I’ve been a member of the Women’s Inspire Network a number of years now and have seen it, and me, grow! Initially I was in the open facebook group and didn’t go along to the conference coming up as I felt it was too soon and travelling to Cork on my own not knowing anyone, put me off. I’m not very outgoing so for me getting to know people first was important. The WIN community is very different to other groups or networks that I’ve joined or seen. A lot of others are about selling but not as much about connecting on a personal level. I am drawn to people who are genuine and authentic. Sometimes all you have to do is share or retweet to show your support. There are some people that only show up when they have something to sell and then drop off – that puts me off straight away – there’s no engagement or connection established beforehand. Relationship building is very important. That's where Women's Inspire Network is different.
For my first WIN conference in Dublin, where I live, I remember a few ladies posting that they were going on their own for their first conference and if anyone else was, we should look out for each other! That eased my nervousness. I’d gone to conferences on my own to Europe for work and always hated the coffee break times when you had to make small talk or be questioned about your organisation’s position on a particular topic! With WIN the coffee breaks are the best and I’m sure Samantha Kelly will testify, the MC always has a job getting us back to our seats. Meeting people you’ve connected with online, IRL, is like meeting a long lost friend! ‘Hugs not handshakes’ is the motto!
The ‘Icing on the cake’ for me was the WIN19Donegal conference when I was one of the recipients of the much-coveted Marie Collins Award!
There’s always a great build-up of excitement for the conferences so this year’s online one will be different but nonetheless I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve gotten to know a lot of people through the network and love the range of skills available at a keystroke from members only too willing to help or get you through a difficult stage in your business and share their knowledge willingly. I’m a great believer in ‘what goes around, comes around’. If I need a gift, product or service I check WIN members first and have bought a number of unusual, personal gifts and supported my network.
Through the WIN webinars I’ve gained new skills that have been very useful for marketing or running my business e.g. Canva, Google My Business, blogging, presentation skills, etc., all the business tools that make life as an entrepreneur easier. I’ve even put them into practice in my ‘day job’.
But the real bonus is the community created. I love that within the WIN members group it’s a safe place to have a rant, share successes, share concerns about personal or work/life issues, trying something new or dealing with the current COVID19 Pandemic and its impact on us as small business-owners. I admire all the ladies who have pivoted, gone online and not given up.
I’ve got my own personal cheerleaders in the network! I had a health issue and was in a lot of pain for months last year and finally early this year in February the diagnosis was made. I went into hospital for tests and scans, told to pack a bag for a few days and ended up in there for 3 weeks. I didn’t know how long I would be out of work, it was all suddenly overwhelming. I had to have surgery on my spine, rods inserted, a second surgery during the summer, and plans of further treatments and procedures.
My business, Hibernia Roots genealogy services, is a sideline (I also have a ‘day job’ in the communications sector) and I have had great support from others in the group who have come to me for my service, though its not a business you often see in networks. I have put my genealogy business on hold. I’ve never been out of work for so long. I shared some of what I was going through – I’m not good at sharing private stuff publicly – but the WIN members group was the safe place I went to. To say the responses and offers of support were amazing, is an understatement. So many prayers, good wishes, flowers, suggestions of books to read, yoga course invites to join, etc., have gotten me through, just like family. It's all down to the culture instilled by Samantha Kelly.
If you’ve ever worked in a big company you know you will have colleagues, someone to go for a coffee with, run ideas by, someone who has been through the same learning curve, but when you are running your own business, maybe its just you alone, you need a support network.
That’s what the Women’s Inspire Network is to me.