The day before my exhibition preview evening I went to a local beautician to have my nails done. My hands were in a bit of a state, skin stained blue black from all the sea and sky I had been painting, nails a bit chipped and out of shape. I had won a raffle prize at Christmas, a £20 voucher to use at Lush Thirty Three and this was the perfect time to use it. I had a lovely couple of hours as we chatted and came away with beautiful deep red nails. One of the things we chatted about was how hard it can be trying to run a business on your own. A mutual friend (Kirsty from A Touch of Glass Studio) had relaunched her business at the start of the year and was also finding it hard going. Bells started jangling in my head. and how lonely that can feel, however much we love it sometimes you need another eye to look something over, someone else to bounce an idea past. We felt that a social/networking group would be useful, to share stresses, strains, & successes, contacts, general support and advice with like-minded women. It can be isolating working for yourself, especially if you also live in an rural area. One's partner isn't always the best person to run things past, however supportive they may be!
This isn't my first foray into women's networking groups. Once upon another lifetime When I lived on the other side of the country I went to Fife Women in Business, then moving over to Argyll 15 years ago I wanted to go to something similar, I was put in touch with the WEA, the Workers Education Association in Inverness and I started running their group called Women @ Work here in Lochgilphead, they paid me to organise the group, paid for the hire of the meeting venue, and for speakers & travel costs. After five years or so, mostly due to family health issues, I wasn't able to continue to run it and the organisation side passed on to someone else. I also ran for a couple of years a group we called MAGI Mid Argyll Green Initiative, we met monthly at Kilmartin museum and had volunteer speakers on a range of eco issues. I had to stop running that at about the same time as W@W. I have found networking groups helpful, useful, supportive, informative, and inspiring.
So, maybe, it was time to start something along those lines again. I sounded a couple of ladies out to see what they thought, got the thumbs up, dreamt up the name in the shower, created a Facebook page, decided on the day, booked the room anad bang! WRENS was in business. Women's Rural Enterprise Network Scotland.
WRENS is going to be slightly different to W@W, in that there isn't any funding or monthly subscription at the moment, it is simply an opportunity to meet other women in Argyll running their own businesses, whatever they may be. Who is doing what, where, and how. There’s an opportunity to take it in turns to do short presentations about our businesses, perhaps we can invite speakers or demonstrators, maybe it will just be an opportunity to have a cup of tea and talk shop & make contacts.
With Facebook groups & pages, it is easier than ever to belong to a group 'virtually', but sometimes it's a face to face, real people thing that's needed, especially if they are in the same locality and thereby have the same trials and tribulations as each other even though each business is unique.
I came up with the name whilst in the shower a couple of weeks ago! Usually these things float in to my head whilst walking the dog, but this time it was the shower. I wanted to create a name that would describe what the group was - ie female lead, business orientated, rural-ly located - but that also became a useful acronym that could be easily remembered. I know the 'Scotland' on the end sounds a bit grand and nationwide but I couldn't think of another useful 'S' word! Whilst rolling it around in my head I realised that Wrens (as in the bird!) might be little, but they are very noisy and punch above their weight, which I felt was entirely appropriate for the group I envisaged.
So, I have set up two Facebook pages, one is a page which everyone can see and you just need to 'like' to see the information, https://www.facebook.com/WRENscotland and the other is a secret group which you can join and only members of the group will be able to see posts https://www.facebook.com/groups/WRENscotland . This page is for asking/giving advice or recommendations etc. and will be confidential. On the main page I have been sharing useful info and inspirational quote, so do follow it if you don't already.
I also created a board on my Pinterest account
https://uk.pinterest.com/Needlesmiths/wrenscotland/ of interesting business info, inspirational quotes or TED videos.
We meet at the MS Centre in Lochgilphead at 7pm on the first Monday of the month. There will be coffee, tea, biscuits/cake. There isn't a charge but a small (as in £1 or £2) donation to cover coffee and as a donation to the MS Centre who aren't charging us an actual hourly rate rental.
There were eight ladies on that first evening.
Cunningly I was behind the camera for our first group photo!
But then everyone insisted I should be in front of it too, so here's our first group selfie!
The lovely evening was rounded off nicely with this beautiful sunset photographed from loch 13 on the Crinan Canal on my drive home.