Business women joined together on Monday morning for the first Inspiring Women in Business Event by Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce.
Hosted by Rosemary French OBE, the sell-out event at Cranleigh Arts Centre was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8th March.
Speakers shared their experiences in business before joining an expert panel discussion answering questions from the audience.
Delegates heard from Just Jhoom! founder Shalini Bhalla, vice principal of Chichester College Julie Kapsalis, international events organiser Christine Martin of Travel Retail Training and newly started business founders Klara Akerstrom and Mel Booth.
‘Do what you love! Don’t be afraid of change! Look after yourself!’ were the three messages from Shalini Bhalla of Just Jhoom! to an audience of more than 40 aspiring, early stage and established business women who met to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The speakers talked about their achievements and their challenges but most of all they celebrated the dynamic female led business community in Cranleigh, which is often hidden because many women run very successful businesses from their homes.
The event was hosted by Rosemary French, who received an OBE for services to women in business in 2014.
Rosemary introduced the second speaker, a senior business woman living in Cranleigh, Julie Kapsalis, Vice Principal of Chichester College, responsible for 15,000 students.
Julie talked about the challenges of moving up the corporate ladder while bringing up young children, a sentiment echoed by both the speakers and most of the audience.
She said: “The UK economy would be transformed if only the same number of women as men started and led businesses.”
Julie lamented the significant cost of child care when Scandinavian countries have a much higher percentage of women led businesses and women in senior corporate positions because their child care was subsidised.
Julie finished by saying “What glass ceiling? Just break through it!”
The most recently formed business owners to speak were Klara Akerstrom and Mel Booth from Admin Lab which started to trade only four months ago.
Mel and Klara talked about the difficulties in receiving advice on setting up in business and how helpful their accountant had been.
Klara said “We realised, early on, how important networking would be to growing our business and we have picked up clients from the regular Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce breakfasts, more so than we expected.”
Mel agreed and reminded the audience, “Do not underestimate the power of good planning.”
Last to speak was Christine Martin, founder and MD of 20-year-old business Travel Trade Training, a truly international company trading from her home in Cranleigh.
Christine has worked with hundreds of airlines throughout the world training their duty free staff and organising the International Sales Person of the Year (ISPY) Awards.
She has expanded into Russia already and Singapore is on the cards for 2017 followed by China.
Christine said “I am passionate about my business as are my colleagues. We enjoy our roles, we have fun and most of all our customers are happy. Cranleigh is a great place to run my business being ideally located between Gatwick and Heathrow.”
A question panel session with all speakers completed the morning.
One aspiring start-up founder in the audience was looking for help and several other women immediately offered up their skills and knowledge.
Another question which provoked some discussion was what success looked like? There was general agreement that ‘enjoying what you do’ is the best ingredient for a successful business.
The event was so well liked by the business women in attendance that it was agreed that a networking sub group of Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce would be established.
With that decision made, over lunch the 40 business women networked and developed valuable new business partnerships.