This weekend we are told by Social Media, that we are celebrating International Women’s Day – initially, I felt it was a little bit of another Hallmark Holiday – a day with little meaning behind it. Then I spent the weekend at our ARTventurers Team Conference in Leeds and I thought about it some more. On reflection, I realised that actually we should be shouting about it LOUDLY and unifying our tribe. As when we truly support the women around us our collective strength grows.
Before I travelled to Leeds, I was incredibly nervous about meeting this team of ladies (and one very lovely man) I admire so much. The journey from Inverness to Leeds is a whole day affair, and I can be quite an anxious solo traveller, so I was on edge all week in the run-up to going. I need not have worried. A number of our team messaged me on route – how was I getting on, was I close, is everything ok? That made a huge difference to how I felt when I arrived in Leeds Station, some of the apprehension had gone. I walked through the door to our hotel and a number of the ladies were in the lounge having drinks – they saw me heading in and were instantly full of welcoming smiles, hugs and opened up their world to me. I exhaled. It was going to be ok. Because this group of incredible women had my back, they acknowledged my mammoth journey and they celebrated my achievement in getting there – with a large gin and a lot of smiles – and I was safe.
Women celebrating women, welcoming them in and cheering them on – I saw this continue to happen over and over again at the Team Conference. There were awards and celebration for achievements made, celebrations over those achievements and information sharing on how those achievements came together, so we could go on to achieve them too. Even down to the counting back into the hotel at night after we had our farewell dinner. A little family group making sure everyone was home safely.
The TEAM ethos is one of the reasons I joined this glitter gang in a sea of red t-shirts, paint and sparkle. I had read of many horror stories of Franchised businesses where the ethos was about making the branches compete against each other, I knew I could not survive in that world. Then I happened across ARTventurers and fell in the love with the Team Ethos. It was clear from what I could see online that this was a close-knit bunch who thrived by helping each other. And so, my journey began.
From talking with all of you, I have learnt just how important the support you get from weekly classes is to you. You choose to go to classes for some of the reasons the Team Conference was important to me.
To not only have a space where you can have fun and make memories with your child but also to have somewhere where you able to make those all-important social connections with other parents and families. We all need some social interaction in our week, otherwise, those walls can close in incredibly quickly. I love finding out, all about the lovely mums, grannies and dads at our classes, to chat about your interests and your previous jobs – it is as much social interaction for me as it is for you. One of the many, many things I love about our classes is that you all get to sit and chat to each other – to reconnect and share our creative play with your friends as much as with your little ones. Similar to our team-building exercises at the conference – (anyone got a sturdy design plan for spaghetti towers made only with masking tape, string and a solitary marshmallow, I can use next year?) you have these experiences in class which are these incredibly precious shared moments.
How can we not share a laugh when you have been covered in foam from a foam covered child, or have a go-faster stripe added to your jeans with one of the painty rollers, or even turned into the incredible hulk as the pot of green glitter is tipped over your head!!. What could be more bonding!!! These are the moments that imprint on not just our minds but your little ones too. The fun and laughter, memories made and captured are why I wanted to run ARTventurers in the first place.
The conference was an incredible learning tool, to be able to draw on the wealth of experience the other branches all have. We all had something to share that was helpful to someone else. Our classes are a great place to share advice too, I hear lots of you getting the chance to chat about teething and sleepless nights, weaning and toilet training. We celebrate and mark these milestones together. We have all been there at some point and sometimes all we need is someone to say “we understand” or “me too”. These are the important moments of social connection that we all need to thrive. Parenting, like being in business for yourself, can be lonely, none of us has all the answers, as each child is so different and really, we are all just winging it the best we can. But maybe collectively we can suss it out a little along the way, from our shared experiences.
In order to thrive, we need to connect. This is as true for parents as it is for our children. We choose to bring them to classes such as ARTventurers to broaden their learning, to aid their socialisation skills and to introduce them to new experiences. This is also true for me – I learnt SO much from the conference and continue to learn something new every class, my confidence grows a little more and it can be the same for you as parents too. Many of you have come back to me after attending classes to say you are more confident now at introducing creative learning at home, or that suddenly your child is showing more interest in creative experiences at home and this is the essence of why I LOVE what I do. To have shared a little bit of knowledge that has gone on to help you at home, or made an impact no matter how small to your lives.
I am often told that to be in business you need to be competitive and self-focused and I just don’t believe that, and it was refreshing to find the conference also highlighted the benefits of collaborative working.
It goes against all of the GIRL POWER learning the Spice Girls gave us in the nineties. Yes, we are in business to make a living but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be supportive of each other’s journeys.
There are so many local business women that I admire and I have tried to make 2020 the year of letting them know – I have started tagging one business a month as my #artventurersfollowfriday to highlight the incredible work that goes on all around us. I believe that like in all avenues of life kindness and respect goes an incredibly long way in the business world. If we all strive to be the best versions of ourselves then I believe we can all succeed.
This weekend has reminded me again that I am incredibly lucky to have the ARTventurers Team, who despite being scattered all across the country have been the most welcoming and supportive bunch. Without them, at my back, this journey would be completely different.
So, I don’t think there could have been a more fitting way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to have spent the weekend with all of them. I am in awe of these amazing women who inspire me to be the best version of me that there is. I can’t wait to see where this journey continues to, as the team continues to grow and ARTventurers enters its 10th year. I am honoured to wear my red t-shirt. We are most definitely at our “Strongest Together” Take a chance, live your dream and reach for those stars – you never know what might be possible. I never thought that this could be my world but here I am. Living it, being brave and having the most fun of my entire career.
Here’s to all the inspirational women – leading the way and helping us believe in and realise our dreams!