It's the countdown to the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs, an annual gathering in Bristol, not exclusively for women but an event that celebrates and speaks to them on their own terms. Last year the event was a mixed bag for me, after missing most if it due to a very poorly toddler and trip to A&E but ending in winning the Female Startup of the Year 2018! This year I am looking forward to immersing myself in the day and soaking up the talent in the room.
- Me after winning Female Startup of the Year 2018 -
Space to think
It wasn't something that I gave much thought to in my past life. I'd always felt equal in my jobs, that being a woman hadn't hampered me or meant my voice wasn't heard. I could hold my own.
And I don't feel that different now in many respects. But what has changed is that I now run my own business and I am mixing with a much wider demographic than I used to. I go to many more events, have to shout louder and longer to try and get eyeballs on my products and have to push myself much further out of my comfort zone than ever before. There's less places to hide.
What I've learned is that each space has it's own merits. But the ones that work the best for me are the female led ones. Which is a surprise to me to be honest! I've never been a girls girl, I've never had those super strong female friends throughout my life until I was well into adulthood and they sort of just happened.
But what I feel when I am around other women who are business owners or doing their own thing, running their own gig, is a camaraderie I don't get anywhere else. These women understand, they get it, they have similar motivations, challenges, outlooks and experiences. They can relate.
Talking the talk
What has struck me the most though, is the way women talk when they are around other like minded women. I've had some awesome support from men I've met along to way too of course, great advice, a good push in the right direction, a helpful introduction...but it's the female led interactions that have stuck with me.
There's a different tone, a different rhetoric when it's just women. It's not better...it's just different. The conversation is different, the tone is different, the vocabulary is different, the pace is different...well you get it, it's different.
Not better, not superior, not anything really other than different and I find it refreshing, empowering and important. When I started my business I never even thought about what I would find useful as guidance and support. Turns out hearing from other women and their experiences is exactly what I need.
We need more!
In my opinion, we need many more spaces and events like the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs. Events where women can hear other women's journey's and stories, how they got where they are, navigated the world of work and business and more often than not, motherhood too. Because that throws in a whole other dynamic completely, trust me.
Celebrating women in business who are running enterprises in all sorts of different ways shows that it can be done and that you can find a way that works for you. One of my biggest learnings these last few years is that there aren't any real rules, which many would lead you to believe. There's no 'one way' or 'right way' to do things which I think women feel the pressure of more than men. Probably because more often than not it is men leading the conversations about what it's like to be in charge.
People power not girl power
I'll be honest though, I am not one for all of the 'girl power, girl boss, mum boss, mumpreneur...' etc etc although I am guilty of using the terms in Instagram posts to try and reach more people. But I've stopped as I don't believe in them at all, I believe in equality - bosses, leaders, small business owners and entrepreneurs. They don't need a gender shoe horning into them.
I'm much more into celebrating all women in all types of business everywhere by allowing their voices to be heard and I'm so excited to be part of this years festival for that reason. I can't wait to hear from women at all stages of their journey, be inspired by the one's that have made it big and help support the ones that are just starting out. If sharing my own story and thoughts help shore up even one person's confidence then it's important to speak out and speak up, you never know what's going to resonate with the room.
It also reminds how far I've come myself in a short period of time, which is also an important part of the equation to be honest. I am always dubious that anyone would want to listen to little old me - no filter, too honest, often with a wing and a prayer! But believing in oneself is also part of it all, and surrounding myself with other women who see that in me is invaluable. You never stop needing that support whether it's day one, day 100, 1000 or a lifetime.
- Me mid-pitch in the competition on about 3 hours sleep, yikes! -
You can still get a ticket to attend the event on Friday 18th October 2019 at Enterprise Nation