Six weeks ago today, I revealed my plans for ‘She can. She did. – The Midweek Mingle!’
Four nights ago today, it became a reality.
Seeing as I’ve tried to share as much as I can about my own ups and downs along the way so far, this is a little insight into what went on behind the scenes – both amazing and altogether stressful (!) – to make it all come together on Wednesday night.
If you read the post I referred to above, you already know the main bits and bobs I wanted from the night itself but to summarise in brief, they were as follows. From finding seriously inspirational women to speak and act as role models for us to learn lessons from; making sure lots of G+Ts were flowing so that we could all mingle and share stories; to finding an inspiring venue that made everyone feel at home (hooray for gaest.com believing in this project), ‘The Midweek Mingle’ series was designed to do two things. 1) Provide role models and highlight the incredible stories of some of the UK’s most hard-working young women honestly and 2) Offer a down to earth networking opportunity where it doesn’t matter if you turn up on your own because you’ll be sharing stories and making new contacts/friends in no time!
But whilst I used to produce conferences in my former career (so felt comfortable securing speakers, writing marketing copy and project managing the build-up), like so many of the women that I’ve interviewed so far, launching something on my own without a marketing/ops/sales team in tow, forced me to wear a number of previously unworn hats along the way.
Some of which I felt more comfortable wearing than others!
From getting a bit too excited over a delivery of 100 plain black bags that arrived two weeks ago and getting my Monica on and labelling each one with my new logo stickers this time last week (I may or may not have got a tad carried away and started labelling my cue cards too..!); to having some quite serious conversations along the way including, “should I order cubed or crushed ice?!”; working with Maddy Russell to design the event guides so that everyone that has helped along the way was recognised; and partnering with some of my favourite brands to make sure guests left with a few well-deserved goodies; even though there were a few late nights tying things up, turns out event admin like that is my new favourite thing!
But I can assure you that it definitely hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Given that I write each week about women who are constantly pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones, I would have felt like a hypocrite if I didn’t do so myself every once in a while.
With that in mind, this is where I admit to not being public speaking’s biggest fan (which I know is daft considering I’ve done quite a lot of it growing up). Be it at school, uni or in my previous job, every time I knew I was about to go on stage – or even have to present something in a meeting – I’d get plagued with sweaty palms, shaky hands, that ‘my mind has gone blank and I know I’m not making sense’ feeling, racing heartbeat, nervous rash on my chest – the lot (which is why I wore a high neck on the night FYI…!). And whilst I never gave in to it and would always do the speech anyway (and often end up thinking ‘that wasn’t so bad’ afterwards), I wanted to be able to enjoy the build up to Wednesday night as much as possible and not let my fear of hosting the night overshadow the fun bits along the way.
So… writing up interviews and event logistics aside, the past couple of weeks have also been spent doing everything I possibly can to try and knock that fear on its head.
Two weeks before the event therefore, I made my way – albeit hesitantly – to one of the Speaker Express nights founded by an amazing lady called Annik Petrou in London, for some tips and tricks from the best in the business and – stick with me here – went to see a hypnotherapist called Tanya Brown the day after. Given that it’s been such an ingrained fear of mine since I was a teenager, suffice to say, she had her work cut out!
(Turns out she didn’t hypnotise me in the end but took me through a process called BWRT (Brain Working Recursive Therapy) where you rewire your automatic response to certain situations. Ie. someone would say public speaking to me a few weeks back and I’d get an automatic flashback to being thirteen and having to stop half way through a speech because my hands were shaking beyond belief and instantly think, ‘I’m not good at public speaking’.)
Long story short (!) whatever Tanya did managed to calm me down more than I ever thought possible and whilst I obviously still had butterflies on the day, they almost felt like excitable nerves where I just wanted to get going after prepping for so long. Either way, I wasn’t the nervous wreck that I’d envisioned a few weeks back so I owe a lot to her and Annik for tackling me and my fear head on!
Which brings me to event day itself!
Fortunately, Brogan’s (one of my best friend’s from uni who just ‘got this’ from day one) bedroom in London turned into a stock room for the week leading up to the event as there were a whole lot of goody bag deliveries that would have been a nightmare to carry into London (thanks B!) but armed with two suitcases, a backpack full to the brim of event guides and a whole host of (friendly) butterflies, I made my way into the city (albeit on the floor of the train surrounded by said bags because no one wanted to squeeze next to the crazy bag lady!) so that we could finally get the event set-up underway.
From frantically packing ninety bags with goodies in Brogan’s flat from some of my favourite brands (that included personalised Maria Allen Boutique keyrings, Popchips, Virtue Drinks, St Tropez, Charles Worthington and Sanctuary Spa treats, along with some inspiration cards by Natalka Design and discount offers from Postcards Home – all companies who just ‘got’ She can. She did. straight away and for that I genuinely am so grateful); to stuffing a taxi full to the brim with said goody bags and boxes of nibbles from Rude Health and ChicP and then lugging it all up three flights of stairs when we eventually got to the venue (cue the sweats!); yes there was the classic mad dash at the end where you’re convinced you’ll run out of time (and you start sweating again!) but it was a gratifying mad dash nonetheless!
