Today is International Women's Day and I was at the Women in Business Conference organised by The Enterprise Network. It was an event that truly celebrated women's achievements and I was honoured to have been asked to MC the day.

 

women in businessHeld at Bowood Golf & Country Club, a venue that is spectacular in itself I arrived early so I could familiarise myself with the setup. It didn't take long for delegates to start arriving and the noise level to increase as women networked over coffee. All around me women were catching up with old friends, making new ones and swapping business cards.

 

By ten o'clock the main auditorium was full and I was able to welcome everyone to the fourth Women in Business Conference. After doing an excellent impression of a flight attendant highlighting the fire exits, it was time to introduce Councillor Laura Mayes, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills. Laura provided a welcome address that set the scene.

 

The first keynote speaker was Ann Padley a Design Thinking Consultant, a presentation that was titled Shake It Up: Innovation, ideas and perspective in business. Ann certainly did shake us up with her opening exercise 1-2-3 Clap, Stomp, Shimmy and had us out of our seats and working in pairs. It started with the simple task of counting to three, then one was replaced by a Clap, two by a Stomp and three a Shimmy. The laughter was infectious and the exercise offered an example of chaos in life and business.

 

Ann went on to talk about Collaboration, Experimentation and Perspective. Wrapping up her session by challenging us to think about how we might use the incredible potential in the room to find new ways to collaborate, experiment or gain a new perspective. What a start to the event.

 

The second keynote was Bini Ludlow of Sweet Cumin who I happened to meet about seven years ago at the very start of her journey. Bini was taught to cook by her mother and aunties at the age of eight and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She gave up a teaching career to start her specialist cookery classes and now also produces an ever-expanding range of frozen ready meals. What a journey she has been on, shared with raw passion and excitement.

 

Her achievements to date are due to her tenacity, never taking no for an answer and taking risks when necessary. She has won a raft of awards, appeared on numerous high profile radio and television programmes and been featured in local and national press and glossy magazines. She shared her accolades still sounding almost surprised and in awe of her own achievements and it was clear she takes nothing for granted.

 

The afternoon was kicked off by Shalina Johnson MBE, CEO and Artistic Director of Create and board member of the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (event sponsor). Another amazing and inspiring woman who received her MBE in this years honours list for Services to the Arts and Creative Industries in Swindon & Wiltshire.

 

Honest, open and a woman who obviously believes in doing all she can for her community and in particular young people. Modest about her MBE she appreciates the importance of it in recognising the contribution of Create who deliver digital media projects, which allows them to work in communities developing the next generation of digital creatives through Create Inclusion and Create Talent. Extremely approachable, it was a real pleasure to meet and speak with Shalina.

 

The final keynote was the wonderful Molly Fisher, founder and Director of Landford Stone a leading supplier of stone work surfaces in the south west. A family run business who supply granite, quartz, limestone and marble worktops to both domestic and commercial clients. What Molly doesn't know about stone and business isn't worth knowing. Molly and I took our seats on the stage and a Q&A session followed which allowed Molly to share her business insights and an opportunity to tell us her story. Molly is both funny and inspirational, her journey from age 21 has seen tough times both personally and in the business with Landford Stone surviving more than one recession. Molly's resilience in business was evident in the bucket loads.

 

She shared the importance of building a war chest for tough times, about never giving up and always finding a way. When asked what advice she would give younger Molly if she could go back, the answer was 'get more advice', wise words. She also talked about taking risks and that without a strong team around her she would not be where she is today.

 

My takeaways from the event

1. Never take no for an answer, there is always a way you just have to find it.

2. Be open to the opportunities around you.

3. Never stop asking for advice.

4. Test, test and test again.

5. Listen to your customers (a topic I have been covering all week on my Facebook page).

6. Don't underestimate the power of social media.

7. Give back to your community

8 Never stop learning or developing you as it will have a positive impact on your business.

9. Eat lunch for energy and increased productivity in the afternoon - thank you Bini good advice I need to take.

 

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