Western Mail, 26th August 2009
From 20 members when it was established three years ago, a club for businesswomen has grown to a membership of more than 500.
South Wales Ladies Business Club was started in December 2006 and it is now one of the fastest-growing business organisations in Wales, according to its founders.
With about 550 women involved, the club attracts several dozen to its regular meetings and – despite the effect of the economic downturn – continues to increase in numbers by the month.
It will stage its third annual charity ball in Cardiff in January, its annual Christmas lunch in December and will further aim to capitalise on its popularity when a new club website, www.southwalesladiesbusinessclub.co.uk, goes online next month.
The founders of the club – tax specialist Alison Hazledine, banker Rebecca Collins and lawyer Melanie Hamer – have remained closely involved and helped drive its rapid expansion.
Ms Hamer, managing partner of Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, Cardiff, said: “While everyone in the club is primarily involved because they are in business, we have not set out to put business issues and problems as our main reason for meeting.
“Instead we have tried to make it more of a social club, often with a charity fundraising initiative thrown in. We hoped in this way the club would be more popular – and it’s worked a treat.”
The club saw a gap in the market in 2006 for a female networking club as an alternative to the normal networking events which are sometimes dominated by men.
“However, many of its attendees and its organisers also attend the usual mixed networking events and this is most definitely not a feminist splinter group,” stressed Ms Hamer.
Ms Collins, corporate manager with Handelsbanken, Cardiff, said business problems and opportunities were inevitably discussed.
“Ideas to tackle problems and opportunities are not put on our club agendas but they are certainly an important part of the club activities, particularly given the recent business climate,” she said.
Ms Hazledine added: “Key to our success is that our meetings are informal and relaxed and give female professionals the opportunity to build a network with like-minded women. Interest continues to grow, and we are always pleased to see new faces.
“We know that many ladies have a busy working life, so attendance is not expected at every event and ladies are free to attend as few or as many as suits their diary.”
The club’s next meeting will combine a tour of Cardiff Bay Barrage with lunch at the Custom House, Penarth, on September 2; followed by a “Girls’ Night In” at Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, Cardiff, on October 7, featuring drinks, canapés and a beauty demonstration in aid of charity.
The club’s Christmas lunch is on December 2 and its annual charity ball on January 29, 2010 at the Mercure Holland House Hotel, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.