With a quick change in the loos about an hour before the night kicked off (the delivery man for the ice arrived mid-changing so there were lots of “thank you’s” being yelled from the ladies cubicle – whoever thought running events is glamorous can think again!), doors opened at 6.30pm and you lovely lot started to arrive!
Having kept an eye on the guest list from the moment tickets went live, I had a good idea who would be showing up on Wednesday night but I can honestly say now that there were some incredible women in the room the other night that made the event that bit more special! From some of the first women to feature on the blog (Siobhan, Lucy, Maria and Hayley to name but a few), some incredible female founders and aspiring founders that I’ve met on Instagram along the way (so lovely to meet you all in person FYI!), some additional faces that I didn’t recognise but LOVED meeting on the night, plus a few close family and friends who have been my personal support network since day one, I’m so grateful to you all for supporting the night (and the past eight months in general too!).
At 7pm it was time to kick off.
With a quick “1,2” test of the mic (fortunately there was a little cupboard where I got my lapel mic fit so I had the opportunity to have thirty seconds to myself and breathe before we got going!) once I’d got over the awkward dry mouth sitch (ask anyone that was there what happened but let’s just say it all got a bit toothy for the first thirty seconds..!) and set the scene on why I decided to leave my job and launch She can. She did. last summer; we finally got to hear from the ridiculously inspiring panellists about what they’ve been through – both ups and downs – to get to where they are today.
Having had a quick chat with each of the girls a few days beforehand and stressed that I want to cover their highs and lows as honestly as possible, I already had a fairly good idea about what they’ve been up to in the past few years (or months in Safia and Katie’s case!) but there’s one thing saying it on the phone to me one-to-one compared to voicing it out loud in front of an audience of eighty women; so I couldn’t be more grateful for just how open they were.
From Alice’s confession that there have been days where she’s cried in the stairwell of the office before putting on a brave face and heading out to speak to her team; Olivia’s revelation that running a business essentially means getting used to the fact you’ll be putting out fires every day; Katie and Safia’s admission that they worked themselves to the ground on the run up to Christmas which resulted in Katie suffering from complete burn out and forcing herself to walk away for two months to recoup; to Nat’s recollection of the moment her mentor upped and left from a meeting with the parting words, “speak to me when you’re more positive” when she’d been complaining that things weren’t going to plan; even though their stories differed, every single one of them had moments where their business has put them in unforeseen and uncomfortable situations that has tested their strength both physically and mentally beyond belief.
Yet at not one point in their journeys have they let that defeat them and (thankfully) all agreed that the pro’s outweigh the cons!
From walking into the office she’s worked hard for and seeing a team that have gelled and share her passion for her business (Alice); having an excuse to “genuinely jump out of bed every day”, walk into supermarkets around the country and scan a product she first created in her parents’ kitchen (Olivia); sneaking out of the kitchen and peeking at guests having an incredible night and the sheer immediacy of seeing your hard work pay off (Safia and Katie); to thriving off the unique and interesting people she gets to meet and places she gets to travel to, through a business she’s created that started from her love of doodling (Nat); their passion for what they have individually created was so infectious that as the panel came to an end and we went to questions, it reminded me once again why I launched She can. She did. last year.
As the panel came to a close, it was finally time for a good old G+T provided by the gin pros that are Portobello Road Gin and some all-important mingling for the rest of the night! (Not before Mama G came running over at the end reminding me to actually mention there’s goody bags for everyone to take home which meant a quick announcement on the mic somewhat haphazardly!). Having the opportunity to meet so many of you all in person though and seeing people that had messaged to say they were nervous about arriving on their own having in-depth natters with other women they’d met on the night made the mingling that bit more special for me personally (and I love the hard-core lot of you that stayed right up until lights came on and we had to go home!)
To summarise (!) in each She can. She did. interview so far, I’ve asked each founder what their proud moments are and usually the answer tends to be when they see an idea they’ve had sitting in their head for a while become a reality for the very first time…
Wednesday night – for me – was mine so thank you to everyone who was part of making it happen and for all of your support leading up to, during and after the night.
I’m gearing up to announce the next one soon so if you’d like to join, l’d love to see you there!
Have an amazing evening and I’ll keep you posted soon!
Special thanks to:
Our amazing panellists on the night
Alice Audley, Blogosphere Magazine
Olivia Wollenberg, Livia’s Kitchen
Safia Shakarchi and Katie Brigstock, Cook + Baker
For providing the beautiful venues for The Midweek Mingles!
For the all-important G+Ts that helped the mingling!
For photographing and filming the night at such short notice!
For designing the beautiful event guides and She can. She did. logo too!
For reaching out last minute and offering to make the beautiful signs that were dotted around the venue!
For providing some amazing goody bag treats and prizes and spoiling us all!
For providing some yummy nibbly bits for guests to snack on the night!
For being my wing woman on the day, during the whole build up and answering any frantic texts from yours truly late at night!
Carrie, Mum, Yasmin, Jess & Andy
For helping to set up beforehand, pack up when everyone went home and for being such an amazing support network from day one!