Networking. It can be a dirty word, and conjures up images of sterile board rooms, sweating in polyester suits and hob-nobbing with graspy types. The League of Extraordinary Women has changed all that, offering female entrepreneurs a lively environment to hear from genuinely exciting and authentic ‘non-businessey’ business women – the kind that we love best at Ruby Assembly! This week we attended their Melbourne event held at comfy and cool Honey Bar in South Melbourne, featuring Abigail Forsyth of Keep Cup and Keran Wicks of Network Video. Two more different ladies you couldn’t find – yet their stories and business experiences each connected with the audience easily and with great joy. In today’s brief blog we share with you some good oil from the League of Extraordinary women, and hope you take time to attend one of their faboosh events in future. Incidentally, they also have delicious cupcakes, macarons and champagne on offer – another reason I’m looking so pleased with myself in this photo.

I was joined at the event by Ruby Assembly intern deluxe Ally Hallam of Cardigan Magazine. Read her sweet, crafty blog here.

One of the founding entrepreneurs behind the League of Extraordinary Women, Liz Atkinson of Zest Possibilities. A gorgeous Mancunian who has been in Australia for a decade, Liz has been running a range of successful businesses under the ‘Zest Possibilities’ banner. Zest are involved in running fundraising ventures, and aim to build a school for children in Cambodia.

The first speaker of the evening was Keran Wicks. A woman with a deep, throaty chortle, killer pins and business acumen to take your head off at 10 paces, Keran was extremely passionate and funny. Keran is the Founder and Managing Director of Network Video, one of Australia’s largest video rental brands. She is also the only woman IN THE WORLD who heads up any video rental group. In her presentation Keran discussed her business development, juggling family, going full-throttle and fighting for what you want. I found her refreshing and really enjoyed her focus on negotiation in business. Everything is negotiable! Keran regularly negotiates (and encourages her staff to do likewise) with all providers that service her business – as she says, the money is better on your bottom line than on anyone else’s. Key advice from Keran:

  • Be Nimble. Look for, and take advantage of additional opportunities.
  • Watch the money, and do it monthly. Choose to pay your tax and employee responsibilities monthly – know where the money is in your business.
  • Negotiate everything. The devil is in the detail. Once you’ve negotiated (be careful of admin charges etc!) make sure you receive the negotiated amount you bargained for.
  • Ask why more regularly when coming up against resistance in negotiation. It’s a powerful question – and often people can’t answer with strength. This put the ‘shoe’ on your foot.
  • Beware of  business blindness. When you’re inside your own business, sometimes you can lose perspective and not recognise market changes.
  • Logic and common-sense are the most under-rates business qualities. Keran couldn’t come at business and management texts – she always followed her own lead and went with her gut.
  • Value loyalty and passion – surround yourself with people who are talented that you like.
  • Be decisive. Make a decision – and feel free to change tack if that doesn’t work. Indecision kills businesses and inhibits growth.
  • Un-Fuck it. If you’ve fucked something up (or a staff member has) keep ’em on in there to help you un-fuck that sucker!

The next speaker was Abigail Forsyth, one of the ninjas behind the popular Keep Cup brand of re-usable coffee cups. She was very charming and spoke with animation about the development of her brand. Abigail works with family both in Australia and overseas, and fielded several questions from the audience about retaining good relations with family whilst engaging in business with them. Keep Cup have sold over 1.5 million sweet-as re-usable coffee cups since 2009 which is a huge feat – did you know the product is made in our very own Lilydale? A solicitor in a former life, now an entrepreneur and a mother of two, Abigail said that when Keep Cup’s popularity grew it was like a tank rushing towards her. She could either get blown away by the power of the responsibility – or she could get in that tank and drive it as best she could. Keep Cup is a great example of a win-win product – the consumer likes it as it looks good, embraces their interest in sustainability and has street cred. Coffee shops also like the product as they make a profit on sales of the item and they can purchase less disposable cups – improving their bottom line. Now expanding rapidly into Europe and America, this is a heartwarming tale of a little brand that could – and did!