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How it all began

It’s funny how things happen. I was at a networking event recently and The IMC girls did a talk on Social Media. One of the things they said we should shout about was key dates. What did we have coming up that deserves a shout out?

It got me thinking.

My next big event is the Bedfordshire Business Expo. It’s on the 10th October. Why is this important? As I sat there in this networking meeting, I realised that on the 10th October 2014, I walked away from my job.

I walked away from a career I had built over many years. I walked away from stability and security because I knew there was more to life than this and I had a vision. A vision that I was so passionate about, I just had to do it!

Exactly four years later and I’m launching my Expos in a completely different county. That’s huge! I’ve managed to establish myself in the Northamptonshire business community and have been very fortunate with the support I have received but branching out was a big move.

The 10th of October is significant for me and I feel so proud that just four short years after turning my life upside down, I am holding an event that sees my business expand.

It’s all very surreal. So, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my journey.

While I was working for my old company, I decided to launch my very own networking group. Around seven years ago, Breakfast at Beckworth came about. It was a huge success and to this day, we still enjoy a sell-out and a room full of enthusiastic business owners, all looking to build relationships. But my vision was bigger.

Beckworth sparked a passion in me that I didn’t know existed. I knew I wasn’t happy in my career but how I had the guts to walk away from it, I’ll never know!

Actually, that’s relevant because since then, there have been many times I’ve had to find the guts to do something and I’m not sure how I did it!

I launched my first Expo in April 2014. We held it at the Freemasons in Northampton. The perfect venue as this was the original home of networking. We had around 20 stands and approximately 100 visitors. Again, how I had the guts to call that an expo I don’t know, but I did and there Sheila Smith Events was born!

Four years on and 10 expos in, I can honestly say, it’s been amazing. But it hasn’t been without its challenges.

Believe me when I say, there have been a few hairy moments. There have been times when I honestly didn’t know where the next meal was coming from and that’s a scary place to be. It hasn’t been an easy journey, launching yourself as an event planner may seem glamorous but over the last four years, I have had to roll my bloody sleeves up and take any job available just to pay the bills.

I’ve done everything you can imagine just to bring the work in. you can often find me behind a bar at an event I’ve planned and to be fair, I pull a bloody good pint!

Some may think it’s degrading to get stuck in like that but I see it as an opportunity. The event industry is tough, there is huge competition and without an established reputation, it’s hard to get a buy-in from other businesses.

So, I have taken on jobs that others may not do. But along the way, I have made the most amazing connections. Connections who have served me well and helped to make my main events, ones to remember. Never be afraid of hard graft and getting your hands dirty, it pays the bills and builds the bridges you need to succeed.

I am so proud of my achievements and although there are still scary times ahead, I have never once lost sight of my goals and no matter what punches the industry throws at me, I will always be the last women standing. I look good in boxing gloves!!!

I feel so grateful for the support over the last four years. Not just from my family but from the businesses who have put their faith in me and exhibited visited or sponsored my events. I feel grateful for the charities we have been able to support along the way and long may it continue.

So, the 10th October will be a big day for me. It will see me launch our Expos in Bedfordshire and will be the anniversary of the day my real career began.

I’d love you to join me in the celebration. Either as an exhibitor or a visitor. In any capacity, come along and support us but most of all, make a few connections for yourself.

See you there!!!

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