I am a member of a few online business networks including Cramlington area Mumpreneurs (just ask if you'd like an invite) and when I found out it's founding member (Gemma from G A Bookkeeping NE) was helping to organise a networking coffee morning in partnership with Business Northumberland at Willow Farm (who kindly sponsored the event), I knew it was something I would like to attend.
I can't deny I was a little apprehensive and nervous about attending a proper networking event - I am great at promoting North East Family Fun online and across social media (when I can hide behind my computer screen) however when it comes to doing this in person it is definitely out of my comfort zone. We all have to try things once though, even if they do scare us a little!
It turns out I did not need to worry at all - everyone who attended was like-minded and it was a fantastic opportunity to talk about our own areas of expertise and discuss challenges we had all faced.
The event started with registration along with tea and coffee and began with Gemma talking a little about her business, what had motivated her to start and some of the help she had received. In true mumpreneur style her talk had to be delivered whilst trying to soothe her little girl who had fallen over. Gemma handled it like a true professional though and did not seem phased at all. At the end we were all given a packet of seeds featuring a lovely inspiring quote:-
Kate was happy to answer a huge variety of questions ranging from funding and marketing to how she juggles family life with her business. In the early days Kate would sometimes work 20 hour days! It is those early days of sheer hard work that have allowed her to be where she is today. I loved all of her tips including using your own children as models (which I do all of the time) and her advice on working with big brands (The all-in-one company are currently running a promotion with ready brek) but the main message was if you truly believe that your idea can be a success, don't let anyone tell you otherwise and work hard and determination will help you to achieve your goal.
After the guest speakers had finished, we had a chance to network and chat with other businesses, we all sat on tables and after 15 minutes half of us moved to the next table. It wasn't nerve-wracking at all and was much more laid back than I expected. I was sat with Gemma from GA Bookkeeping NE, Kelly from Cygnet Career Counselling and Marie from Blossom Marie Images so quite a diverse mix. We discussed SEO, time management, advertising, a little bit about what we do and the best types/places to buy business cards. I then managed a quick catch up with my old school friend Stacy from Much Loving Touch before I had to shoot off early to collect Jack from nursery.
Today's event was a definite success, I had a quick chat with Gillian Middleton who is a business advisor for Business Northumberland before leaving and she advised me to check out some of the other free events available to start up businesses in Northumberland - Speed Networking, Start your own business, be your own boss, Social Media for people planning to start a business and Money Matters - book-keeping if you're starting a business are all free events that I think could be useful to my blog. I have already signed up to The Big Start Your Business event. The keynote speaker is current Apprentice star Katie Bulmer-Cooke who is delivering her recipe for success - Mixing creative thinking with a real love for what you do. I think this is something that can very much be transferred to my blogging business and I'm sure will provide lots of inspiration.
Gemma is hoping that today's meeting can become a regular thing (send her an email if you'd like an invite) which will be fantastic and I really hope the group continues to grow and support each other. If you are thinking of attending a networking or business event my advice would be to just be yourself and go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.