The Athena Network is a bespoke networking organisation for business women and those who are decision makers in their places of work. Jacqueline Rogers co-founded the company in 2006 with Louise Heasman when she realised that the needs of women in business were not being met. Three years later, The Athena Network has 40 franchisees and 120 groups throughout England and has now gone global by launching in Australia. “Our growth has exceeded our expectations which proves the need for our group is really there. Business is growing at the capacity that ladies are asking for it,” explains Jacqueline, excitedly.
How it started
The Athena Network was created to accommodate women who were unable to commit to traditional early morning networking meetings, by providing them with lunchtime opportunities to make strategic connections with professionals in a wide range of industry sectors. The exclusive focus is on women who are in business and fulfil a business development role.
The heart of Athena’s activities are the monthly networking groups where women gather together to make new contacts and gain business expertise, bounce new ideas of each other and have a great lunch amongst other things! These are fun yet focused meetings where women are taught how to network effectively, where they receive coaching, mentoring and training for greater business success.
Non members can go along to Cappuccino Connections, an informal drop in session for Athena members and non-members alike. This is a great ice breaker for many new to Athena and/or to networking to melt the ice so they feel comfortable about attending a full on networking meeting.
The training and development of their members is also central to Athena’s ethos. There are numerous training sessions and workshops up and down the country which focus on different needs of the entrepreneur, whether it is assisting those who are new to networking providing assisting more experienced business women.
What happens at the meetings?
All lunch meetings start at 12pm and last for two hours. Each member of Athena is encouraged to bring a minimum of 30 business cards and promotional material to maximise their networking opportunities. Each member is given the opportunity to introduce themselves and their businesses, this is followed by networking strategy training, business support training and is finished off by all ladies discussing with the group about any business referrals they have which may be of use for others and to share what is happening with their businesses.
In addition to all this Athena offers franchise opportunities to its members, for which all franchisees receive full support and training.
Women looking to become members of The Athena Network are encouraged to visit a group in their area first of all to have the “Athena Experience” before deciding if the group is right for them and if they are right for the group. “It is really important that we get the dynamics right for each group so that everyone benefits from their time in it,” stressed Jacqueline.
So what is Athena’s vision for the future? “Our vision for the future is to create a global community where women can connect with each other both nationally and internationally. The branch that was recently established in Australia has already spawned six other groups, so the vision is coming to pass already.”
To find out if there is a group in your area, or for further information, log onto http://www.theathenanetwork.com or call 0845 004 9262.
Robyn Hatley – Athena franchisee
Two years ago Robyn Hatley left the corporate world behind her to set up her own company, Mums the Business. Early on she realised it would be useful to try networking. After hearing about The Athena Network, she went along as a visitor to the Teddington group and had such a great time that she became a member. Soon after, she was approached with the proposition of running groups in South West London. Robyn recalled: “As I was already seeing the benefits being a member of Athena was bringing to my own business, and seeing that I could fit it around my other roles as a wife and mother I agreed!” Eighteen months later as the Regional Director for the South West London/Richmond Upon Thames Borough, she runs five successful groups.
“What attracted me to The Athena Network,” explained Robyn, “was the fact that while there is a structure it is very informal and a lot of fun. I think we have found the magic formula of being able to get down to some serious business and enjoy ourselves in the process! You get great support and inspiration.
Avenues to connect with other women
“The women who come to Athena are very generous with their referrals, recommendations, advice, support, etc. This helps everyone to remain motivated and inspired about their enterprise. It is also a great forum for women to be able to bounce new business ideas off each other. A number of strategic alliances and partnerships have evolved out of Athena which really appeals to me, because I can see opportunities whereby I can take my business to the next level by making use of the expertise and skills that are present within the group.”
Robyn’s group offers women a monthly, two hour networking lunch crammed full of activity: they have a guest speaker who is an expert in their field to offer business support and training; a 10 minute presentation on how to improve networking skills for new business women; an opportunity for each woman present to promote their business followed by lunch.
“In addition to the groups we also have an online community which women are more than welcome to make use of,” Robyn advised.
For more information on the franchise The Athena Network offers go to http://www.athenaconnection.com/