Just over a year ago I stepped away from the corporate world and into the world of the home office. I swapped a team of colleagues, a multinational company and a compressed work week for a boutique company of two and a two and a half day work week. It was a huge change and I’m not going to lie, I've found it a challenge.
Not so splendid isolation
Working from home can be lonely and the work is much more focussed. You don’t have those drinks machine chats with colleagues about what was on TV last night or what your children are doing. My world felt like it had shrunk and so I thought I’d best do something about it. That something was replying to a post on a community Facebook page.
One of my neighbours had posted something about the possibility of a co-working space in Dursley and asked people if they were interested. Replying to that post was one of the best things I could have done. Fast forward to January 2017 and I and four other local business women hosted our first Join the Dots event to try and make Dursley, and the surrounding areas a better place to do business.
Use it, don’t lose it
Being involved in setting up Join the Dots I got to put into practice my event management and community engagement skills. Both aspects of previous jobs that I really enjoyed but don’t currently use in my day to day work. I like variety in what I do and I have been fortunate in previous roles to have a mix of communications, PR, engagement, marketing and event management. Most of my paid work these days is copywriting and content strategy so I welcomed the opportunity to put some of my other skills to good use.
Setting up Join the Dots I got to work closely with four women who I’d never worked with before: a brand storyteller, a virtual assistant, a bookkeeper come market gardener and a sailing events manager who is also a district councillor. We each brought different skills, experiences and contacts. Together we hired a local venue, found a speaker, promoted the event, generated press coverage and got 47 local businesses registered to attend. Not bad for something that when it started didn’t even have a name.
Create your own opportunities
Part of what Join the Dots wants to achieve is to create opportunities to do more business locally, rather than having to travel to Stroud, Bristol or Gloucester. Since working at Push Code I’ve been to a few networking events. I’ve had to travel at least half an hour to all of them, I found some of them were very formal, others just an exercise is swapping business cards and none of them made me think this is the one for me, the one I can and will commit to. Join the Dots was really targetted, most people had to travel less than 10 minutes to attend, and it was a fantastic opportunity to discover what a broad range of businesses are hidden away in the local area.
As the Join the Dots team, we are working through the feedback we gathered at the event in terms of what people want when it comes to forging those local business links and what we can do to develop those opportunities. It’s early days but there is clearly an appetite for what we are doing. I’ve met, and been able to work with, some really great people and am planning to book in some one-to-ones, just a coffee and a chat, to find out more about what they do and in the longer term how we could possibly work together to do more business locally.