Amanda Ayres Discusses The Importance Of Supporting Women In Business

WOMEN EMPOWERING WOMEN

Recently I posted about The Business Girls Network event that I attended locally where I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet the Home Secretary Theresa May MP and network with a group of local and likeminded business women - if you missed it you can read about the evening here.

The subject of supporting women in business is such an important one that in today's interview I wanted to chat to the networks Founder Amanda Ayres to find out more behind the venture, what it's all about and plans for future growth, as well as get to know a little more about Amanda herself and what led her to creating such a vital and useful support network of local women in business. So grab a cuppa and spare a few minutes to learn more about The Business Girls Network and its founding group The Maidenhead Business Girls.

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Hi Amanda, to begin please could you tell me more about the Maidenhead Business Girls and the thought behind the initial project?

The Maidenhead Business Girls group was set up on Facebook in 2013 and just 18 months later it now has a following of over 1300 local women. The main aim of the group is to empower women and offer them a local network that promotes inclusivity and collaboration.

MBG was a spur of the moment creation and very quickly members were signing up and using it as a place to glean the day-to-day advice and support that they needed and to find the connections they were missing. We held a big event and a private reception recently that were both attended by Rt. Hon Theresa May MP. It was fantastic to have the support of one of the most influential women in business in our country!

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

What is it that drew you to setting up this venture, what do you most connect with in what you are doing?

I think it was a natural evolvement as I'm a Marketing and Social Media Consultant with particular expertise in using marketing to drive traffic and create integrated tactical campaigns. I also have a lot of experience in building online communities. 

There is a real sense of building a community with MBG and it's satisfying knowing that women have really benefited from the group in terms of the support they get, the expertise they have access to and not to mention the huge number of clients they have gained as a direct result. 

What does the service provide and how can people get involved?

The group provides a way for women to connect with and share highs, lows, experiences and ideas with other local business women in their area. Whilst the majority of networking is done online, there are an increasing number of meet-ups and workshop sessions to further build relationships and a sense of belonging. 

As a result of the success of the group I founded ‘The Business Girls Network’ and set up other groups in other regions. Plus I have now launched the Worldwide Business Girls Network Group to connect likeminded women all over the world. So watch this space for lots of new and exciting news and ideas to come out of this worldwide platform!

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

What is your own career background and how did you arrive at the point you are today?

I’m a Marketing Consultant with over 25 years of experience across many different sectors. I started freelancing over 13 years ago to fit in with family life.  

Are there any particular challenges and difficulties that you face in the work that you do and how do you handle this?

There have been several!

One of the biggest challenges is that people want you to do work for them but they don’t want to pay for it. They think because they have little or no budget you will just do it. I always say you are not paying for my time but my expertise as I have a huge amount of experience and there is a value in this. 

What do you love most about what you do?

I love connecting women together and watching them grow. Part of MBG is about giving women a ‘can do’ attitude. The groups are full of a hugely diverse mix of women. Some like me have professional backgrounds, some have moved from corporate to set up a completely different business, some have no business skills at all but have great ideas. The common theme is that women do want to support one another. It's part of our make-up!

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

What’s the one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and give your younger self? 

This is tricky! But I think it is to believe in yourself more and don’t take it personally when people criticise you. As many compliments as I get from women in the network, I also get lots of criticism which can be hard to deal with. It's not easy to deal with and you do have to become quite thick skinned.    

What is it that really drives and motivates you on a daily basis and how do you keep this momentum when feeling under pressure?

I'm a firm believer of supporting women and giving women opportunities. I think it's something that is naturally in-built in me and I do a lot of charity work too which supports this theory!

When I'm under pressure I go and exercise, just take some time out or reach out to the number of different people that support me. I think it's important to have a support network where you can get some coaching - another reason why MBG works so well. 

Recently I was so overwhelmed with the volume of work I nearly gave up. I think I had ‘start up fog’.  Nothing made sense to me. I took some time out and hey presto everything seemed to fall into place! 

Finally how important is it to you to achieve a decent balance between work and life and do you have any tips or tricks for maintaining this?

This is a very difficult question and I'm not sure there is a right answer to it. It's very important to me but it's not always easy to get it right. 

I choose to work for myself and I choose not to have daily childcare so that I can be there for my children and not miss their sports or school events and look after them when they are sick. This means I do end up working late at night to make up for the time I've lost. In particular the holidays are difficult because there is even less time, making my days even longer because I have to work even later than in term time. 

My biggest tip is to just try and take some time for you. I have to exercise that can be hard in the holidays to fit in but I know I just have to book it into my diary as part of my work schedule. When the going gets tough I just stop for a bit and reach out to my support network, which is what the women in the network do. Another reason why it's so important.

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

Photo Credit: Peter Christer

I've really appreciated learning more from Amanda about her passion for supporting women in business and I hope it's something that speaks to you too.

Mentoring, support, advice and just having someone there to lift you when you're struggling is so very important and I think it's great that networks such as this can provide that net and the boost that we all at times require.

Keep up to date with the latest goings on in the Business Girls Network here:

Twitter: @BizGirlsNetwork

Facebook: The Business Girls Network.

Thank you to Amanda for sharing and thank you as readers for tuning in. Remember to show some support to those around you, celebrate each other's successes and don't be afraid to reach out for help in return when you need it.

Louise