Women on show

Women In Leadership


Baby shows are fairly common in the UK, but one woman thinks there might be a bigger interest in shows which cater for babies’ mums and other women. Caroline Sparks, founder of Little Monster Shows, launched the Bristol Women’s Show last year and her second show will be held on 18th April.

Caroline Sparks, founder of Little Monster Shows, launched the Bristol Women’s Show last year and her second show will be held on 18th April.

She says women’s shows are big in the US, but relatively unknown in the UK. “There are shows that focus on beauty and looks, but what I wanted with a bit of everything for women. Not just beauty and botox, but sessions on women starting their own businesses or on other advice,” says Caroline.

Last year’s show included a talk by police on personal safety issues, highly topical at the time as there were fears about a person attacking women in the Bristol area.

There were 70 exhibitors, including a local company which gave a talk about women starting up their own businesses as well as a fashion show using “real” women of all shapes and sizes – the models were provided by the Women’s Institute and were in their 40s and 50s and not professionals. “We tried to make it about a broad range of things women might be interested in and need advice on rather than limiting it to make-up and hair,” says Caroline.


When she was doing research for the show, she looked at US women’s shows. One company runs a number of large women’s shows across the southern states. These tend to be quite varied, covering things like craft, cookery and beauty, but present a fairly traditional image of women as homemakers, said Caroline. “Our show tends to involve more women who work,” she adds.

This year, in addition to demonstrations on how to use botox and fillers [“so women can see it being done without having to commit,” says Caroline], there will be a talk on how to get your finances in order, sessions on party planning businesses, a spin poll fitness demonstration, a will writer and a session by the local Business Link on business start-ups.

In advance of this, Caroline has organised a survey of women entrepreneurs in the Bristol area, asking questions such as what single piece of important advice would they give to women thinking of setting up their own businesses, what made them decide to set up their own business and how women entrepreneurs stay motivated working on their own.

Caroline has run baby and toddler shows in the Bristol for the last four years and also runs shows in Cheltenham where she used to work. She mostly works on her own, but has hired a freelancer to help with plans to extend the women’s show to Cheltenham next year.


She used to work for Virgin Media putting together their internal staff events before setting up her business. She took redundancy after having her second child. “I wanted something more flexible,” she says.

She says that things get a bit hectic before an event, but her family pitches in and it has become easier with each event she has produced as “I know what to expect, although there are always areas to improve”.

She thinks the hardest thing about running an events business is being worried that no-one will turn up, no matter how much publicity you have done. However, she does a lot of marketing and leafleting and says that, as long as she feels she has done her best and coverered all the bases, she is happy.

She works mostly in the mornings when her youngest child Oliver, aged four, is at preschool and two or so evenings a week, but occasionally she has to take calls when he is around. Luckily, she says, she has an understanding clientele.

The problem with working from home, she says, is that she always tends to have one eye on the laptop and doesn’t take a break. She hopes to solve this by creating a home office over the garage.

She thinks things will get easier when Oliver is at school like her six-year-old daughter. She also has two stepchildren aged 18 and 14 who, she says, occasionally help out.

Her year is planned out with a baby show in Bristol in March, the women’s show in April, some barbacue events in June and the Cheltenham baby and toddler show in November. “I try to weigh it so I can have the summer holidays off,” she says.

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