The confidence gap: step outside your comfort zone

Posted: 5th September 2016

SussexMen will go for something when they believe they can do it, for women it’s harder, we don’t put ourselves forward until we’re 100% convinced we can do it.

We need to feel confident and confidence is something that is acquired through knowledge, repetition and practice.

Women who work from home in a rural location or in a rurally based industry need to be self-motivating as there is generally less interaction with others and it can be a very lonely place. Being isolated knocks your self-confidence and your comfort zone shrinks unless you consciously make an effort to try something new, often with the encouragement of others, like going to a networking group.

Speaking from experience it’s only been when someone else has said “you could do this” or “you should go for this” that I have 1) considered it and 2) actually done it. Years ago, not long after I started networking, someone suggested I should help run a networking group by greeting people as they arrived. Then they encouraged me to stand up and lead the meetings and then manage a network of meetings. I now run 3 different networking groups and am launching a fourth and I love it.

None of this would have happened without someone suggesting that I give it a go and step outside my comfort zone.

I firmly believe that networking is the way forward for small businesses, especially in the countryside. Some parts of the UK are fortunate to have lots of networking meetings and other places there are fewer.

I don’t advertise and I get all of my clients via networking and referrals and I’m regularly asked to speak at events in the UK and abroad.

Three important benefits of networking

  • You’re not alone – there are other women like you

Networking gives you the opportunity to meet up to gain support and friendship whilst also helping to build your business. At a meeting you can talk with other women in a similar situation and form lasting friendships.

  • It boosts your confidence and self-esteem

Networking groups are a safe place to practice your ‘pitch’ (your description of what you do) and to try out different versions to see which one people prefer. I have noticed many women who are very shy, and do not like talking in front of others, blossom as their confidence develops and they become more relaxed within the group.

  • Knowledge and ideas are readily shared between you

Other people can come up with brilliant suggestions to help you with your business or to connect you with people you can collaborate with so that together you can offer more than separately.

I have collaborated with several people I first met at a networking meeting and one of the ongoing collaborations is to teach people how to network effectively!

Lots of meetings have an inspiring speaker who will share tips with you and often there are workshops which help boost your skills.

Most groups have an online element such as a Facebook group where you can keep in touch between meetings and promote your products, services and events and ask questions.

I’ve made many friends whilst networking and it’s a very sociable way of building a business. After sitting at a computer or on your own for hours it’s uplifting to go out to meet other women and I always come home re-energized and with increased motivation.

If you haven’t yet setup your own business and you’re looking for ideas this article may inspire you.

What is WiRE?

Women in Rural Enterprise was setup in the 1990s at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. There are 6,000 women across the UK who network online at www.wireuk.org and in person at the monthly meetings in different counties.

Why am I launching Sussex WIRE?

There’s lots of networking available in local towns but there’s a big gap in the countryside between them with lots of smaller businesses and solopreneurs who work in farm units, converted buildings or from home in a rural location. Many of these women feel isolated, lack confidence and want to meet others for support and to get help to grow their businesses.

My father and grandfather had a fruit farm for over 50 years at Nutley in East Sussex and I know first-hand how hard it can be to make money from farming. They diversified into a farm shop, PYO and a tea room and had tenants in some of the other buildings. After my grandfather died, my parents went into growing plants and upcycling furniture and keeping the existing tenants and getting others and they’re still working in their 70s.

I have over 20 years’ experience in IT, training and consultancy. For the last six years I’ve been helping small businesses and entrepreneurs whilst running several networking groups.

I understand how farming and the countryside work and how networking works and WIRE brings this together.

The first monthly meeting of Sussex WiRE is on Wednesday 21 September at The Llama Park, Wych Cross, East Sussex. Other groups will be launched across Sussex over the next few years and I’m looking for women who’d like to attend and also to run these meetings.

More details at on the WiRE Website or contact me on 07970 066317.

Emma Cox of Cox Consultancy. Helping you create a profitable and effective business network.