January Thought

It is January. Perhaps you are reading this in preference to getting the Christmas decorations down and packing them away. Perhaps you are still going back and forth to the tip getting rid of all the wrapping paper from that heap of presents or to recycle the Christmas tree. You might still be recovering from the hangover of New Year celebrations or too much party food. You might be idly thinking about New Year resolutions or about what 2020 might hold for you. You might be thinking about going back to work, perhaps not enthusiastically. You might be thinking about the winter which is still ahead of us and depending on your age either wishing for snow or contemplating how to work and travel if it does come.

So am I going to write about resolutions or targets? No. I am going to talk about reflection. Without reflecting on where we have been, why and what we have learnt how can we plan the future?

I found myself looking back at 2018 and 2019 – very interesting times for me. I have to share a little for you to understand. I have been hugely fortunate and had a very interesting life: a supportive family, good people enriched my journey and a demanding, fascinating career. Once I retired (according to my employer) I became able to do full time what I have been doing alongside my day job for 40 years – mentoring people to help them achieve what they want. And I love it!

I was having fun until one day in 2018 the universe surprised me. An email arrived from The Higgins Museum in Bedford telling me about an exhibition they were about to mount – Celebrating the Women of Bedfordshire. It was tied to the 100 year anniversary of the first women being given the right to vote; it looked back over that 100 years and selected women associated with the county who had done things worth remembering that would inspire a new generation. And they were asking whether I would like to be featured! I could not believe it, especially when I heard about the other 59 women who had been chosen. What moved me was that the nominations had come from a panel of local women who had looked around in their own fields and then debated the claims of their nominees with their colleagues. In the business category 4 of us were included.

I knew straight away that I had to do something with this. A photograph on a wall and a biography are all very well but how do they speak to the future? I created The Inspire Initiative, a competition to find prize winners who could identify who had inspired them and why, to win mentoring to help them with the next stage. Out of that I have met many inspiring women and from that I find myself sucked back into the business world. I will tell you more about that in a minute.

In the last four months two of the most important mentors in my life have died. They were both very old and both ready to move on, but I miss them enormously. These were men who took a chance on a woman coming into the very male dominated, union driven transport world. They gave me chances, they encouraged me to do things, taught me my trade, they helped me learn from my mistakes and my successes but most of all they believed I could do it. And so I did. Their legacy should go on.

Where is all this taking me?

One of the young women who won an award in the competition is Elizabeth Howard. She is a Director, Performer, Producer and Researcher. And her aspiration was to make a business from her work. We have been working together now for over a year and developing different strands in her business. Do not think lovey, think hard working person with a good mind who believes that art enriches people’s lives and brings health and stimulus. One of her talents is event curation and one of her characteristics is that she is fearless.

One day we were talking about her native Waterford and their amazing Waterford Walls festival. Paint your city walls in front of the public; engage them in the project and at the same time enhance the environment.
Ding. Bells started going off in my head.

Now let me introduce you to Nicole Bilham.  A year ago I met her at a network meeting. She was talking passionately about developing big marketing strategies for small businesses – where every penny spent would count. She had built her career with ITV Commercial and was raring to use her experience in her own business. One of her talents is to see every aspect of business as a marketing opportunity and find a way to exploit it. She knows all there is to know about different types of advertising including social media. One of her characteristics is that she thinks laterally and on a large scale and then she makes things happen. And I have been mentoring her too.

All we needed now was an accountant with vision and a hunger to be part of the business process – making things happen. Again at a networking meeting I found Nicky Barrett. She is perfect for this business, also young and a refreshing mixture of wide outlook and caution. She contributes to idea development but keeps everything viable.

And so Bedford Bricks (not very Limited) was born. As far as I know no one has set out to bring the Bedford property and business communities together with the arts community for mutual benefit. Bedford Bricks will deliver an urban arts festival to Bedford in July 2020. For three days artists will paint walls around the town for all the world to see and the public will vote on their favourite. People and artists will thrive. Far thinking property owners will give us their walls to work on and businesses with vision will sponsor the walls. Bedford will become a town renowned for its painted walls. Footfall will increase, sponsors will get huge name recognition and profile. Everyone wins.

The project is exciting. The timing means we have to work very fast and very effectively to bring this big vision into reality. Each woman is working at the top of her game. In many ways it has developed in a traditional way; we have developed the idea, formed a business plan and developed a model. We have researched, costed, tested the idea on people and debated. As the project develops we enthuse and convince the different and varied communities we will bring together. And on 20 January 2020 we weave all the strands together at the launch.

It is exciting and something new for us all.

Reflection made me realise that I have amassed experience that I was not using to the full but also the legacy of my mentors is to pass it on. When I look back on 2020 we will see what we have created on the walls of Bedford, how we have helped property owners increase footfall and how sponsors have increased their profile. Less visible will be the experience and expertise developed in these young women. Nothing will take that away from them. Wherever they go and however they develop their careers they will never forget their first directorships; their first opportunity to create from nothing, to work collaboratively on something they care about, to use well developed professional skills but to craft new experiences as they engage with different audiences. I am proud and privileged to have brought them together and be working with them on this.

So why don’t you start 2020 by reflecting on what you are and what you can do. Where could it take you? Why not step outside your comfort zone, try something new and stretch yourself? See what is possible.
Of course as a mentor I think this is where you should seek someone like me to support you, encourage you, help you determine progress and help you to grow. I am always happy to speak with anyone, off the meter, to help explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. Please feel free to contact me.

If this Thought has been interesting please share it and watch out for Bedford Bricks!

Life is good; let’s live it to the full, enjoy it and be the best we can be. AND may 2020 be a great year for you.

elizabethtoogood.com

Telephone: 01234 273644 or 07968 822275

Email: [email protected]