Yesterday was International Woman's Day and I attended the Inspire Conference and Awards. The conference is organised by Amanda Ayers of The Business Girls Network. Not only did I attend but I was nominated for, and subsequently became a finalist, in the Business Girl 'Heart of the Community' Award category.
The networking group started off as an online Facebook group for business women in Maidenhead, Berkshire and over the past 4 years, has spread throughout the country. There are monthly meet ups where women can hear speakers talk on various business subjects that will benefit us in our various businesses. Plus there are regular online live video broadcasts on useful topics, such as Social Media marketing, advice on the new upcoming GDPR (data protection), blogging, strategy planning, etc.
Since joining this community of like minded business women - many of whom are sole-traders running their own business - I have found an incredible amount of support from some incredibly inspiring women. Initially I was reluctant to join such a group because in the past I have found that women can be very cliquey, un-supportive and a wee bit bitchy (I clearly wasn't mixing in the right circles). However, following a rather difficult period in my business life when I found myself almost on the edge of a cliff (not literally) where I had no idea where I was going, I wrote a post asking for help. The offers of help and advice were boundless. I was overwhelmed by the response. And, the kindness of these women who had never met me before, had no idea who I was nearly brought me to tears.
So, buoyed up by these lovely ladies, I became a full member and, if I was going to rebuild my business I was going to have to take full advantage of what the network has to offer. I knew I was going to have to embark on networking. Networking has never been my forte. I dread it. I'm great on a one-to-one basis but put me in a room full of people where I have to do small talk, that's a no no. I get a twitch in my head I get so nervous. I have been to two 'meet-ups' now and am gaining confidence each time. It does help that I'm now getting to know more people at these events, so it's not just so awful standing up in front of a room full of people telling them who you are and what you do.
In January, a the Facebook group set a 'live' video challenge. The challenge ran over two weeks and every two days we had to do a Facebook live on a specific topic and post it in the group. The thought of it horrified me. But, I knew if I was going to get more savvy on Facebook and in Social Media marketing in general, I had to step outside of my comfort zone. The first one was AWFUL. I said 'um' a lot. My eyes darted everywhere and looked anywhere except at the camera. When a notification came on the screen that someone was watching me, I completely lost my train of thought and said 'um' even more. But, I got through it and prepared myself for the next days topic. Eventually, I worked out that if I did my live at a particular time, when I knew someone else was going to be online, no one would be watching me. So, I became more comfortable and relaxed knowing I was 'on my own'.
Since last October when I had about 10 bookings for the entire month, my 'brand' is steadily growing. Last month I had 78 bookings. Not bad for 5 months. And it is nearly all entirely due to Facebook marketing and networking. I have learnt a MASSIVE amount in the past few months about Social Media marketing, Facebook algorithms and I'm getting better at the dreaded old networking. I had no clue about any of this 'stuff' before now. It just shows you, every day is a learning day.
Now, I have a lovely mix of patients/clients. Previously my patients were predominately post cancer surgery Lymphoedema. Whereas now, I'm doing some Myofascial Release to reduce pain and discomfort, Lymphatic Massage for general health and well-being and Lymphoedema. My days are more varied, which is lovely. And, to add to it, I've met some amazing and inspiring women along the way. Some I hope I'll remain friends with for a long time.
So, did I win in my category at the Conference and Awards? No. To be honest, I didn't expect to. I have only been a member of the network for 5 months so although it would have been lovely to win, I'm delighted that one of the others won. Sarah Parfitt runs Media Hub and raises awareness and money for an Ethiopian children's charity. She deserved to win. To have been a finalist was award enough for me. The conference was a great day filled with inspiring women, lots of whom have faced adversity, experienced failure but remained positive and resilient. I was able to identify with many of the speakers, who at some point found themselves in a similar position to me six months ago. They didn't give up. Neither will I. I am excited about my future, now I've got my mojo back.
If you'd like to keep up to date click HERE to join the mailing list.