Advice from Surrey’s Top Businesswomen on International Women’s Day

Published March 16, 2016

On 8 March 2016, we hosted Surrey Chambers Business Women in Surrey (BWiS) for a special event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The speakers shared key careers advice and the “Top 10 BWiS Rising Stars Young Business Women in Surrey 2016” were announced.

Around 100 attendees joined us in our new auditorium to hear from guest speakers Julianne Ponan (Creative Nature), Annabel Jones from ADP UK, Pathfinder’s Jessica Van Thiel, and Robyn Dunwoodie from Miller Brands.

Our own co-owner Sally Pritchett commented that although the event was aimed at women, she was delighted to see so many men: “We’re not women only; we’re here to spotlight fantastic female talent and inspire a generation.”

Entrepreneur Julianne Ponan kicked off the event by sharing her experiences of starting her own business.

Julianne’s advice: 

  • Get started: Start small scale if you have to, but the most important is to commit to turning your ideas into something tangible. There’s never going to be the ‘perfect moment’ to start – so if you’ve got a great business idea, go for it!
  • Network = networth: Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Work with people who won’t just blindly agree to everything you say, but challenge you to push beyond boundaries.
  • The ‘Yes’ gene: Find people with whom you chime creatively, making sure they are all on the same page as you. It’s also important to have a standard that you are not willing to go below.
  • Time Management: Think about how you value your own time. How many hats do you wear in your business? If you’re struggling to manage everything yourself, ‘to do’ lists are really useful – but so is delegation!
  • Failure is not a bad word: Some of the most successful businesses have been born out of failed ideas. Even if you fail, you’ve still learned something.

Annabel Jones, UK HR Director at ADP, shared her thoughts on work-life balance. 46% of ADP employees in the US are managed by people in different locations, which means remote and mobile working is a must for the business to thrive. Luckily for Annabel, she didn’t feel she had to make a choice between being a mum and having a career – remote working made it easy for her to return to work.

Annabel’s tips:

  • Achieve a good work-life balance
  • Use technology cautiously – we have a tendency to be ‘always on’
  • If you’re managing a team, lead by example and try not to send work emails late at night

Social entrepreneur Jessica Van Thiel believes that women (and businesses) “can do it all, and why not do it well?” She wanted to be able to give something back whilst still earning a living, and asked herself: “Why can’t I do well by doing good?” Jessica highlighted that social enterprises don’t necessarily need to be not-for-profit organisations; there’s no reason why businesses can’t make a profit from humanitarian work.

Jessica’s advice:

  • Take rejection, then move on and learn from it
  • Have self worth: Don’t compare yourself to other people
  • The time will never be perfect, so do it now
  • Push yourself to the limit
  • It’s okay to have different roles in your life
  • Use your strengths and delegate the rest
  • Surround yourself with positive people

Robyn Dunwoodie, who was one of the Top 10 Businesswomen in Surrey last year, shared her experiences of change. Working in a sector she didn’t enjoy, Robyn wanted to do something more meaningful and creative so used her spare time to study and make the most of opportunities to move into an industry she’d always been interested in. “There’s nothing worse than being in a job you’re not proud of.”

Robyn’s top tips:

  • If it’s not something that’s within your control, don’t stress about it
  • Have a plan and take action
  • Ask for help and find a mentor
  • Be prepared
  • Put yourself out there
  • Stay positive
  • Remember that with each change comes new opportunities

Networking and mentorship tips from the Q&A

Many audience members asked the panel for their advice on finding mentors and people who can help. Julianne advised that networking, joining groups; and talking to people you already know is a great way to grow your business; Sally suggested attending events and making sure you’re passionate about what you do. Jessica added: “If you’re passionate, it sells itself. It becomes infectious!”

Joining your local chamber of commerce is another great way to find (or become!) a mentor. When looking for the right person to mentor you, Annabel advises that you should think about what you want to get out of it, what your goal is, what that person can add, and how they can challenge you.

Sally ended the session highlighting that the evening was all about inspiration, taking risks, and making changes: “Change is happening and we’re making it happen!”

Top 10 BWiS Rising Stars Young Business Women in Surrey 2016

The BWiS Rising Stars Young Business Women in Surrey 2016 list was launched in November 2015; the public was invited to vote throughout February to determine the final top 50 and top 10 lists.

We were delighted to support this fantastic award and offer our congratulations to all the winners:

  • Emily Bollon – Motivation by Music
  • Yvonne Bryce – The Knights Group
  • Emily Chalkley – Charles Russell Speechleys
  • Jessica Edgar – Stars Performing Arts
  • Laura Goodridge – McLaren Automotive
  • Jade Hibbins – Bam Nuttall
  • Cheri Howieson – ADP UK
  • Hannah Johnson – McLaren Automotive
  • Katelyn Silver – Charles Russell Speechleys
  • Alexandra Trebilco – McLaren Automotive


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