A packed day to celebrate flexible working
Way back at the beginning of 2016, we thought we would enter Business Clan into three different business awards to help raise our brand awareness and because frankly, Nicolle just wanted to win something. The mumandworking awards champion flexible working, which is what we are all about here at Business Clan. We heard we were finalists during the summer holidays with one trophy already in the bag (Thank you FSB London!) and by the time these awards came around on Tuesday 11th October, we had another (Thank you Merton Best!). But this occasion was very different to the glitz of the Pullman Hotel and the glamour of the All England Club. To start, it was in a serious venue - RBS head office on Bishopsgate - during the day (minus the hefty ticket price).
mumandworking had put together an event with an impressive number of sponsors to allow them to offer an academy to the attendees and not just for those nominated for an award later in the day (even if the main sponsor being a vacuum cleaning company retailing at a cool £749 made us cringe - we're mums and we're working, we're really not thinking about the cleaning). There were talks on various different subjects that all business owners need to know about whether they decide to do it themselves or outsource to a specialist.
Across the morning, Janey Lee Grace (you know the voice!) encouraged us to use clarity, content, confidence and connections to be our own best PR and show our unique brilliance. Claire Jones-Hughes from ClaritaCo Media (Clar-ee-ta-co - it's not that hard, Gary!) talked through the 7 simple steps to being social media savvy:
- Define your goals
- Do your research
- Be visual
Nick Howe, Natwest Regional Enterprise Manager, did an excellent job at outlining the many finance and funding options available to small businesses and told us to focus on our clients' problems rather than our solutions.
Jo Weatherall from Frank! Communications and Ben MacDonald, Build14me, whizzed through their 42 DIY SEO tips for small business, which may have left your head spinning if tech is not your thing. Thankfully, Delia was nodding along following every word, so Nicolle didn't have to worry.
Laura Davis from Reality HR, expertly answered Zena Scott's questions to cover off the elements of HR you need to have in place to ensure you don't come unstuck when taking on your first employees.
Over a lunch which would have been unsophisticated even for one of our kids' birthday parties, we networked with the brilliant Mumpreneur Networking Club (if you haven't already, see them at 8pm on a Wednesday for #MNChour on Twitter) meeting new business owners and catching up with some we knew already.
For the afternoon session, Janey Lee Grace was joined on the stage by Debbie Bird of NowBaby.co.uk, baby.tv and What's On 4 and Kerry Haynes of InspireMe Media to answer questions from the floor, and those submitted previously, on how to get the attention of the right journalists for your business.
Suzanne Dibble, The Small Business Law Expert (TM!) explained the legal stuff, that most people would switch off at, in a funny and engaging way and offered an annual membership to her small business academy including all the template documents you'll ever need, including a Cease and Desist letter to fend off anyone trying to copy your copy, and the "your overdue invoice is accruing interest" letter. It's all in the wording!
We all rolled our eyes and turned to our phones for the dress for success segment. We can't imagine there being an equivalent talk in a room which is 95% male.
Thankfully, Mi Elverson was next and got us engaged in the most powerful online marketing tool in the world: vlogging. As well as giving you high level online visibility, it's a good way to gain credibility and trust and position you as an expert in your field. She taught us how to differentiate a YouTuber from a Business Vlogger; how to find your video persona; how to position the camera (horizontally, everyone, horizontally, like the screen it is going to be appearing on!); and the different types of vlogs: presentation, demonstration, product, testimonial and random excitement (we like the sound of that!). She made our jaws drop with her YouTube stats: 300 hours of video uploaded every minute; 3.25 billion hours of video watched globally per month and invited us to learn more on her Vlog Academy courses.
Sarah Cressall of The Creation Station closed the academy with her tips on getting your brand right, making alliances that fit your brand and putting systems in place to make everything work, for you really can't do it all yourself. Her story of her as a child (one of six!) in Bootle ("it is not the posh bit") sending a comic book to Cadburys and being rewarded with a box ("a massive cardboard box!") of chocolate warmed our hearts. This, together with being encouraged by a mother who told her "she could do anything, anything she wanted", set her on the path to building a successful business over 15 years with 104 franchises. Impressive.
Back in the atrium, Nicolle and Delia were joined by Naomi (HR & recruitment) and Janine (digital marketing) and we collected our "goody bags". It was a shame most of the goodies were for our children rather than treats for us working mums. Although, we do like the stick on chalkboards and really wish we'd had the video camera out when Nicolle tried the chocolate-covered pork scratchings on the train on the way home. Not what she was expecting! We also love the Miglio earrings. It turned out, via some UK to South Africa Whatsapp messaging by award-watching parents that Tory, their UK manager, is Lucy, our web and IT manager's, cousin - small world!
And so on to the evening...nope, it wasn't evening, it was school pick up time but someone else was picking up the kids that day, because we were listening to Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise at Natwest Business Banking, telling us that only 20% of UK businesses are owned by women. That women are willing to earn less to get flexible hours. That Natwest have 73 business growth enablers and partner with Entrepreneurial Spark on twelve accelerator hubs offering FREE office space with wifi (where are they? We want one!). Then Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport and Under Parliamentary Secretary for Women, Equalities and Early Years spoke about her background in running a corporate goods manufacturing company "I've been there, done that and printed the T-shirt!"; about building our own futures; how there is £115 billion in the economy because of female-led businesses; that the UK is the best place in Europe to be a female entrepreneur; that her government wants there to be 20 million employees working flexibly; that they want to fix the gender pay gap which is why they are asking for larger employers to publish salaries because "what gets measured gets managed and what gets published gets managed even better."
Then on to the awards themselves. The good thing about being in the Start-Up category is that it is first up so the nerves come and go quickly. We were delighted (honestly, we were!) for the highly commended Bilinguasing, who we had chatted to earlier in the day and for the winners, Sweetpea Pantry, whose products we will be browsing next time we are in Bayley & Sage in Wimbledon village.
Lucy Piper was a ray of sunshine as our host and ensured proceedings ran smoothly through the speeches, photos, laughter and tears. Susannah Schofield's closing remarks were sensational. We'd love to tell you what she said but we just can't write that quickly. We'll share the video when it's released or you can watch her in action via her company Dice Matrix Consulting on YouTube.
We are very proud of our framed finalist's certificate and will continue to prove, alongside the rest of the female-led businesses that celebrated with us that day, that flexible working can work, for working mums and for everyone.
And as Meatloaf (eeeek! We are actually quoting Meatloaf!!) sang "Two out of three ain't bad..."
OK we quoted Meatloaf, but we did not use the word inspiring. Not once.