How networks can help during COVID-19
In light of the current situation with COVID-19 and the impact this is having on business owners and entrepreneurs, we spoke, via Skype to one woman who is working hard to keep her own business running as well as helping others to survive.
Faye Dicker runs her own voice over business, but her talents also extend to public speaking, hosting events, presenting radio shows. “I love talking. And for that matter, listening too” she states on her website. In 2018 and 2019 she was recognised as one of the 100 most influential women in the West partly in recognition for her work in setting up and running Freelance Mum, a child friendly networking group for mums in business, started in 2012.
“I set up Freelance Mum initially as a series of podcasts interviewing women in the Bristol area, but it soon became clear that there was a need for networking opportunities for women in business” stated Faye. Eleven months after the birth of her second child, she organised her first event – a facilitated walk around Bristol Harbourside which then grew to regular events with an emphasis on providing an environment which catered equally for mums and their children.
The network grew to regular meetings twice a month for up to 40 mums (and sometimes dads), with inspiring speakers, freelance mum showcase plus a quick-fire structured networking round. However, with the arrival of the COVID-19, it became impossible to continue the meetings in the same way.
“When the lock down started”, Faye says, “I went into survival mode and quickly realised that the members of Freelance Mum, like me, wanted to find ways continue communicating with and supporting each other.” An offer of help from Freelance Mum member, Helene Jewell, who is a professional facilitator, meant that the network seamlessly moved to an online provision.
Each morning now Faye goes for a run and upon her return she broadcasts a Facebook Live post onto The Mothership which is the discussion platform for the network. “I don’t profess to be a business coach,” says Faye, ”however for me, talking about my thoughts and sharing ideas and experiences is important to me and this is how I do it.”
To keep the connection between the members, there are now weekly Digital Coffee Mornings as well as regular Zoom online Networking. There are still opportunities for members to showcase their business and engage with others on both the Freelance Mum website and social channels.
“There are loads of Facebook groups offering business support, all of which could be considered as competition for Freelance Mum.” Faye adds, “The current situation has meant that the need to make your group stand out has become even more important and this is one of the challenges of COVID-19.” She believes that the ability of Freelance Mum to survive is based on the strength of their membership and the informal approach they take which appeals to mums running their own business or freelancing. “The confidence we have in the network is demonstrated in our offer of 30 days free membership before the £15 monthly cost kicks in and there have been very few casualties due to COVID-19,” states Faye.
“One of the benefits of going digital for the network has been that we are able to widen its reach to further afield than the Bristol area, which is great” comments Faye. “COVID-19 has forced us to rethink the way we deliver our networking and in the future Freelance Mum may well look at a digital membership alongside the current traditional offer. We’ll evaluate this further down the line.”
A key ethos of the network is to respond to the needs of its members but for the moment, Faye is keen to continue supporting the members through this difficult time. “We can help to provide ideas for coping mechanisms and how to ditch the mum guilt resulting from trying to keep your business running at the same time as caring for children at home.”
Faye recognises that for many women, their working role is part of their overall identity and this is behind much of the drive to keep the network running to enable members to engage with others and to not be embarrassed about selling their services in this difficult time. “We will all get to the other side of this crisis and if you have to shut down your business temporarily, it doesn’t make you less of a person!”
When asked what she is looking forward to doing once the lock down is over, Faye smiles and states unreservedly that it is her regular visits to the Lido in Clifton where she can catch up with friends – Faye is a woman who definitely likes to talk! Thanks to Faye for talking us through how the strength of the Freelance Mum network is digitally supporting women in business – you can find out more here
Read our blog post on the importance of networks in business.