I found myself admiring glittering chandeliers and beautiful croupiers a few weeks ago on a private visit to a central London casino. Mind you I wasn't there to gamble but to meet a fabulous group of ladies I met on a trade mission to New York last year organised by Santander. We call ourselves the Santa Sisters. I don't think the beautiful interior of the casino restaurant had heard giggles as loud as ours for a while. We were simultaneously reminiscing about our trip the year before, discussing the performance of our various businesses as well as discussing men, children and politics - as you do!
The variety of what we all do doesn't seem to matter at all -there is beer, bags, cakes, software and of course doors! All of us strive to make a fantastic product for the British and worldwide markets and to push the idea of women in business and for that matter in unusual industries. One very important issue came up in our meeting and that was the new budget - how it impacts us as small businesses and also the economy. Do we think things are improving in the economy and are we feeling optimistic? Yes, we definitely are. Things are looking up at the moment and hopefully will continue to do so. As British companies making products that have global potential, we need the back up of our government to move forward but sheer determination helps as well.
Petra Wetzel, from West Beer, makers of St Mungo's beer, was chatting to me about her new brewery being built in central Glasgow telling me all about the vast mountain of work ahead of her this year, in addition to her work exporting her beer to the USA. Julia Gash from BIDBI, makers of eco bags, is growing incredibly well in the UK as well as Asia and the US, creating bags for the likes of Liberty and her own range of unique designs. Then there is Viv Parry, from Exquisite Handmade Cakes, whose been shipping her cakes to the US since our trip and growing incredibly well in the UK, in addition to the lovely Olga Kubassova, from Image Analysis whose medical image analysis software is making waves all over Europe and the USA.
And Urban Front? We've been investing in our product development to ensure it's the best of British made. Watch this space in a few months when we launch our new Passiv Haus (eco homes) certified external doors. Increasing our efforts in Europe and the USA can only strengthen our brand and we continue to do so - with a little bit of help!
I personally am not British, but I have learnt a lot from living in a country that advertises 'Keep Calm and Carry on' in such a patriotic style regardless of how hard times are. If I have learnt one thing from all these fantastic women and being in the business of doors, it's that you can achieve anything you want to if you try hard enough. A trade mission to the US last year has opened my eyes to what we can all do with products made and designed in the UK and backed enough with a strong economy.
Here we come world!