It was one of the last few sunny days in September as I tootled my way into town, across the River Dee and up towards The Botanist. I had been kindly invited, on Amble Magazine’s behalf, to attend a networking event empoweringly titled ‘Boss Babes Brunch’ organised by The Social Butterfly.
As proclaimed on the invite, this was the Chester launch, after four successful Liverpool sessions. Described as an event “for creatives by creatives”, I was keen to see what was on offer. It was advertised as a networking event with a difference, a speed dating scenario, but instead of your heart on the line, it’s your business! I liked this playful, light-hearted approach to what can often be a dauntingly formal – business card shoving in the face – affair.
Tickets were £16 and included entrance to the event, body or face glitter, prosecco on arrival (woo!) a brunch (which I was told at the event was a pay for yourself…a little disappointing but possibly a hiccup, unknown to me) and a goodie bag (which we all know we love!).
Walking into the room I was childishly excited to see prosecco, balloons and pink decorations adorning the tables. As a girly girl at heart, although not in appearance, I felt giddy to sit down and take part in this party styled event. There were approximately 10 of us in the brunch session, all welcoming, all smiling and all keen to talk about our business. I was one of the last to arrive (typical), so sat near the back…but closest to the glitter bar! Finally, a perk for being last to an event!
Katie Lee, the creator of Social Butterfly North and subsequently this Boss Babes Brunch, introduced herself to the group of eagerly awaiting women. At first, we were treated to the speed dating business game: we had 2 minutes to introduces ourselves to the lady opposite and get to know them and their business. This exercise was a great short burst of meeting all in the group. In our goody bag we were handed a very helpful flyer, on which we could make notes of the new business owners we were meeting. A great start to ease everyone into the event, though I feel we all could have done with more than the tight time allocated for each mini date. There were so many more questions each of us still had to ask the other, in fact, 3 times I never got to tell my speed dating partner what I did or who I was as time was up! The session was fun and informal: an easy way to mingle and meet all at the party.
After a sip of prosecco and a frantic rifle through my goodie bag, I placed a cute tiara on my head and sat back as a guest talker was introduced to us all. We were lucky to be introduced to a lady, Justine Aldersey-Williams, the designer, maker and owner of ‘The Wild Dyery’. Her talk meandered through her career, working as a teacher, working in textiles and fabric, becoming a web designer, producing wedding stationery and somehow finding the time to learn and teach yoga! Justine explained that being a busy teacher and a new mum, dealing with daily life to life events was all it should be; however, she knew something was missing. It was seeing an old high school friend on TV talking about their new business adventure, that rekindled the creative spark inside Justine. Feeling she had lost touch with her own creativity; this coincidental TV appearance gave Justine the kick to start something exciting and new.
It was fascinating to have a speaker who talked so openly about going through life’s normalities knowing something wasn’t quite right, then making a dramatic shift and positive change. Justine continued, informing us of her new venture and passion for natural fabric ink dyeing and how our throwaway fashion culture is destroying our planet. Though not something related to all the attendee’s businesses, it was enchantingly informative.
I found Justine’s talk encouraging. I live in a world where I haven’t always known what I would like to do. I always wanted to be creative but wasn’t sure how to use this creativity to generate a sustainable income. My loving and overly concerned parents worried about me in my youth, “you’re good at art – but if you don’t want to be an art teacher…is art a subject to continue with?” This is something I’m still working out!
Nearing the end of the networking event and feeling giddy with the pearlescent prosecco in me, I chatted to Katie Lee, the Social Butterfly North creator. Katie was welcoming and warm and easy to talk to. I asked about the idea behind Boss Babes Brunch and her background. Katie studied Fine Art at Lancaster University and upon completion decided to continue hosting her own Art exhibitions to keep her art up and out for the World to see, something I admire. After each successful art exhibition, Katie realised her passion for engaging other likeminded creatives was what she truly enjoyed. Whilst chatting Katie mentioned how she was inspired by her mum, who gave up a permanent full-time teaching career to teach Pilates. Katie witnessed her mum be fearless, yet careful, in carving out a new future for herself.
Meeting other creatives is something Katie evidently enjoys; the thrill of empowering other women in business, hosting inspirational talks and getting likeminded businesswomen together for an hour or two could lead to limitless opportunities.
It’s clear that Katie wants to make networking more fun and less formal. Speaking to other ladies in the group, they agreed that Boss Babes Brunch was quirky, enjoyable and different. “It’s like having lunch with friends”. As people started to leave to go about their day, I briefly spoke to the talented photographer of the event, Charlie Granby, and the glitter make-up artist, Georgia Dowd. I shared helpful suggestions and received some advice too, about local events and people and places that may be useful for one another. It was informal, it was a simple chat, it was relaxed. For this reason, Katie Lee had achieved everything she wanted to with this Boss Babes event.
As a female-only entrepreneurs’ event, I did wonder how this would pan out. Although through history men have been more dominant on the entrepreneurial circuit, this was a great opportunity for women to get their voices heard amongst other females. I do feel though, that there could have been a few brave businessmen, who may or may not have had their faces glittered, that could have also gained or given advice amongst this crowd. I can only imagine the ambivalence a male-only networking group would receive. This aside, I had thrown myself into the girly event and found myself more at ease walking into a room of women, who I hope felt the same level of nervous excitement as I did. This was more of a social event, linking like-minded female freelancers and business owners. Katie Lee’s positive energy continues to flow through her Social Butterfly North Instagram and runs deep in the core behind her Boss Babes Brunch.