When Women Come Together, Incredible Things Happen
Posted on March 19 2018
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Last Friday, something amazing happened. Gathered at the beautiful co-working space Fora in Clerkenwell, twenty incredibly inspiring women from a myriad of backgrounds — founders to DJs, comediennes to CEOs, authors to GB Olympic Gold Medalists — all came together to celebrate International Women’s Day and share lessons with each other on overcoming adversity.
It came at the end of a week full of events which I had the pleasure of taking part in to celebrate International Women’s Day; kicking off with Theirworld breakfast hosted by Sarah Brown (thanks Anne-Marie Imafidon); a panel discussion about women in tech at Fora, and a fireside chat at Amazon UK about Female Innovators at Work. But Friday was extra special because F = got to host twenty incredible women who are all kicking ass in their chosen fields. And it was such an inspiring and empowering evening that I thought it was worth sharing what we learned. Here goes…
THE IMPORTANCE OF GRIT
We have long talked about the importance of #sisterhood at F = and so when putting a theme together for this event, we chose The Importance of Grit for our panel. It felt fitting that with so many incredible women who had overcame adversity that we would all share our own experiences and lessons to help guide each other. And it really worked.
The panel consisted of Helen Richardson-Walsh — Olympic Hockey Gold Medalist, Amanda Thomson — drinks industry entrepreneur, Prisca Moyesa — founder of marketing company Moyesa & Co., and Sophie Radcliffe — adventurer, endurance athlete and founder of TrailBlazers, a youth empowerment initiative for teenage girls.
After introductions, each panel member talked about some of the adversity they had faced in their career which ranged from injury to sexism, self-doubt and risking it all to follow your passion.
Olympic Gold Medalist Helen Richardson-Walsh has faced numerous injuries in her career and one that actually prevented her from taking part in the 2014 World Cup. After the London 2012 Olympics where she won Bronze, Helen’s career was in jeopardy after she suffered two ruptured discs in her back within eleven months. As a sportswoman, this uncertainty about her sporting future naturally took a toll on her mental and emotional well-being but Helen explained how blogging about the experience, and what she was going through, had really helped. On a basic level, it helped because it meant she no longer had to repeatedly explain what was happening to her 20+ teammates every time she saw them, but it also helped her deal with the recovery process and, in turn, she had many others reaching out to her sharing their own story. She also recommend Headspace — the meditation and mindfulness app which naturally encourages you take time out from the negative space you might find yourself in.
Amanda Thomson, founder and CEO of Thomson & Scott which created Skinny Champagn, Skinny Prosecco and Skinny Wines went from a successful career as a journalist to drinks industry entrepreneur after decided she wanted to create a Prosecco which was transparent when it came to its ingredients, contained far less sugar than its competitors and also gave you much less of a hangover!
Amanda told us about the adversity she faced in the boardroom when investors didn’t take her seriously despite the fact she is the founder and CEO of her business. She dealt with this by taking a pragmatic approach — revenge through success! “There were potential investors that said, “It’s diet champagne with a cute CEO… She’s going to be terribly hard to manage. Is there a man by her side?” But… you learn, the best revenge is success.”
Amanda’s drinks brands are now sold everywhere from the high street to Selfridges and the business is currently expanding to the USA.
Prisca Moyesa, founder of social-first marketing agency Moyesa & Co. talked about the importance of being your authentic self and believing in yourself. “When I started, I realise now that I didn’t have confidence. And people could smell that on me like a bad stench. When you don’t believe in yourself, it always translates. But I committed to me and only me, and when I came to that realisation, everything changed.” Prisca Moyesa
And one of my favourite quotes from Grace Hopper was shared by endurance athlete Sophie Radcliffe — endurance athlete, adventurer, and founder — when she discussed taking a leap of faith, quitting her job and following her passion/purpose. “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Sophie explained how imperative it is to find people who can support and encourage you. It’s one of the reasons she founded TrailBlazers which empowers teenage girls. “It’s so powerful when someone you respect and admire believes in you. I tell the girls I mentor, “I can’t change your life for you. But I can promise you, if you stick with this, you can change your life.””
Amanda explained that you don’t always have to ask someone to be a mentor — she has mentors who were a natural fit for the role and whom she had met when she reached out to them and asked for five minutes of their time to grab coffee. People naturally want to help others and you can find them through your networks or social media. Reach out and explain why you want to meet. They can always say no but if they say yes, you may just find the right mentor who can help guide you through the many tricky stages of building your startup.
Prisca mentioned a mentor of hers — Ade Onilude — who saw something in her early-on and encouraged her on her journey. “Just a simple email conversation or quick call when you’re having a bad day can really make all the difference.”
ADVICE TO YOUNGER SELF
We ended the panel as we end all our interviews at F = with me asking the four women what advice they would give their younger selves:
“Confidence is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it gets.”
“Trust your own self and understand that kindness and being your own authentic self will bring so many opportunities.” Prisca Moyesa
“I’m all about relativity so I always say, What’s the worst that can happen? It’s usually not as bad as you think so go for it.” Amanda Thomson
“Feel the fear and do it anyway. I was given that quote from an early coach and I think I need it more now than ever… You’re going to be afraid, it’s going to be hard but you just have to go for it.” Helen Richardson-Walsh.
When I first started in tech 12 years ago, I found the networking events quite painful. It was always the same thing — some talks by white men usually, some surface level networking which entailed the swapping of business cards followed by beer and pizza. But I really believed that the great minds in tech and periphery disciplines could do better than that. And, that by bringing together a diverse group we could work together to find solutions to our own, and other’s work problems so I started The Junto Network. It’s very simple — I get 10 people together, pick a theme for the evening such as “The Future of Education” and we go from there. It works really well so after the talks had finished last Friday, all twenty of us did just that — we headed to Fora’s on-site restaurant — Palatino — where we got to know each other and our businesses/adventures better over a delicious dinner.
We spoke, we shared, we laughed, we learned. Women who had never met before forged friendships that I hope will last a lifetime, and we took away the biggest lesson of all that night...
When women come together, incredible things happen. And I look forward to watching all of these women soar.
From left to right around the table (please follow all these amazing women and become part of their journey):
Sophie Radcliffe, Adventurer and Founder (PANEL)
Krystal Roxx, DJ, Producer, Founder
Louise Woolsey, Senior Account Manager, Digital Sales, Sony Music
Elsa Beckmann, Fora
Juliette Burton, Comedienne, Writer, Presenter
Natalie Bardega, Co-founder F =, Social Rebel Girls
Ruth Sorby, UK Development Manager Worldreader
Anisah Osman Brittan, Founder, 23 Code Street
Janet Ogenah, Founder of Janet’s List (ex-lawyer)
Tanya Sinclair, Founder, Clean and Shout (pre-launch)
First Sukpaiboon, Founder, HER Coffee (ex-architect)
Danielle Newnham Co-founder F =, and author
Nicki Sprinz, MD, ustwo, co-founder Ada’s List
Prisca Moyesa, Founder, Moyesa & Co. (PANEL)
Abadesi Osunsade, Community at Product Hunt, author Dream Big, Hustle Hard, and Hustle Crew
Iona Inglesby, Founder, Dot One
Kate Richardson-Walsh, Olympic Gold GB Hockey Team
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Olympic Gold GB Hockey Team (PANEL)
Amanda Thomson, CEO & Founder, Thomson and Scott / Skinny Prosecco (PANEL)
Katrina Larkin, Co-founder Fora. Founder, The Big Chill.