This is part 3 of a 3 part blog. If you want to read from the beginning- read more here
Slow as the recovery still was, I was keen to get doing something productive.
Sitting around doing nothing isn’t something I’ve ever been very good at.
I saw the need for a group like Inspiring Women between 2000-2002.
Inspiring Women’s business networking group grew out of a necessity when I started fielding phone calls from women when I was holding down 2 separate roles; President of a local Chamber of Commerce and a Director of our local Business Enterprise Centre (BEC).
The phone calls were from women who asked if such a group of ‘businesswomen only’ existed in our area.
When I asked them about visiting the local Chambers of Commerce etc. I found that most of the women phoning me were after someone like them, who owned businesses, wanting someone to bounce ideas off, not friends who would either tell them they everything was a great idea or who had no idea what it was like to run a business at all. They told me they didn’t feel comfortable around men in suits or didn’t feel that men could understand the challenges of juggling a home, a business and possibly even caring for elderly parents (as some women are doing all 3). Some came from different ethnic backgrounds and weren’t comfortable around men or thought their husbands may not understand their need.
Having discussed this at the time with a friend, Chris who said she wanted to be part of the new group and Chris knew she’d have some time free when our BEC was being closed down, as she worked there.
Our quick discussions started taking place before I was unwell and then I started my journey into the medical roundabout of doctors, tests and hospital visits.
Our plans to plan had to be put on hold.
The Chamber of Commerce of which I had been president also contacted me wanting me to come back.
First to visit and then, I found out later to replace the secretary who wanted to move on.
I was very nervous about visiting. The wonderful secretary, Janet was keen that I start showing my face at meetings again. “Members are asking about you and want to see you” she said. “I can’t keep telling them you are feeling better; they want to see you for themselves”.
I remember speaking to some of the members who were shocked yet polite about my appearance. One of them confided in me he thought I’d been drunk at meetings because I had been unsteady on my feet. Now he felt
like an idiot embarrassed.
Back to Inspiring Women: on October 21, 2004 Chris & I had our first planning meeting and created our list of needs, values and how we would proceed.
Chris patiently gave me tips and hints to keep things in places I could find easily again. It was important to keep trying to find a routine for when my memory escaped me. She could see I was struggling but it was more my impatience with myself that I was having the biggest issue with.
Between the 2 of us we knew we had a great concept and I still have that first planning document to this day.
We had written what our ideal meeting would be like and I now smile knowing we have reached that many times, just as we had originally planned.
I’d been to enough different networking events and organised plenty of them in the past to have a good idea of what worked, what didn’t and picked the best ideas I had seen.
Venues were offering all sorts of prices and nothing seemed quite right, so in the beginning our first meeting was to be held at the Manly Warringah Rubgy League Club. We planned to keep moving the group around until we could find the right place to call home. Our ladies came from Manly to Palm Beach and we needed to find somewhere that was easy to get to from both directions.
Both Chris & I were excited and nervous about that first event.
Would the ladies turn up?
Would the concept go down well?
Yes, we even had a husband turn up that first day who we nicely asked to come back another day. (Good on you Brian! We still love you!)
It was to be women only at the first meeting.
My personal fear was that I knew I could not concentrate for longer than 30 minute time slots and how would a 2 hour event go?
Would there be enough gaps for me to collect my thoughts and my energy when I had to speak?
Having Chris there was wonderful even though she said she was way too nervous to get up and speak herself, I knew she was a great back up.
As planned, each lady in the room had to introduce themselves and why they were there.
The first lady stood up and told us she was a toy designer and worked from home and didn’t expect to meet anyone at all who could help her as her industry was so specific and sat down.
The lady sitting next to her stood up and said in a loud voice, “I am a packaging designer for toys, I too didn’t think I would meet anyone who I could network with – until now!” and sat down with a big grin. We all burst into applause. Those first 2 ladies who didn’t know each other and were in the same industry happened to be sitting next to each other. Of course this now happens frequently and is part of what makes networking so good, if you push yourself to try an unknown, there is usually a surprise waiting for you. Get out of your comfort zones!
The next month I kept my promise and headed to Austria to see some of my relatives who had been worrying about me and my health from afar. It was wonderful, tiring and I have many funny memories from that visit.
Plus I have the most amazing aunt who has always been an inspiration to me, I love seeing her and I missed her.
I always love visiting Vienna and the surrounding States as the European lifestyle is so different from ours in Australia, it was a visit I was so happy to do.
There were times I had to rest and recuperate and as I looked well most of the time.
It was hard for people around me to know when I was reaching the point of exhaustion.
Due to the different well-meaning advice we had been given, Inspiring Women changed entities a number of times. When Chris finally left to take up full-time grandmother duties, we changed Inspiring Women into a company and she could leave to care for her gorgeous grandchildren.
Chris & I still manage to catch up very occasionally and every time we meet it is like we have never been apart. A great friend is one where you can pick up right where you left off, Chris is one of those.
This period was followed shortly thereafter by a partner into Inspiring Women, Niki and a committee of incredibly enthusiastic ladies who organised regular planning meetings and moved Inspiring Women into planning phases of ideas etc.
It was all very exciting and happening in my unit in Dee Why. Niki finally left when she was blessed to become a mum.
Looking back now I can see how busy I became again in a short period of time. Events organised for the Chamber of Commerce included Business Awards and their Annual Golf day plus Inspiring Women events were going very well, the list went on. Looking back now I don’t know how I did it all but I was taking regular breaks and pacing myself.
I know I am so lucky to have a second chance as I know I really shouldn’t be alive any more.
Therefore my view on the world and what is a priority in life can be very different from yours… or maybe not?
One thing I do know is time is short and I observe people and the movement of life around me with curiosity.
I’m curious as to how people deal with life’s “wrinkles”.
One thing is for sure, life will always serve up some “wrinkles” no matter how well you think you live your life.
Some people want to be always rescued, some are always the victim, some seem to sail through and everything is just fine.
One of the magic ingredients seems to be a sense of humour (sometimes the more warped the better in my opinion!)
I’m aware that everything is temporary including business, money, love, family, health & life and I try to not take any of it for granted any more.
Don’t forget to step out of your comfort zone occasionally because what’s the worst thing that can happen to you?
I wish you a wonderful journey with the sense of humour to sail through life’s “wrinkles” so you come out smiling.