It’s the most wonderful time of the year….so I thought it was the perfect time to use these cold December days to showcase some of the talented entrepreneurs that I am lucky enough to work with.
Debbie Miles from the Athena Network is modest about her background, but these days she runs four networking groups (two in Newbury, one in Hungerford and one in Thatcham). As well as informal and formal networking, you get a delicious lunch, training and support.
When I set up my business four years ago, I wasn’t sure where to start, and thank my lucky stars daily that I met Debbie early on in my journey. Athena is a great place for women to network, particularly people like me who are shy and unused to public speaking. So over to Debbie:
Tell us about yourself and your business
I’m a Mum of two – ( aged 16 and 22 ) and I manage the Athena Network in West Berks. We connect local business women, so they can collaborate and support each other. We also offer training and workshops to help the women develop their business and themselves.
What brought you to Newbury/West Berks?
On the birth of our son – my husband and I decided to move to a larger house, and needed to find an area that was convenient for both Reading where I was working for HP and Andover where my husband worked as a flying instructor. Newbury was perfectly half-way.
How did you get into the business?
I was introduced to the Athena Network by my cousin who had visited and thought it fitted my personality. I was also involved in a corporate survey, looking at what middle and senior management attributed their success to. The response was amazing… it’s not just what you know – it’s who you know ! And women in particular felt that management support and a mentor helped tremendously too.
Networking increases visibility, credibility and reputation and I felt that women don’t get many opportunities to network in a business context. The Athena Network franchise offered a framework to help women do that.
What are your main challenges?
My main challenges are finding businesses to come along and visit. Each month I aim to find 16 visitors across our 4 groups.
How do you manage your time?
I work flexibly. I am around when the children need me, and work when they are not around. I am ‘on tap’ for my members in the working day by telephone and in the evenings by email and social media.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I also teach English as a Foreign Language with students living in with me at home. This means that I am often out and about in the local area visiting the sights. I also love walking my Cockerpoo Pixie, and swimming to keep fit and relax.
Tell us something surprising about yourself
I was in the Territorial Army and they sponsored me to visit Chile for four months to lead a group of young adventurers and help build a small dam to generate electricity so that more people would settle in the south of the country in Patagonia.
What are you most proud of?
My children’s ability to weather the storms of our personal lives ! The talented women in the Athena Network who have made a success of their businesses that they are so passionate about.
How would you describe a typical customer and how do you help them?
A woman running her own small business in the West Berks area. We help her develop business relationships with other local business women, so they become her raving fans and help her build her customer base. We also help her find other local businesses that she can collaborate with, as well as offering training to help her confidence and personal development.
What are your plans for the next few years?
To continue to grow the groups in West Berks and to help more women to grow their businesses.
Which song sums you up or is your favourite song?