FoundHER Manchester - backing, inspiring and supporting women

Yesterday afternoon was spent attending the AllBright FoundHER event at Manchester’s King Street Townhouse. It was a full day event, although I was unfortunately only able to join the afternoon sessions- a shame since the three sessions I did attend were jam-packed with inspiring stories and advice from some incredible, talented women and I’m now left wondering what else I missed!

The afternoon kicked off with a working lunch discussion with Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. Joanne’s story is perhaps the most inspiring of all - a girl from Shard End, Birmingham, who made it to the very top after starting out on an apprenticeship. Joanne spoke of consistently being underestimated throughout her career; something that she now sees as a real asset, her superpower. Joanne told a captivated room of the ways her skills haven’t always been valued and having to fight to overcome that. 

Andy told of being a father of girls and the impact #MeToo has had on him in terms of noticing things that he hadn’t previously; everyday things. On discussing imposter syndrome, something most of us have grappled with at some point, Andy shared his view that “doing ourselves down” is something that is very much part of the Northern DNA, almost an in-built tendency.

Joanne ended the session by telling those in the room to never be put in places they don’t want to be or to let our confidence be hurt.

Next up was a session on avoiding burnout - something many of us have experienced, and indeed continue to battle with. The panel comprised Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anixety UK, Claire Eastham, mental health blogger, and Suzy Glaskie, Founder of Peppermint Wellness. We heard how we need to re-calibrate the way we think about health and wellness, treating our minds with the same respect, care and attention as our body and physical fitness. Each panelist shared their own coping strategy in overcoming stress, all of them different and highlighting the need to invest time in finding what works for us personally. Nicky’s strategy is running as part of a club, while Claire focuses on self-care, which she says is a skill that must be learnt, just like riding a bike. Suzy introduced a new angle, talking about the importance of good nutrition and filling ourselves with the right fuel to make sure our bodies can make the serotonin that makes us feel good. 

Something that particularly ‘spoke’ to me as a mother to a three and a five-year old was Nicky’s recollection of her working hours during her children’s younger years and her honesty in admitting that, if she had that time again, she would do things differently. 

I’m sure I’m not the only person fascinated with the morning routines of successful people and this session saw the sharing of some great tips - Suzy advised against a cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning, instead drinking a cup of water with lemon before subjecting our body to that huge dose of caffeine which will dehydrate our bodies further. Suzy also explained that carbohydrates in the morning should be avoided in favour of protein such as eggs or a smoothie if, like me, you’re not fan of egg! Suzy pointed me towards her website, which has lots of useful information.

The third session I attended covered scaling up a business, with another line up of great panelists in Rosie Moth, Angel Investor and Co-Founder of Telux, Lou Cordwell of Magnetic North and Emma Degg, CEO of North West Business Leadership Team. The discussion kicked off with advice from each on the first steps in launching your own business - Emma advised to get the science part right, establishing that there is a market in the gap rather than the other way around, while Lou stressed the need to be passionate about it if it’s to survive the “really grubby” times that will inevitably come. Rosie advised to go where the money is, applying skills and passions to the market opportunity - Rosie’s story embodies this to the tee, moving to England from the US to launch the business she runs alongside her husband because the US market was saturated, before locating in the North of England since the cost was lower and the location offered good access to the US skills market.

Addressing the difficulties around being so invested in the day-to-day operations of your business as it grows, Emma talked about how, if you’re really good, you’ll always be personally invested. Most of the challenges that arise relate to people - the real lesson is knowing when to move on from something or someone that just isn’t working. She told the room that, if they make a mistake, they have a responsibility to other staff to sort it out quickly.  Lou advised to follow your gut instinct - so much about running a business is based on instinct. 

To finish, each woman was asked to give the room their number one piece of advice:

  • Write it down - have a business plan. As the company grows, leadership vision must be clearly understood.
  • Strategise - always be one step ahead. "It's like war", said Rosie.
  • Find your own tribe and don't forget to listen. Find the people you can trust and who will be honest with you.

FoundHER was an inspiring day, full of practical advice and encouragement to help working women to achieve their goals and be the best that they can be. It was great to have such a fabulous event take place in Manchester and I, for one, look forward to AllBright’s next visit to Manchester as it continues to build its global empire, uniting and empowering women when we need it most.