There has been a lot of focus on loneliness and isolation at work in relation to remote...read more
Serena Fordham, creator of ProspHER, talks to workingmums about her series of festivals which aim to help women build strong professional communities.
Today sees the first major festival of a series organised by Serena Fordham, creator of ProspHER, to help women who want to build their professional communities. ProspHER Norwich Fest features 50+ exhibitors and 25+ speakers, panel discussions and workshops designed to support, excite and inspire women to progress their businesses and careers and is supported by by high tier sponsors Wensum Print; Phoenix Events (East); Smithfield Foods, IndigoSoul PR and Naked Marketing. workingmums.co.uk spoke to Serena about how it came about and where she’s headed next.
workingmums.co.uk: How did the idea for the festivals come about and what do they offer?
Serena Fordham: During Covid-19 lockdown the events industry stopped so I used this time to speak to many women in business in my network and from these conversations it was clear that post pandemic events needed to be mixed with professional and personal development, while including a fun and enjoyable element – hence the festival concept was born!
We have six more planned for 2023 and are already planning 12 more events all over the UK and some in Europe in 2024! For full details check out www.prospher.co.uk/events.
WMs: Have you found it challenging in today’s uncertain economic climate to bring employers on board?
SF: No, many corporate organisations who are focused on supporting women to succeed, whether it be in employment, business or personally, naturally gravitate towards coming on board to support our mission to reach and help one million women by these ProspHER Fest events. We are very keen to work with local businesses in the area we are holding our events so, for example, in Norwich we have Smithfield Foods giving a talk. We are also excited to bring on board brands and organisations such as The WI and Women’s Business Club.
WMs: Has the economic climate led to more interest in self employment or side hustles?
SF: Yes and no. What it has done has caused women who were previously self-employed to re-enter corporate workplaces, and women who were climbing the corporate ladder to switch to self-employment – this is why our festivals are not only aimed at female founders, but to all women who are interested in professional progression. Now, more than ever, women are making conscious and active decisions about where and who they work for, thus being a lot more selective, even under the current economic situation (which has been evident and has continued since the Covid-19 lockdowns).
WMs: When did you start ProspHER and how did you build it? What were some of the main challenges?
SF: ProspHER as a brand officially launched in January 2022. However, it had developed from my previous business that focused on only supporting female founders. The pandemic encouraged us to expand the women we supported and the ways in which we did it. The main challenges have been attracting the right team that support our collaborative mission. However, I’m happy to say that the team we have built are stronger than ever and all wholeheartedly share ProspHER’s values.
WMs: Did it begin with the mentoring community and, if so, when did work on the festival take off?
SF: It actually developed from events that were delivered by my previous company. These events were more conference and expo focused, and it was clear from feedback that, even though the content was valuable, the format and structure needed to change to resonate more with the women we wanted to support. We do have an online education and mentoring community, which is currently undergoing a revamp to reflect the experiences of our festivals.
WMs: How has your personal experience of the workplace informed what you do?
SF: I started my career as a Lettings Negotiator for a well-known high street estate agent. As this was a very male-dominated roles, focused on hard sales and targets, rather than relationship building, when I was made redundant from my career while on maternity leave with my first child I knew I had to change what I was doing – not just for me, but for my daughter’s future too. I set up a virtual assistance agency, which meant I was still primarily working with men. However, when I was approached to take over a Norfolk-based women’s business networking group I jumped at the chance due to being able to connect and communicate with other women who understood my struggles. This developed and grew since 2015 to what ProspHER is today.