For most people being made redundant in December would be really disheartening. For Serena Fordham, it seems to have been one of the best things that could have happened to her. A bubbly, lively person, she promptly set about taking advantage of every opportunity arose to develop a business – and it has taken some very unexpected turns, providing inspiration to countless women across the county.

Within five years of being made redundant, she has set up several businesses and is now organizing Norfolk’s largest everSerena Fordham women’s empowerment conference: Her Business, Body & Life at the Epic Studios in Norwich celebrating International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March. Speakers include Davina Tanner OBE while East of England Co-Op and Trust Law are providing sponsorship. Throughout the day, there will be a series of talks, masterclasses, opportunities to network and find out about a wide range of associated businesses dealing with all aspects of life, business and empowerment.

‘The conference is a kind of extension of Her Business Brew networking. People wanted to discuss business related material with lifestyle and body related topics, it was more than just business. I thought it would be a good idea to bring women together on International Women’s Day to consider everything – running your own business, lifestyle, body and health, relationships. I booked Epic Studios and hoped it would work.I aimed to get a maximum of 150 people attending, and have already sold 120 places. All the stands have been sold. It is very inclusive, not just Her Business Brew members but women’s charities and other women’s groups. There has never been anything like this in Norfolk before,’ commented Serena. 

Being made redundant was definitely a catalyst in her life and ultimately in that of the hundreds of women she has encountered since then. Having set up a virtual PA business (now renamed Glow Virtual Assistants), she started attending a women’s networking session at Caistor Hall on the outskirts of Norwich, ultimately taking it over and developing it into a much larger organization: Her Business Brew which now has four distinct groups in Norwich, Norwich South, Cromer and Great Yarmouth.

Her business conferenceShe believes that there is a definite need for this type of networking. ‘Men sometimes say we are sexist, but I always point to the fact we have male speakers, joint meetings every few months and it offers a space for women to feel more comfortable and develop their business confidence and self esteem. Sometimes at these events, women share some really personal stories and the problems they are having, but would not be comfortable saying these things with men present. HBB has become a way to empower women. Women also operate slightly differently to men. They network, develop relationships and then do business with someone. Men rely more on figures and sales. Relationships come much later.’ she said. ‘We opened up the conference to a much wider women’s market not just HBB members because we wanted it to focus on women.’

This desire to help empower women has also led to the launch of the For Her brand – an online chat show for women. She explained, ‘During the chat show we discuss issues at much greater depth than is possible at a HBB meeting or any other grouping. It is all women together, discussing, raising awareness, and supporting each other.’

‘I never expected to be doing all this a few years ago. I just look for opportunities in all that I do and take them when they appear. I am hoping to see more Her Business Brew groups opening, and am talking to some people in northern England who are keen to launch some there. I could only have done all this with the close support of business associates, friends, and family. Without them, I don’t think I could have achieved this. It just shows how much more we can achieve by working together and linking with other businesses,’ said Fordham.

Source: Local Secrets / Serena Fordham.

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