Daily Post 18 April 2012
LIKE the best brainwaves, it began around the kitchen table – but now a tiny networking group aimed at helping women into business is a business in its own right. Network She has now notched up its first half decade – and five years on, has left the kitchen table well and truly behind.
Its founder Ruth Lloyd-Williams has now acquired office premises in Craig-y-Don and taken on two part-time workers: Julie Jones, office and accounts manager, and Jo Harrison, network coordinator, dealing with events and advertising.
Ruth hopes these positions will become full time before long.
At its inception Network She was about pulling together and supporting female entrepreneurs in North Wales and supporting rural businesses.
Ruth never thought there would be any demand for it anywhere else.
But when women started to turn up at her meetings from as far afield as Warrington, she realised that the need was there across a much wider radius.
And now the group is setting up in Liverpool.
It is, says Ruth, “an exciting time” and she and the team are “thrilled” to be branching out into Merseyside.
Network She is about helping women succeed in the traditionally male-dominated world of business.
“We create opportunities for women to meet to develop themselves and their business,” Ruth told Business Post.
“We put on events and well structured workshops which look at business services and information that is pertinent to what they do.
“We also put on social events – there’s something there for everybody to get involved in.”
She added: “We do it on a flexible basis, so that they can come as and when they like.
“We give women the flexibility to dip in and out when they can.
“It might be that they need opportunity to increase their own confidence and bring themselves out into an environment where they can learn how to expand and develop their business’s social aspect.”
Does Network She help businesswomen ultimately to become more successful and reap higher profits?
“We know that from feedback we get,” replies Ruth.
“People have told us that had they not joined they would never have met their customer base or have the confidence to take that next step with their business, they wouldn’t have thought of that missed opportunity.
Members come in all shapes and sizes.
The latest recruit is just 18 and poised to start her business in May.
Others might be semi-retired but wanting to keep their links with the business community and some are women who want to get out of their current jobs and try their hand at something different.
Membership is via a one-off fee and Network She acts “as a funnel” channelling the information women need as they seek to make it in the business world.
But in an age of equality and laws in place barring sex discrimination, is a group specifically for women rather an outdated concept?
“The only people who say that are blokes!” retorts Ruth.
“Some men will say there is nothing specifically for us but I’d say, have you never been to the Masons, the Rotary, the Lions, and the golf club?
“There is a massive amount out there, and a lot of the networking groups that were there four or five years ago were very male dominated.
“There is a gender issue as far as networking is concerned, and the age question, an awful lot of people won’t get involved in formal networking who are 25 or under because they don’t think they will get taken seriously.
“Also we don’t say ‘no’ to guys, if they want to come to our events they are more than welcome and a lot of them do because there is a room full of their target market.
“When did you last wake up and say I need a new kitchen – you didn’t, but there’s a room full of 40 women who want one.”
Ruth Lloyd-Williams, who combines a full-time job with running Network-She, first realised the need for a women’s networking group when she saw the difficulties her own daughter was having in the wedding industry.
“She is only 25 but when she started four years ago, she found it very difficult to get in front of her customer base,” said Ruth.
“I was talking to the conference and banqueting manager at the Ramada Plaza in Wrexham explaining how difficult it was for Rhian to do that and she said to me ‘have you ever tried networking?’ and I was amazed to find that people did it on a formal basis.
“I couldn’t get my head round it. Why would you need to do that?”
She added: “Once you start to get your head round it, once you get into it, you realise that it is a great, cost-effective way to promote your business.”
The high point of the year for the ladies of Network She is their glittering awards night, held each November amid great fanfare and publicity when North Wales women’s achievements are showcased and celebrated.
They also have produce a glossy magazine with a circulation of 10,000 twice a year which tells the stories of high-achieving women across the region.
Network She is about giving something back as well as succeeding – it supports numerous charities through sponsorship and promotion.
Now Ruth says the hope is to carry she-power across the border and help spread the word even wider still.
Network She’s next event is Celebrating Women in Rural Business on May 2.
It will be held at the Alison Bradley Gallery, Betws y Coed, from 6pm.
For more information or to find out more about the group, log on to www.networkshe.co.uk or call 0845 0095081.