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Sisterhub – sibling-style support for women business owners.

I don’t know about you, but it seems everyone is setting up a business these days. Whether it’s a small side gig, network marketing for extra cash, an eye on work/life balance, entrepreneurial start-ups, another independent popping up in Chester, or people following their passion for pin money in their spare time; I bet you know more than a handful of people who are rejecting the corporate 9-5 and striking out on their own.

If they’ve not started yet they’re likely talking about it – what they would do if they had the time/chance/money/courage.

It feels like there’s never been a better time to set up in business for yourself – the internet has helped overcome most of the traditional barriers – initial high costs, expensive marketing, having to commit full time – and success stories of entrepreneurs making it big are encouraging and everywhere. It’s tempting indeed.

But what’s it really like to run your own business? What skills and support are needed and how do you access them? Who do you turn to for help about key challenges or just a bit of support when the going gets tough? How do you get started and how do you get and stay successful?

These were very real issues for Helen Rutherford-Gregory when she moved out of the corporate world and started her own local business Candy Gloss Nails. Having invested in training and set up shop, kickstarted the marketing and landed a few clients, she started to realise that there’s not a huge amount of support easily available for female small business owners.

She had a lot of questions like, what next? How do you make social media really work for you? How do you deal with the posts thrown out into the internet world and ignored. How do you meet people and what’s the best way to deal with lack of encouragement from close friends and family? Having met some other women in the same boat, Helen realised these were common issues for many small business owners.

So, Helen being Helen, (determined, feisty, can-do, social-conscienced fierce champion of women in need – believe me you’d want her on your team!) she decided to do something about it. And not just anything, she set about creating a community for like-minded women who could prosper through sharing ideas, support and social interaction. Oh, and Helen being Helen (see above), there always has to be an element of giving back too, since that’s what community means to her. Sisterhub as a brand neatly sums up the culture she wanted to create in the community – a family-feel group, building strong bonds and friendships.

Much more than just a networking option, what sets Sisterhub apart is the way the members work together. One of the early successes was based on sharing and the principle that working together brings benefits for all – a simple but effective plan to enhance social media reach and engagement and avoid the dreaded ‘no likes’ post (and associated downbeat feelings) where members agreed to like, share and comment on each others’ business posts. It worked wonders, not just for the social media impact, but real-life social impact too. One of the hardest things about being self-employed can be a feeling of isolation – this social sharing tactic helped connect the members online and drove the desire for real-life encounters.

Enter the Sisterhub ‘Drop In’. These are informal meet ups once a month or so where members can come along for a coffee and catch-up, but also discuss and learn about anything that they’re needing support on within their business at that time. This can range from help setting up social media and GDPR fretting (new personal data handling rules that come in this May), to chatting with another Sister about tips to be productive working from home. Oh, and no suit required to ‘network’ at Sisterhub events – it’s come as you are and just be comfortable being you.

The meetings are daytime and centrally located in Chester to make it easy for everyone to attend. The monthly networking events are not to be missed. Some incredible speakers have held the floor to make sure that Sisters have access to great information about all aspects of what it takes to succeed in business. This has included practical tax and accountancy advice, perfectly timed to tie in with the dreaded tax year end, and statergies for staying self-motivated.

The opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment means Sisters get to build more robust businesses and meet challenges proactively. Future guests include Paralympic athlete and motivational speaker Anna Jackson and Emma Rees (University of Chester Professor) will deliver a  talk on Vulvanomics. There’s always at least one Sister business showcased too – a great resource for featured business to build clients and for members to access trusted suppliers.

Wellbeing is also highlighted as a critical part of ensuring business success with a special focus on it this month- a partnership with Brio helps keep fitness with fun a priority. Just this week the members joined together with free class passes to an energetic exercise Dance & Sculpt workout at Northgate Arena, followed by a Mix and Mingle social event afterwards. It’s all about balance they say!

What’s great is that through the format of two-tier membership (Big Sisters £10 a month with free entry to monthly events and Little Sisters free basic membership and low rates to events) the cost is not prohibitive to women just starting out in a business where every penny counts. Pay monthly and lower-cost annual packages thoughtfully suit any budget and financial circumstance. It also means there are all levels of business experience in the group and Big Sisters actively help and support Little Sisters. All types of business are represented too, from beauty to online to local female-run garages. It’s this mix that really makes the community work so well together.

So, if like most of the UK population, you’ve ever thought of starting a business or currently run one (and you’re female, sorry boys this is just for us girls), now is a great time to see what Sisterhub could do to help as they are seriously ramping up the level of activity. Watch this space too – we know there’s much more to come from Sisterhub – we’ve heard about a few hush hush meetings going on right now that we hope to reveal the details of soon, containing plans to help even more women thrive in their business.

Somehow Helen has also found time to help launch #codered a period poverty fundraising and awareness initiative you’ll hear more about over the coming weeks though Amble.

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Upcoming events:
GDPR Drop In session 11th May – Goodwins
Hub meeting with Anna Jackson 20th April – Goodwins
Hub Meeting with Emma Rees 31st May Chester University