On 8th March, the 3rd INSPIRE Conference & Awards took place on International Women’s Day at the gorgeous venue, the Riverside Marquee at Weir Bank in Bray, Berkshire. The day is the highlight of the biz girls calendar. It’s an opportunity for us all to celebrate the incredible female talent leading small businesses across the UK. It was fantastic to have so many inspiring women in one place.
Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of working with some extraordinary female entrepreneurs. These businesses have covered all sectors, from cake makers and coaches to artisans and aromatherapists. They include young visionaries, those running family businesses, women just-starting-out in business, experienced business owners many decades older and everything in between. The diversity of this community is incredible. What never changes, is the qualities that unite all of them.
Running a business that actually makes money with the ability to grow year on year is incredibly tough. Against many odds, women succeed in doing this day in and day out. Having the courage to realise a vision, to keep going, to laugh when things are difficult, to take others with them on that journey. We have to put everything on the line, demonstrating remarkable resilience, tenacity and courage. Without exception, the women I know drive their businesses forward balancing the unique pressures of small business life with the every-day ups and downs of life. Managing family life and children, taking on finance, marketing, business development and so the list goes on and on and on. Whatever challenges they face, these women are all heroines in my eyes.
In the UK, only 20% of small businesses are female-led. It is incumbent on all of us to not only help increase that number but to also celebrate our community of inspirational women and enable them to share their stories. Here’s a glimpse of the day and why despite my own highs and lows of running a business, I continue to do what I do.
First of all, I want to start by thanking my dream team. Tiffany from TWVA Limited was the best wing woman on the day I have ever had. She did not stop all day. She ran around the venue all day long. She solved problems including a tech problem that nearly sent me into meltdown! She was smiley, super-efficient and unfaltering in her support. I simply could not have managed the day without her. Thank you, Tiffany. You can be my wing woman anytime!
There were many inspirational moments and behind-the-scenes at this year’s conference. It feels impossible to capture in words just how magical the day was. There is a saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’. Hannah from Maylings Photography, the event photographer, captured the spirit of the day perfectly. She worked tirelessly all day long. My favourite moment was when she was awarded the crown of ‘Business Girl Rising Star of the Year’ and the camera had to turn on her! I know you will agree that the photography from the event is just stunning. Thanks, so much Hannah.
Melanie from Poppy Perry Media was our videographer on the day. I asked Melanie to capture those wonderful moments in short video clips that could be used across the year. I wanted to be able to share some of those goosebump memories that are often forgotten. Melanie did a spectacular job and along with the other members of the dream team must have travelled quite a few miles up and down the venue! When I first watched the footage Melanie had put together, it gave me goosebumps. As the person hosting the event, you don’t always see things from the delegate side. A huge thank you to Melanie for capturing these moments perfectly.
I wanted to host a fashion show, but I had no idea where to start. I remember watching a video clip from a fashion show organized by Anna from OFF the RACK London when she launched her business. I approached Anna and she agreed to help. We supported The DASH Charity at the conference and the theme of the fashion show was ‘Courage on the Catwalk’. It was an honour for every woman in the room to watch the domestic abuse survivors – Hayley, Sarah, Kiran, Amy and Helen strut their stuff on the catwalk to show it is possible to survive domestic abuse. Anna worked tirelessly before the event, meeting all of the models to do fittings. The work that goes into a fashion show is immense. From choosing the outfits and music to the running order and general confidence boosting of the models. It was a huge undertaking, but Anna did an exceptional job. Thank you so much for your efforts to make it as wonderful as it was. There was also a queue at Anna’s stand with much interest in her gorgeous clothing collection!
Caron Kipping from The DASH Charity was our first speaker up on the stand. This was a very inspiring and emotional speech and gave us all an insight into the critical work the charity does. When women flee domestic abuse, it’s often in the middle of the night or with a moment’s notice. They often leave without nothing apart from the clothes they are wearing. We decided to hold a raffle to raise money to purchase capsule wardrobes to give these women some dignity in a difficult situation. Women at the conference were also able to sponsor a capsule wardrobe. We have raised enough money to purchase 16 capsule wardrobes from OFF the RACK London. Thank you to everybody that purchased a raffle ticket or sponsored a capsule wardrobe.
