More than a place to meet clients – Busy Women Networking is good for the soul

What does the word “networking” bring to mind? Before I had a business, my picture was heavily influenced by the 80s – yuppies and bankers in red braces, bragging to each other about how great they are at sales, and stabbing each other in the back at the first opportunity. When I started my own business, I knew that networking probably wouldn’t be like the Wolf of Wall Street really, any more than I’d become the next Deborah Meaden – but that didn’t stop me feeling apprehensive. Would it all be about showing off, and competing with others? No. In fact, it was the exact opposite, especially when I found Busy Women Networking.

I took my first plunge into networking with Sam Poole’s group (now called the GoTo Network), and it was the perfect introduction, because it’s what networking should be like – warm, welcoming, supportive and collaborative, and nothing like I’d seen in the films. I was nervous, of course, but everyone was so friendly, and it was easy to strike up a conversation with every attendee. I met Aruna Rao, the founder of BWN, at that very first meeting and she was genuinely interested in me and my business. So, having survived my first networking experience, and with the bar set high for future forays, I was keen to find out more about Aruna’s business too: whether I’d be right for it, and it for me.

I found out that Sam was also a member of Busy Women, and this boded very well; if I found Sam’s group to be a good fit for me, it was likely that she’d value similar principles in others. So I got in touch with Aruna, and arranged to go along to my first meeting…and the last four years have happened in between!

Very quickly I learned that the defining principles of Busy Women can be summed up with these four Ls – the Ladies, the Locations, the Lunches and the Love. Here’s why…

The Ladies

Aruna says she wants every first-time visitor to be greeted with eye contact, a warm smile, and genuine interest. After some disappointing experiences she’d had herself, she established the first Busy Women Networking meeting in 2011. At every meeting, she does all she can to make everyone feel instantly comfortable, whether they’ve been a member for years, or visiting for the first time; and this ethos has attracted members who value this too, and treat everyone accordingly. There’s no cliquiness, and everyone belongs.

There’s such a broad range of businesses and experts, too – from financial advisors to social media marketing specialists, from florists to web designers, from wellness therapists to utilities brokers – I guarantee that every meeting offers an astonishing array of women in business, doing all sorts of fascinating jobs. I can also guarantee that they will be equally interested in what you do, too. And because so much of the Busy Women magic is in referrals, you’re not just being introduced to the people in the room – you’re unlocking access to all of the people they know outside of the meeting as well.

The Locations

Aruna set BWN up as an in-person networking group, over lunchtime to fit in with school hours. I think there were about eight locations when I joined, all in beautiful pubs and restaurants around MK, Northants, Bedfordshire and Bucks. BWN has grown and evolved since then; there are now 18 different groups, some of which are online – which is the perfect mix of options, giving you groups of ladies who are local to you, as well as allowing you to connect with people who could be in any location.  

Once you’ve secured your membership in one group for the year, you are able to visit other groups if you wish, as long as you’re not “locked out” – the system that ensures you are the expert in the room for your particular specialism, which really gives you the opportunity to get the most out of your membership. Plus there are two major events each year, at Christmas and for a summer garden party, where all the groups get together. I will never forget my first experience of Speed Networking on the lawn at Chicheley Hall!

Speed networking on the lawn at the Chicheley Summer Garden Party

The Lunches

Oh, the lunches…I’ve experienced a wide range of catering over the years at professional functions, from curling ham sandwiches to Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, and Busy Women food is some of the very best. I know that Aruna picks venues with the quality of catering firmly in mind, and knowing you’re going to get a delicious lunch is another of the fabulous perks of attending. In my first home group – the Towcester one at Potterspury House – we were always treated to the most fantastic themed buffets. In other venues, you choose in advance for your table service lunch. But one thing is always certain: it will be amazing, and who doesn’t love lunch out in such great company?

The Wimbledon-themed buffet at Potterspury House in 2019

The Love

I feared competition and comparison before I started all this networking, but that doesn’t get a look-in here – in fact, any hint of that is actively discouraged, because it’s not what Busy Women Networking is about. Support is another of Aruna’s founding principles: building each other up, and creating connections and collaborations, not rivalries and one-upmanship. Busy Women members really take joy in celebrating each others’ achievements, and you’ll meet people who genuinely want to boost your confidence, work with you, and recommend you to others. It’s two hours among truly positive and like-minded ladies who all have the same goal: to succeed in their business, and help others do the same in theirs.

Good for the Soul

It’s not just networking. It’s two hours that really celebrate and showcase you and your business, without any pressure; it’s the chance to meet others who are passionate about what they do, and who want to connect with you and build a relationship.

Self-employment can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. Busy Women Networking introduces you to others who know what it’s like, who want to collaborate, who want to refer you, and who want to celebrate your successes. I’ve met so many fabulous ladies who’ve boosted my confidence, and helped me to take my business and what I can offer to heights I’d never dreamed of. You’ll be helped and supported, and may even make new friends for life – because you already know you’ve got plenty in common, just by being there.

Busy Women Networking is more than just a way to find clients. It’s a network that offers you the chance to make lasting and treasured friendships and collaborations, and achieve more than you ever thought you could.

Find out more about the meetings and how to visit here:

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