I went to my first Manchester business event last night, Celebrating Women in Business at iHub, and it was eye-opening.
I wanted to find out more about the business scene in Manchester now that I’ve moved here, and also get my usual dose of motivation for freelancing.
There were three speakers, each one a woman who runs her own business.
I was struck by the common theme of all these female-run businesses, which is how personal each one felt, and the focus on sustainability, health and naturalness.
Raw Bake Station
With all the allergies that people have these days, whole foods are becoming more and more popular. This business sells sweet treats that are full of deliciously raw and natural ingredients, and free from refined sugar, gluten, wheat and dairy.
Raw Bake Station was founded by Evie, and she still doesn’t have a business plan. She was originallyinspired by her experiences of travelling to places like India to create healthy recipes that were also tasty.
My takeaway from her talk is that no business is created in a vacuum. Very rarely are small businesses run by something on their way to becoming corporate CEO, and it’s okay for you to just be yourself.
Businesses are often inspired by our own life experiences, by things that we find annoying or unsatisfactory. They answer a problem, and in this case that is the availability of healthy, raw snacks in the UK.
Evie recommends using Facebook advertising to promote your business, which she has had success with.
Acorn & Pip
Founded by Lucy after she gave birth to her daughter, Eden, Lucy found herself frustrated by the lack of sustainable and ethical children’s clothes and toys.
She began her business by selling sustainably-made dinosaurs at Manchester markets, and the business blossomed from there.
“I wanted to show my daughter what we could do,” says Lucy, while she regularly suffers from imposter syndrome.
Especially in today’s digital world, many people feel intimidated by the technological aspects of business.
Lucy says, “We don’t need to wear a suit or be employed by someone or to be given a chance. You just do it.”
Anna Hardy, Family Photographer
Anna prides herself on creating photography with character. She says she stumbled into photography by accident after buying a film SLR camera in her backpacking days, first in Nepal.
She was hooked on taking photographs and kept developing the film while she was still travelling. She eventually started her own successful photography business, Anna Hardy.
Her primary motivation behind leaving her stable teaching job to pursue a photography as a profession was to create a business that would fit around her new family.
Anna says, “Leap, and it will appear.” That means if she had kept one foot on the dock and one on the boat by continuing to combine photography with her full-time job, she would never have been able to grow her business properly.
You have to put all your energies into your business, in order to enable it to grow.
“There is no right shape for a business. If it doesn’t feel right, it won’t work anyway,” says Anna.
It’s so important to make connections with other people when starting your own business, and to take in as much advice as you can get.
Ultimately, you have to set all the advice aside, and listen to your own intuition when it comes to business decisions.
Frequently, it’s not that women set out to become “businesswomen”. They just live their lives, and then suddenly realise that something they’re already doing could be turned into a profitable business.
As Anna says, “There really is enough to go around. Take the time to hone your brand.” And I agree.
You have to think of abundance rather than lack, and remember there really is enough to go around.
The more specific you can be with your “brand”, the easier it will be to get clients or customers. Your brand is the identity of your business in the public space, and how audiences will perceive you and your work.
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