Next up was a surprise entrance by Cordelectra, a young, vibrant, all-female professional Electric String Trio. They fuse classical and contemporary sounds to create exciting entertainment for any event. The members have been performing together all over the UK and Europe as a string section for various artists as well as their own acoustic and electric string act. The girls have performed individually at events such as the MTV European Music Awards, the Royal Variety Performance, the Eurovision Song Contest as well as UK and European Festivals. They have also toured with Chesney Hawkes, Mark Read and Nic Kershaw and provided session work for the Kungs for their album. It was wonderful to see the faces of everybody in the room when they entered! What everybody didn’t know was that Debbie, the Cellist was going to share her story. Debbie has Cystic Fibrosis and is a truly inspirational young woman. We were all moved by her story.
During the morning’s events, we announced the award winners in each category. Cordelectra joined us by playing walk-up when each winner was announced. The excitement, buzz and energy in the room for each award was quite something. Everybody supported each other and it wasincredible to witness. The Business Girl of the Year winner (sponsored by Maidenhead Podiatry & Chiropractic Clinic) received a stunning floral box from Blooming Fabulous Flowers. The other award winners received a gorgeous floral basket from Pink & Perfect Florists.
There were many stars on the day including the 2019 Winners:
Business Girl of the Year – Sophie Comas – Rimu Marketing
Progress of the Year – Rebecca de Jager – Hugo’s Workshop
Best Home Based Business – Rebecca de Jager – Hugo’s Workshop
Most Active & Inspiring Business Girl – Yve Audaer – 6 for Success
Best New Business – Katie Topping -Spirit & Grace Gifts
Creative Business Girl of the Year – Victoria Lee – Toria Lee Accessories
Rising Star of the Year – Hannah Mayling – Maylings Photography
Business Girl Heart of the Community – Clare Cogan – Clare Cogan – Creating Calm
Service of the Year – Lorraine Sellwood – Eight Wealth Management
Young Woman of the Year – Isobella Ayres, Deia Ayres. Alexia Richardson
Community Business of the Year – Francesca Cairns – Francesca Cairns – Image Consultant
Once again, a huge heartfelt thank you to all of our sponsors who made the event possible:
Pink & Perfect Florists, The Maidenhead Advertiser, Maylings Photography, OFF the RACK London, TWVA Limited, Cat Burchmore, Poppy Perry Media. Award Sponsors: Maidenhead Podiatry & Chiropractic Clinic, The Rainbow Rooms, Rimu Marketing, Goyals, Vivid Marketing Communications, Brittons Solicitors, Streamlion Consulting, Inspire Hot Yoga, The Media Hub and Carvill Creative.
Our final speaker of the morning was Sally Wilkinson from Get over yourself – Get Fitter. She was hilariously funny as well as being hugely inspiring. Her story was honest, real and utterly compelling sharing her journey from the condiment cupboard to a thriving and growing business. Sally demonstrated true grit and determination in building her business and showed us that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Everybody was treated to a delicious lunch and were eagerly awaiting the afternoon’s fashion show!
There were lots of networking opportunities throughout the entire day and some amazing small business stands to browse. It was a joy to watch re-connect and indeed meet new people. The chatter in the room all day long was fantastic. The energy was simply infectious.
After lunch, Sarah Baylis a DASH Charity service user shared her story. It was a very moving account of how she suffered domestic abuse and how she only finally escaped because of getting in touch with DASH. Sarah is now a proud volunteer for the charity helping other women who are in the same situation as she was. It took a huge amount of courage for Sarah to share her story. It was a complete privilege that she did.
Next up – the Fashion Show!
Among the 10 models and 2 mini-models were 5 women who are all domestic abuse survivors. They took to the catwalk to help others suffering just like they did to find the strength to move forward.
The models walked into the limelight wearing clothes by OFF the RACK London. As they made their way along the catwalk, they were greeted with cheers and clapping.
They emerged for the last track wearing black t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘INSPIRE’ donated by Seema from Goyals in Maidenhead.
Every track, every step they took along the catwalk felt like a victory step.
The ‘Courage on the Catwalk’ they showed was truly inspiring and helped to raise enough funds to purchase 16 capsule wardrobes.
To anyone who suspects somebody they know is suffering domestic abuse, reach out to The Dash Charity. They are an incredible charity, undertaking life-saving work.
I am so grateful for every single woman who attended. What is very clear is that we all support each other and the day was a wonderful reminder that success takes a village or in our case a community.
Guests left the conference with a goody bag sponsored by Pink & Perfect Florists and with very happy faces!
Thank you so much for coming. I hope you were as inspired as I was.