Saturday, 31 May 2008

Get a (Public) Life

This year marks two important dates for women’s suffrage in the UK. The 90th anniversary of women over 30 getting the right to vote and the 80th anniversary of women getting the vote aged 21 on a par with men

It was with this in mind that I attended an event hosted by Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, to launch a new taskforce to help more women of colour to become councillors, and so make councils more representative of the community they serve. We’ve reported on this here.

This is an initiative that I'm delighted to support, but I would take this further and say we need to get more women of colour onto public bodies too. Public bodies have a role in shaping and influencing our society and making decisions that affect all our lives. Surely these decisions are more effective when made by those who reflect the society we live in?

Whether it’s the National Consumer Council, or regional bodies such as Havering Primary Care, the more women of colour we see in positions of power like this, the more our voices will be heard and the diversity of our society will be properly reflected. What’s equally important is that young people also realise that this is another route to leadership that is open to them too.

Precious will be working with the Government Equalities Office to put Harriet Harmon’s initiative in the spotlight, and we'll make sure the issue of women on public bodies is high on the agenda too!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Precious Awards 2008

I'm already looking forward to the Precious Awards which take place in November during Enterprise Week. It’s our chance to celebrate women of colour entrepreneurs, and show how women in business are really making their mark on UK plc. That's why I launched Precious; to celebrate the achievements of women of colour and the awards are a great arena to do that. There’s already been a lot of interest in the event and with a fashion show, high profile patrons, and some really exciting new categories in the offing; it looks set to be even better this year.

As many of you will know, the preparation for a ceremony of this kind starts early and over the last few weeks, have been putting the call out for sponsors and supporters for the event - getting sponsorship isn't easy, even in these days of corporations putting 'diversity at the heart of their agenda'. But in a strange kind of way I have been enjoying the process; putting together the proposal, tweaking said proposal, working with our branding specialist to make the proposal look good(thanks Rene!), the phone calls, emails, and other conversations, its all been an experience.

Since last year Precious Awards, I have been watching the progress of our winners with interest. The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year; Jessica Huie of Colorblind cards, has simply gone from strength to strength, her business has recently launched in the States and she made a confident and assured appearance as one of the experts on the BBC's Apprentice - You're Fired show a couple of weeks ago. Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael, the two young women behind luxury jewellery brand La Diosa, and winner of Best Start Up, stock their products in Harrods, have been profiled in Fashion bible Vogue and are being hailed as a big luxury brand of the future. I am really proud of all our winners!

I cannot wait to discover the entrepreneurial gems set to enter the awards this year; my fervent wish is that the Precious Awards truly gives them a chance to shine.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

I'm so excited!

There are only a few people in the world that can get me out of bed before 7 in the morning, but Steve Moore is definitely one of them.

Steve is the director of Policy UnPlugged, he's a great guy, who really defines the meaning of a connector and he is one of the friendliest, most genuine people, I have ever come across. Anyway more about him another time, the point is that Steve sent me an invite to the launch of a new monthly breakfast event called One Morning, and I shifted myself out of bed and went along.

The premise of One Morning is that each month three individuals are given ten minutes to answer one question, fill the room with ideas and then take questions from the floor. Then there's some intense networking over breakfast and by 10.15 you are on your way back to your office, desk or laptop!

The launch question was: What happens next? (a question that I ask myself continually) and the speakers were Kevin Anderson, Blogs Editor at The Guardian, Jeremy Ettinghausen Head of Digital Publishing at Penguin and Matt Locke a Commissioning Editor for education at Channel 4.

I was drawn in from the start as I listened to Jeremy talk about the future of publishing, the promise of the first E-book and a vision of a 'book' for the future that you can listen to on your ipod, then plug into your car on your drive into work and then continue reading on line at the office. Wow!

I was intrigued by Kevin's contribution on the so-called death of newspapers, how to find the perfect online business model, citing Tech Crunch as a prime example, and how and why more and more companies are spending their advertising budget online; (great news for Precious) and I was really impressed with Matt's contribution that covered art, how young people use tools such as MSN and how it all fits in to the future of social media.

The event took me back to when I was working in the ITN New Media department about 10years ago, when the web was relatively new in the UK. I was part of a young team, who were very passionate about our work, and who were driven by being part of some truly innovative stuff. They were challenging and interesting times. We were stick in a back office, spoken of disparagingly by some of our colleagues, (I remember the ITN Royal correspondent wandering into our office muttering "What is the point of this Internet stuff anyway?") But we didn't care, we knew we were involved in something fresh, new, and exciting and as soon as everyone else in the company caught on, they would be as passionate about the web as we were...heady days indeed.

One Morning reminded me of that feeling of excitement and newness, and so, for that reason, I'll be a regular from now on

Saturday, 3 May 2008

What's your recovery style?

A question for all you entrepreneurial folks out there: how do you cope with being ill? I have finally realised that my method is pretty terrible and utterly ineffective; I just ignore any illness and heroically plough on through regardless, in the mistaken belief that no-one will notice that I'm ill and I can still be as effective as ever.

Now recovering from my 3rd viral infection in 7 weeks(chest, throat, then chest again for your information) I have finally realised that being an entrepreneur does not make you invincible...and its usually best to ask for support when you are not feeling your best.

Two weeks ago at the height of my second viral infection, I decided to climb out of my sick bed and attend a high profile event at the National Portrait Gallery.

"Why are you going?" asked my sister, "you look awful...and you're sweating."
"I might meet people," I explained, "You know, contacts,.. the Precious Awards, so much to do..."

"Well, its up to you", said my sis, with an expression of pity on her face as I fell out of the front door."

My sister was right of course; I spent most of the evening trying to disguise my sniffles, and vividly remember a sea of glaring faces turning to tut as I coughed my way through Bond star, Colin Salmons' keynote speech. After an hour, I admitted defeat and made an early exit back to my sick bed, cursing myself for ever leaving the house.

I have learnt my lesson, When you are sick, it really is best to have total rest, don't turn on the laptop, turn off your mobiles... and Blackberry, reschedule meetings and take time to recover. It really is OK and your business will survive your absence.