Unbelievably, my businesses Little Lamb Tales and Little Lamb Phonics have been going for just over a year. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the transition from Early Years teacher to Business Owner has been drastic. I’ve had to learn and develop a whole host of new skills. Chief amongst these is networking.
I have to confess here that when I first set up the business I was rather vague about the actual meaning of networking. Needless to say, my first experience was nearly enough to put me off for life! Walking into a room full of suits can be daunting enough and choosing the International Festival of Business as my networking debut was brave/foolish (delete as appropriate!). Having been storytelling, I was dressed in my Little Lamb T-shirt and linen trousers. Perfectly professional in school but I felt like a duck out of water amongst all the perfect business suits and shiny shoes.
The next networking meeting I attended I thought I would be prepared in my smart skirt, shiny shoes and jacket. This time when I walked in, everyone was in jeans.
“Give me strength, will someone just tell me what I’m supposed to wear.” I thought.
Maybe talking about what you’re wearing sounds trivial and shallow but most people will tell you that confidence is a big part of networking. If you feel self-conscious you’ll spend all the time thinking about that rather than getting to know people.
Luckily, I persevered and I’d like to share a networking group that helped me realise the benefits and enjoyment of networking. Grab a cup of tea, sit back and let me tell you my networking tale….
Back in September, Martin Eilbeck from http://www.youropportunities.net/ told me about a networking group he’d been asked to speak at called Bizmums.
“Why don’t you come along, I think it will be really good for you.” He said
“But I’m not a mum.” I said
“Well neither am I. Come along.”
And so I arrived at Ellesmere Port Bizmums and was warmly welcomed by the lovely Michelle Peters from Bluey and Baloo http://www.blueyandbaloo.co.uk/ As the saying goes, the rest is history.
Bizmums was established by Michelle Childs when she found that mixing networking with child care was something of a challenge. There are countless breakfast networking groups and groups that meet in the evening. Neither of which can be accessible if you have the breakfast/school run and then the dinner time and after school activities to sort. Michelle waved her magic wand and Bizmums was formed. The Bizmums website is currently having a re-vamp but the link is as follows http://www.bizmums.biz/
The benefits of being a member of Bizmums are so numerous I could probably fill two blog posts so I’ll try to keep it brief.
- Everyone is very friendly and welcoming
- They are held in Play Centres or soft play areas specifically so mums with young children can let their children play while they network. (you don’t have to be a mum to join)
- Everyone gets chance to do a 60 second introduction about themselves and their business. This is when Business cards are passed around. It’s very informal and relaxed. If you don’t have business cards there’s no need to panic. You can speak for 10 seconds or 60 it’s up to you.
- Every meeting has a guest speaker on a specific theme of the month, April’s theme is Product and Service.
- Every meeting has a Members Showcase. This allows one member a chance to talk about their business in more detail or share special promotions they may have.
- Once you are a member you can go to as many meetings per month as you like. As each guest speaker is different you end up with a whole range of tips/ideas and support on the current theme.
- There are Bizmums meet ups in numerous places with more and more popping up everywhere. These include Merseyside, Cheshire, Shropshire, S. Wales, N. Ireland, Scotland, Yorkshire, Cornwall and London. But this list is only a snap shot.
- There is a very supportive on line (facebook) page where people can ask questions, share posts, recommend fellow Bizmums and promote their own business.
- If you have a question, there is always someone who will be able to help.
- It’s a great way to meet and make new friends.
- You can wear what you like!
So what has Bizmums done for me?
- Given me confidence to network
- Allowed me to meet a range of wonderful women who are passionate about their businesses
- Allowed me to receive great business support, advice and encouragement.
- Given me a far better knowledge about my surrounding area (I attend meetings in Liverpool, Warrington, St. Helen’s, Southport, Bromborough and Ellesmere Port)
- Has helped to spread the word about Little Lamb Tales and Little Lamb Phonics http://www.littlelambpublishing.co.uk/
- Has brought me business