Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Following on from my previous post. I decided I would start a Ladies Friendship Club with the motto 'Friendship – being friends or a friend, goodwill, benevolence' I wanted it to be exclusive so I had some gold credit card style membership cards made. For £20 per annum (which is what I charged when I first set it up) they were given the card plus a quarterly hand-made newsletter (see picture above) which I made myself. It had a diary of our events which varied from coffee mornings, luncheons, outings, cookery classes, acceptance slips with return envelopes and also feedback from previous events. Our other motto down the side of the newsletter read“Forget the Feng Shui, Forget the personal trainer, and stop the housework. Ladies who Lunch is the new Therapy”

I got speakers for the luncheons and we went to different Hotels/ Restaurants/Stately Homes/and Tea Shops. I remember vividly at the first luncheon I had only 12 ladies coming for lunch. I was absolutely terrified at having to stand up in front of 12 ladies and talk on my ideas for the club. Over the following couple of years I soon became a pro at standing up in front of large numbers of ladies.

Below was feedback from some of our events, which I put in the Newsletter - the remarks are what club members wrote in our club diary.

3rd March – Our 3rd Anniversary Luncheon with a chocolate theme to it –“Fabulous food and company with not much chat over the “Tarte au chocolat”! Excellent speaker as well.
8th March – Our first walk to celebrate International Women’s Day, through Bestwood Park and lunch at The Griffins Head at Papplewick – A very nice walk and lovely company.
16th March – Virgin Vie coffee morning – I had the make-over this time and enjoyed every minute of it – Always enjoy the coffee mornings- thank you xxxxx.
17th March – The launch of our in house Book Club – see later in the Newsletter for reviews.
30th March – Day trip to Leeds superb shopping facilities – Harvey Nicks here we come – thanks for a fabulous day out to Leeds.
27th April – Cookery Demonstration  – Excellent Day, food delicious, excellent demonstration – when are we going again?
30th April – Coffee Morning at Portland College – Not many of us today, but as always good company.
6th May – Walk in Newstead Abbey– what a gorgeous house, lovely walk and lunch as well.
12th May – Trip to Japanese Garden and Thoresby Hall Courtyard Shops with afternoon tea in the Hall – Lovely gardens, good shopping and afternoon tea in the hall – it was all very enjoyable.
18th May – The club’s surprise trip to Castle Howard with lunch and afternoon tea in The Great Hall – Another triumph xxxxx, an excellent day out and the weather was kind to us as well !!
25th May – Cookery Demo  – Excellent, superb food and domo.
3rd June – planned trip to Lyme Park ended in an unplanned trip to Bramhall Hall in Cheshire- Brilliant change of venue – quick thinking xxxx, even managed to do some shopping didn’t we !!!!!!
8th June – Garden Party – A glorious day in lovely surroundings with pleasant company and food. That’s what I call retirement !

15th June – Nottingham Open Tennis and 17th June Gardeners World Live – both excellent

Fast forward 24 months and I had over 100 members and had approached a number of businesses who offered my ladies discount on goods when they showed our gold card. The club was expanding so fast that I couldn't keep up with all the paperwork and decided to put a stop on the membership and have a waiting list for it instead.

But I knew it had the makings of something big so I went to my local County Council who ran Business events/training days to help start ups. They said if I put a good business plan together then there could be some funding come my way. I wrote a business plan and constitution where I put my aims and objective to develop the club district wide, to provide ladies with friendship, educational courses and social activities in a safe environment.

They loved it and I was sent to pitch in front of some funding companies that helped out small/new start up businesses.  I couldn't believe it when they said they would pay for a website for the business. It was set up exclusively for 'members', where they could catch up on the clubs news, events and pictures of where we had been. 

I suppose I like to think of the ladies club as a life changing community project. My ambitions for the future of the club included, educational courses in computers, reflexology and crafts, awareness of working in the voluntary sector as well as the usual dose of coffee mornings, day trips and luncheons. 

I felt that the events transported my ladies away from everyday routine to escape into a world of feminine fun. Little things meant so much more to me then. I didn't seek praise but if people thanked me for what I had done, it made my day very special and I treasure my written thank you’s that I have collected over the years. But I was beginning to realise that I could do with some more help with the ever expanding membership. So I put together an advert for consultants to help me expand the business.

I felt ready to expand and grow big and I was keeping on top of all my health problems with medication and some physiotherapy but I still needed further help with my neck pain. I was booked in for a spinal injection which was similar to one I'd previously had in my lumber spine which really helped and had no complications.

Unfortunately this time it was not the same. In fact it turned into a  life threatening episode and I was too ill to attend one of our biggest days out the following week. I had two full coach loads of ladies all going for a day trip to Althorpe House (Princess Diana's resting place), followed by an Afternoon Tea stop on the way home. This was my lowest point and honestly thought, why bother!! But, with the help of friends the club continued to plod along nicely. However, I was missed, everyone said it wasn't the same without me and I couldn't work up the enthusiasm to want to join them for anything.

I soon learnt to not be my worst enemy and take time out for myself and let go of trying to be 100% perfect all of the time. The family were not happy and sat me down and said I needed to work less and rest more. This particular episode frightened me so much that I needed hypnosis to help erase the memories that were keeping me awake at night.   

I was then also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (an incurable, painful condition which includes fatigue, insomnia, stiffness, IBS and pain throughout the body) and I realised that the time was right for me to try and just sit back and relax. 

The last outing was our Christmas luncheon which was always very well attended and although I had told members that I was 'putting it on hold' for a while most knew this was the end of the Club. It was an emotional lunch but the feeling of relief and total exhaustion afterwards confirmed to me that I had made the right decision. 

I really didn't want to sell the business this time as I guess I felt that ' you just never know' and might regret it if I sold it. This was, after all, my fifth business but something a friend had said to me stuck with me, she said ' At the end of the day you should be really proud of yourself, none of your businesses have failed, some are still up and running. It's your health that has failed you and the way you have dealt with it should be an inspiration to anyone'.

So that was the end of my Ladies Club but I'm sure by now you will have realised that it would probably not be the end of my entrepreneurial spirit. 

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