On Friday, March 8th (the 102nd International Women’s Day) over 200 women descended on the BAFTA headquarter in Piccadilly for a day of inspiration, learning and connecting for our 5th annual conference Thrive 2013!. And what an amazing day it was.
The Mentoring Breakfast
The day began with a fantastically successful meet a mentor breakfast where 40 mentees and 40 mentors came together to discover whether there was good match between them. In December we ran a Get Mentoring workshop with SFEDI and partnered up with SFEDI so that our newly trained mentors could work with women in our own community to run the mentoring breakfast before the conference. The buzz in the room was palpable and everyone was raving about the process afterwards.
Maria Miller: The Culture Secretary
We were incredibly proud that Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, made the Thrive Conference part of her packed International Women’s Day schedule. She arrived at about 8:45 and met with the SFEDI team before spending time talking with both mentors and mentees about the programme and how they felt about their businesses. Maria was incredibly generous with her time, speaking with lots of the conference delegates, mentors and mentees. She was incredibly friendly with loads of time for everyone that she met, really making them feel like they were being heard.
She then opened the conference for us at 9:45 by sharing how important it is to support women business owners and how important women are to this government.
Caroline Redman Lusher, the founder of the singing phenomenon Rock Choir, came on stage and blew us away with her story, her passion and her amazing success. In a few short years Caroline went from teaching a few college students how to sing, to leading an organisation that teaches over 17000 members to sing in 60 different regions. Caroline created Rock Choir to be fully inclusive where anyone regardless of individual talent, to join their local choir and have fun singing a variety of pop songs each week. Inspired doesn’t even begin to describe how we all felt. And then she showed a video sharing the growth of the choir and the music that they create leaving many of us with silent tears streaming down our faces. The bar had been set for the rest of the day…
Gabrielle Bernstein, the Spirit Junkie and author of May Cause Miracles came on stage and immediately made everyone laugh by commenting on the difference between the overtly promotional nature of Americans versus the gentle way that British people promote themselves. Gabrielle was warm, funny, inspiring and engaging. Talking about finding your true path and how when we commit whole heartedly to that path, forces come together to make it happen. She closed her session leading us all in a powerful meditation where we brought our energy to others and to ourselves, leaving us uplifted and full of potential.
I then came on and shared a bit about my journey with Women Unlimited, and how we almost closed our doors before we even started. Women Unlimited has gone from strength to strength over the last 5 years and I love the shape of it today and all of the women in our community and feel so grateful to be a part of this amazing community.
The morning closed with Wendy Kerr from Corporate Crossovers sharing with us the value of our time and why it is so important that we recognise where we are spending (and wasting!) our time. Wendy has an impressive background, having been the General Manager at the FT.com and Marketing Manager for Asia Pacific for Apple and she now works closely with women business owners to help them achieve their potential and break free of corporate life and build a business and life for themselves as small business owners.
LUNCH! The BAFTA put on an impressive spread of finger sandwiches, fresh fruit and delicious scones. We had some wonderful exhibitors including our key Sponsor Constant Contact UK, some founding members of Stella and Dot, Jo Tall from Offtoseemylawyer.com, Wendy Kerr from Corporate Crossovers, SFEDI the people behind the Get Mentoring training and John Cassidy (also known as the Headshot Guy) who had a lineup of women the entire day looking to get their picture taken for their free social media headshots. The buzz in the room was palpable as everyone was discussing what they had seen and learned that morning.
After lunch the amazing powerhouse that is Kate Hardcastle came on stage and it was like a tornedo had arrived in the room. Kate’s energy and enthusiam for her subject was a force that could be felt by everyone. Kate runs and organisation called Insight for Passion where she helps businesses connect with their customers and become passionate about customer service. Her presentation was outstanding and included many words of wisdom from her Nan :D. She also runs a fabulous charity called The Positive Image campaign which aims to help children and teenagers who are being bullied and is a wonderful cause.
Viv Oyolu was the first of our My Journey speakers. I met Viv when she came along to my first WordPress course back in 2009 and she was so good at creating her websites after that, that she joined me as my assistant when I ran all my live workshops! About 20 months ago, Viv decided that she wanted to become a radio presenter, despite having no experience in this area and within a week had made a connection with an online radio station and within a month had launched Dream Corner, a show which celebrates women business owners and is now aired on one of London’s most successful internet radio stations. Viv is a great reminder that you can reinvent yourself at any age and it is never too late to pursue your dream.
The pace changed completely when Anna Ostergren, writer, Director and actors coach came on stage to talk about the impact of our physicality and voice when we walk into a room and when we are engaging with people. Anna has an amazing presence and by the end of her 40 minutes I think everyone in the room had fallen a little bit in love with her. She showed us how we can own our space, our voices and our names. We all came away from her session feeling empowered and walking a little bit taller.
Galia Orme, the founder of Choc Chick was our second inspirational journey speaker. Galia has also been a member of the Women Unlimited community for over 4 years and even came to our very first conference back in 2008. Galia’s story is one of persistance and passion and her dedication to getting her ethical chocolate making kits out into the marketplace is an inspiration to us all. She shared her story of going from knowing nothing about creating products to getting her kits on the shelf of John Lewis, Planet Organic and Whole Foods. We were also very lucky to be able to try some of her lovely chocolate at the end of the day when we were picking up our goody bags.
The first session of the afternoon closed with a fantastic presentation from Tamsin Fox Davies, the Small Business Mentor for Constant Contact, our keynote sponsor. Those of you who follow Women Unlimited will know that I think email marketing is the important form of marketing and I believe that ALL small business owners should use it as part of their marketing strategy. Tamsin shared loads of strategies and techniques that helps to create more successful email campaigns (for those of you who weren’t there, we’re going to be doing a webinar with Tamsin next month, so keep an eye out).
After the networking break, Catherine Watkin from Selling with Heart came on with our last practical session of the day. Catherine ran a fantastic webinar last month on how to sell without being pushy and at the conference she expanded on how to connect with our clients and make them feel safe as well as her 5 rules for non-pushy sales. It was a great session that left the room feeling much more confident about the sales process and how they could use those skills in their own networking.
We always like to end our day on a high, so our last speaker of the day was Julia Streets. Julia is a business owner by day and a stand up comedienne and writer by night! She works closely with the UK’s leading community for female comedy, Funny Women, to help women perform, write and do business with humour. She hilariously shared her take on Buzzword Bingo and had the audience in stitches. A brilliant close to a brilliant conference.
As part of the whole day, we held a raffle where the delegates got to both nominate and vote for which charity should receive the raffle revenue and we are pleased to share that the winning charity was Kids Company which was founded by one of the speakers from a previous WU conference Camila Batmanghelidjh. Thanks to the generosity of all the delegates we managed to raise £336.00 for this fabulous cause.
I would like to thank my fantastic team; Jayne Ryan, Kizzy Bass and Sam McCulloch for all their hard work on the day and making sure that everything ran smoothy. I’d also like to thank Dianna Bonner for her amazing photography (you can see all the photos from the day here on Dianna’s site). I would also like to thank all of the speakers for being so inspiring and giving us such valuable insights. Finally a big thank you to Constant Contact UK for their sponsorship and support.
For those of you who attended… what were your highlights? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.