Betsy Benn is designer, director and The Boss at Betsy Benn Designs and Luna Studio Designs. Having started Betsy Benn in 2010, she’s seen rapid growth and all it brings with it. She’s also a long-time, tip-top client and retreat guest of mine.
In this post she shares all her experiences of networking, and suggests a delightful antidote.
Have you ever been to one of those local business networking events because next door but one’s cousin went to one once and made loads of contacts and became a quadruple trillionaire overnight? You know the ones. Held in a beige, somewhat dog-eared hotel that seems to be having a chair shortage. Every third person is an accountant or a dog walker and the tea might be free but it’s also weak and the early birds got all the chocolate digestives?
I have. In fact I’ve probably stumbled through at least three more than I should’ve bothered with. I obviously kept expecting Richard Branson to show up or something, but without fail, across the whole range of business types I met, everyone was clearly pitching for business and immediately too. They wanted to do my accounts, bake cakes for the office every Friday or get me to place ads in their appallingly type set local directory. No one seemed to want to make contact just for the sake of knowing other local small business owners for the supportive shared experience of it all!
By far the most painful part of the whole process though was that inevitable question, “So what do you do then?” Oh how I hate that question! I know I should have an “elevator pitch” ready to go and I sort of do now, but how do you explain all the intricacies of being a professional small creative?
Passing over the idea of making up something ludicrous (topless motorcycle courier?) I reply with “I run my own design business” which of course brings follow up questions about what I design. “Personalised prints and greetings cards mostly” say I. And then the glazed look comes across my companion as they start imagining me sitting in my kitchen at nights, wonkily sticking mini bows and cut out shapes on a marbled card with scalloped edge and flogging them in hospital gift shops. They literally have no idea of where we started and what we’ve been through and how we keep going day after day and to be honest, I haven’t got the energy to explain it to them anymore.
Now stop laughing and nodding! Design for yourself the antithesis of everything I have described. A beautiful, bright welcoming space, full of pillowy sofas. An endless supply of drinks and biscuits and nibbles of all varieties whenever you fancy. And a room full to the brim of clever creative sorts, just like you, who know and appreciate exactly the world you’re in. They might have a different experience to you, but they’re eager to hear about your experience and once you all start chatting, magic starts to crackle in the air. An idea from here, a suggestion there, new thoughts, new energy, new directions, you can’t write it all down quickly enough. No-one wants you to buy anything from them! And when we touch upon the darker, harder moments we all face (possibly over a glass of wine or two), you see recognition and compassion in everyone’s faces. They just, get it.
Doing what we do can be a very isolating experience, partly because our business model is still very new out there. I can’t overemphasize the value I found in being able to spend time with other professional creatives. Time I could dedicate to just thinking about my business without simultaneously having to keep hold of every other job title; wife, mother, daughter, friend, boss and yes, even accountant and dog walker. Utter bliss.
If you need what Betsy needed, check out my upcoming retreats.