Last Friday, I went to the Motivating Mum Business Networking Lunch, at the Hope in Wandsworth. This was the first big event organised by new franchisees Ana de la Quintana and Antonia Welch, and they did an excellent job, especially considering they had to change venues at short notice. The guest speaker was Laura Tenison of JoJoMamanBebe and she proved a very popular choice, with well over 30 mums (and Richard!) coming to listen to her.
Unfortunately as I live out in the sticks, and am tied to the school run, I had to leave before Laura’s speech, but I did have a fantastic time, catching up with some of my online friends and making some new ones. As usual I’ve come away with my head buzzing with ideas – these events are so good for that.
One of the most interesting conversations I had was about the whole nature of mums networking events, and how they can be so much less formal, more interesting and therefore more useful than other networking.
I did quite a bit of networking when I was in the corporate world. Conferences, trade shows and dinners – a lot of people dressed up stiffly in their suits, angling for position and posturing. I must admit, for the most part I found such events at best boring and at worst excruciating. I’m quite a shy person, and hard selling and corporate brown-nosing never did come naturally to me. At most of the events I quite often found myself on my own – wondering why I was missing the vital something that was needed to get on in the corporate world.
However, if you put a group of mums together in one space, you don’t have to give them a subject or a context, they just automatically start chatting to each other. If there are one or two toddlers or babies present, so much the better – they make a great ice breaker – and before too long hints, tips, recipes and phone numbers are being exchanged freely. I found this first of all with toddler groups and then later on at the school gates – such a refreshing change from the work environment, where everyone guards their ideas and is always watching thier back.
If each of the mums is a small business owner, they are still more likely to behave like mums than like formal businesswomen. They just talk about their businesses and pet projects as if they were children. “ooh that’s a really cute idea, what do you call it? What a lovely name, it really suits…. Mine’s called ………, its about 5 years old now. That’s great, how do you look after yours? I found this last week, and its going down great with my business…..” Lots of swapping of ideas, and the forming of real friendships.
The two organisers Ana and Antonia, met at another Motivating Mum event last year, and look at them now, partnering up and organising stuff together. And I overheard quite a few more conversations of people meeting and finding common ground – who knows what new projects may grow out of these meetings?
Many people are suspicious of the whole idea of “networking”. I know I was, having been left battered by my corporate experience. But if you haven’t been to informal networking lunches, then it is well worth a try. Our one solitary male participant (who I will have to say was networking just like an honorary mum!) said that such informal events ought to be available to men too. Well if any male business owners are reading this and want to link up, then get in touch with me, and I’ll see what I can organise…..
The next Motivating Mum networking lunches are on 15th February (Crystal Palace), 9th March (Blackheath) and 15th March (Wimbledon) For more information please see the website