SisterHub isn’t your average networking event. It unites, empowers and champions the women of Chester.
SisterHub’s founder, Helen Rutherford-Gregory, began the network as a way of developing an inclusive community for women in business. Acting as a business booster, a support system and much more, SisterHub leads women to friendships as well as business opportunities.
Helen has a passion for community organising and activism. As a campaigner against racism and homophobia and Chair of Cheshire Stop The War Coalition, Helen fights for what she believes in. It’s no surprise that she continues to fight the patriarchy with SisterHub.
She is a recognised Facebook Power Admin because of the number of groups she has organised. Fighting social isolation without economic restrictions, Helen is determined to make SisterHub accessible to as many women as possible.
Let’s learn about Helen’s journey to founding a unique networking community built on vibrancy married with strong feminist vibes.
1. Which 3 skills would you say are crucial to being a company founder?
Over-thinking is something lots of us struggle with. But, understanding what is worth your mental energy and what is a time-wasting energy drain is important.
It’s also important to be able to make gut decisions and trust your instincts; your gut rarely steers you in the wrong direction.
A can-do attitude is essential. The difference between a dreamer and an entrepreneur is simply the act of ‘doing it’.
2. If you could learn more about one area of marketing, what would it be?
I think going back to basics and reviewing my new customer journey is something I need to do more often. It’s too easy to forget to do this when you modify things as you grow, but it’s essential.
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SisterHub is all about meeting up and creating a real circle of support and friendship but we also have a brilliant secret Facebook group where we share and ask for advice. It’s not spammed all day every day, it’s valuable and relevant. Being a Big Sister is GREAT!! ???? #networking #circle #support #community #sisterhub #chester #cheshirelife #independentwoman #independentbusiness #secretgroup #jointoday #bigsister #womensupportingwomen
3. What are the challenges you face now that are different from when you started your business?
We’ve grown as a community and my relationships with my customers aren’t as close or personal, there’s simply not enough time in the day. Sometimes I feel like I’m not giving that same level of service that I could at the start of SisterHub; my first ten members got all of my time and focus.
4. What are the biggest barriers you face when it comes to growing your business?
My business is all about tackling social isolation and creating a peer group for women who are self-employed or running community groups. Getting people off social media and into a room to talk in real life is difficult. It’s the people who join but never come to a meeting that don’t stay. I wish I could pull them in. It’s so much more valuable when people meet up.
Staying low-cost and accessible is important to me; that’s why I do so much myself, including website building and marketing. Expanding my knowledge at the same rate that my business grows is difficult.
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Last week I stood in front of a HUGE room full of professionals, politicians and change makers. I spoke about SisterHub, where it’s come from, what it’s achieved and where we’re going next. It was terrifying and despite feeling like I’d blown it with nerves, when I listened back I wasn’t too disappointed. SisterHub means everything to me, there’s so much riding on every speech, decision, post! I love this empowering environment we’ve built making friends and networking in a very different and unique way. We’re tackling some big issues like social isolation, poverty, mental health and community. Being a sister is about putting in the effort to get to know people and help them, not just showing up, flashing the business card, selling and pissing off. It works. It really works. It’s the only way to really grow a meaningful circle. People buy from people ultimately. #sisterhub #womenempowerment #makechester #murms19 #changemakers #communityovercompetition #collabs #friendshipsquad
5. What’s your biggest business achievement to date?
My biggest achievement is the level of brand awareness I’ve achieved in Chester. People know about SisterHub; they know what we do, they know who I am and what I stand for. The local press is very supportive and this helps in getting the word out. Our members are very vocal too and act as brand ambassadors. SisterHub is the go-to group for women with a business who want to feel that hug of other supportive women around them.
6. How did you recognise that you were an entrepreneurial person?
I’ve constantly had ideas, I still do. I’m a problem solver. Being employed wasn’t for me. I’d constantly try to punch out of the box I was supposed to stay in and inevitably end up trying to do my boss’s job. As you can imagine, that didn’t make me a very popular member of staff! Working for myself was always my destiny.
7. What makes you proudest about your company?
The feedback I get from women who’ve thrown themselves into SisterHub is my driving force. To see the members forming friendships, collaborating, supporting each other and then telling me that SisterHub has changed their lives and pulled them through a dark time is everything. It makes what I do worthwhile.
8. If someone was struggling with their confidence, what would your advice be?
Find a community. Come to meetings. Talk to people. Low self-confidence has a breeding ground on social media. There’s always someone better off than you and comparing oneself is a recipe for self-loathing and envy. Meeting people, talking about reality and flaws and struggles, realising not everything is perfect and that nobody is really living with a constant rosy filter on them is enlightening and reassuring.
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At the SisterHub Awards Ceremony we named our Sister of the Year. @urbano32chester Urbano32 sponsored the award. Sisters voted for their most supportive and empowering sister and our winner was (@coffee_plus_cake )Hayley Rudland Noden who runs @marine_cruises_narrowboats Hayley has been a member of SisterHub since the beginning and is important to so many of us. Not only is she well connected, she’s full of amazing advice and support. Her professionalism is second to none and she always has a recommendation when we need one. Thanks for being our brilliant Big Sister Hayley!! #sisterhub #chesterevents #empoweringwomen #awardsceremony2019 #sisteroftheyear #womensnetworking #networkingchester #networkingcheshire #cheshirelife #urbano32 #pizza #narrowboat
I’m a big believer in NOT faking it till you make it. We need to take people on our journey, be real, be vulnerable, share our struggles. We’ll realise that 95% of people are in the same boat as us.
9. If you could magically change one thing about your business now, what would it be?
Honestly? I wouldn’t. We’re still a relatively young business and we’re growing. SisterHub is a sum of its parts, it’s members. It’s formed around women’s lived experiences. To change anything about that wouldn’t be true to the ethos behind it.
10. What are 2 characteristics you look for when you are hiring someone to work for you?
I want to work with people who share my ethos.
Unashamed feminism and a sense of fairness are essential.
Let’s hear it for the girls
If you live close to Chester, make sure to check SisterHub out. Not done reading about inspiring women? We didn’t think so. Read our interview with Michelle Dow, founder of All About STEM or Alana Spencer, founder of Ridiculously Rich by Alana.