back and founded her very own manufacturing plant!
Amy Hanson founded the Small Steps Project charity after travelling in Cambodia on a break from her work as a journalist with the Mail on Sunday. She was so moved by the plight of the children that she was inspired to found the charity that aims to provide them with a better future. She now uses her skills and celebrity connections for a more altruistic purpose – such as the Celebrity Shoe Auction she is organising! Amy encouraged us to make statements publicly in order to force us to commit to them, and then follow up on these commitments. She also recommended that we surround ourselves with level headed people who will complement our strengths and weaknesses, and bring balance in the process.
Kate Unsworth shared her personal experience of being addicted to social media, and how she realised how unhealthy this was when she became extremely angry after her phone died while waiting for her friend who was late to meet her for dinner. It was at this moment her idea came to her – an invention of a piece of jewellery that could connect to your phone via bluetooth that would only alert you when specific notifications were received. This would allow people to put their phones down, switch off from technology, and to truly connect with the people around them. She encouraged us to ask others for help and that we would be surprised by the number of people out there who are willing to help – from providing 3D printers, to office space, and even committing their time outside of work hours, all free of charge!
The common thread running through the session was for us to just get started – don’t make excuses about waiting for the right time or the right place, just make small steps towards our goals, and keep increasing them until we have achieved them. The key is to identify what we are passionate about, and then dedicate ourselves completely.
The next breakout session I attended was called Mindfulness, run by Veronica Winterbourne and Katie Winterbourne. Veronica began by inviting us all to place our feet on the floor and to have a brief moment of mindfulness in order to feel for ourselves the benefit of being connected with our bodies in the present. As a regular practitioner of these types of calming methods, I found it interesting to hear about the physical benefits to mindfulness, and of course the harmful effects of stress as a corollary.
Katie shared her experience of being an ‘Intuitive’ firstly at the Urban Retreat in Harrods, but then being asked to help a male client with decision-making in a form of a business consulting role! She now helps individuals and businesses with becoming more in touch with their intuition to assist with strategic planning in order to give themselves an edge over competition. She emphasised the need for us to be more in touch with our gut instinct – advising us that our first thought is often the correct one. She cautioned us to be aware of the inhibitors to our intuition: doubting ourselves, overthinking the situation, and finally grasping, where we are reaching after things rather than allowing ourselves to ‘be in the flow’. Katie recommended we check in with ourselves regularly – head, heart, gut – to ensure everything is in alignment and working together. (I must admit I’ve found myself doing that regularly ever since!)
After the session I was fortunate enough to meet Marcia Robinson, who has the only O Bag franchise in the UK! She had asked Katie whether her intuition had ever been wrong, and in return Katie advised us that sometimes acting on our instinct does not bring us where we thought it would, but to let it play out and we might see that something just as good, if not better, happens in the end. I really enjoyed chatting to Marcia about her transition from Investment Banking to Fashion Franchisee, and was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for this blog – more to follow on this soon!
The closing keynote speaker was Isy Suttie, the actress famous for playing Dobby in Peep Show, who is also a stand up comedian and author of The Actual One. She spoke warmly and wittily of her wanting to stay in her twenties while her friends were buying houses and leaving London around her. She shared her funny experiences of living with crazy flatmates, as well as some highs and lows from her stand up career to date. She went on to share some heartfelt advice for us to take away – including reminding us that we will never please everyone, so we need to just be ourselves and the right people will be drawn towards us.
A recurring theme throughout the day was for us to be more in touch with our intuition/inner voice/gut instinct, whatever you want to call it, we all have it. And we don’t always listen to it. Even when we know it’s right. In fact sometimes we actively avoid listening to it because we know it’s right and we just don’t like what it’s saying! It was a refreshing reminder for me to not force things to happen (by grasping after them), but to practice sitting back more, trusting myself, and not overthinking things too much.
And so it was that I ended up on the 29th floor, with a refreshing Cointreau cocktail in my hand, looking around me and hearing my inner voice say it was time to leave. So I did. And in an almost Sliding Doors style twist of fate, the lift doors re-opened for me to meet the lovely Anna from Lucky Sixpence in what she has now dubbed #IntuitiveNetworking! It’s a thing. At least, it is now.
As I left the venue I was handed the heavy goody bag pictured above, stuffed with skincare projects, treats and accessories! There’s far too much there for me, so I may have to do some sort of giveaway – do you see anything you might be interested in?