A networking platform for women that was started in Liverpool has expanded across the country and is now launching in New Zealand. Tony McDonough reports
A business set up to help women take their first steps in business networking is now expanding overseas.
Leading Ladies In Business (LLIB) was established by entrepreneurs Clare Bowers and Carolyn Whitehead in 2018. Both run their own separate businesses.
Clare, a qualified psychotherapist, runs Clare Bowers Hypnotherapy and Counselling, and Carolyn is the owner of Beautiful New Beginnings, a community interest company that supports and empowers parents through classes and courses.
Both tried out a number of well-established networking platforms and, while they did see a value, they felt many were more geared to experienced networkers and those without parental responsibilities.
“At many of these groups there was no balance,” Clare told LBN. “When you first get out there, networking can be a little scary. What we offer is the first steps to building confidence.
“We often give out numbers when people arrive. And then we say ‘right if you have an odd number then find another odd number to talk to’. People give one-minute pitches. They are initially nervous but it really helps to build confidence.”
LLIB was initially well received. It was also offering workshops in areas such as marketing and Linked In. However, in March 2020 COVID arrived and the world suddenly changed.
Clare added: “We couldn’t do any networking events at all of course so we took the business online. During that period we didn’t make a penny and we weren’t able to get any Government support.,
“However, what did happen was that our profile grew enormously. And we found that our online Zoom events weren’t just attracting people locally, they were bringing in people from other parts of the world.”
Clare and Carolyn relaunched LLIB on International Women’s Day in March this year. Clare said: “We held the event at Clockwise in the Royal Albert Dock – it was fantastic, a sellout.”
As well as Liverpool the business is also operating in Southport, Manchester and Leeds and has just launched in Cheshire. It holds monthly workshops and also invites guest speakers. It also holds evening socials where members can “let their hair down a little”.
Overseas interest during the Zoom events offered the duo an insight into the international potential of the business. And now they have been given the chance of a test bed.
Clare explained: “One of our members, who ran a business here, emigrated to New Zealand with her family. She contacted us to say there was nothing at all for networking so now she is setting up LLIB events over there on our behalf.
“We are looking at maybe doing something in the US. We had people from America on our Zoom sessions and they asked us when we were going to set up there. It is a question of finding co-ordinators over there who can set that up.”
LLIB has more than 5,000 signed up to its platform. People attending their events can do so on a pay-as-you-go basis. And now it has around 100 members paying monthly subscriptions, a service they plan to grow in 2023.
In October Clare and Carolyn were recognised by well known British businesswoman Jacqueline Gold for their success as female entrepreneurs, and awarded with a prestigious #WOW badge.
Women on Wednesday (#WOW) takes place every week and is run through Jacqueline’s LinkedIn and Instagram page.
“Our members aren’t just entrepreneurs,” said Clare. “We have successful professionals such as lawyers and senior executives – some really successful women. As Jacqueline Gold says ‘When women come together amazing things can happen’.”