Sitting across from Bronwen Horton over a coffee you can’t help but be awed by what she has achieved in the UK by setting up the New Zealand Business Network over the last five years.
Her awards start to stack up. There’s the International Alliance for Women’s global award in 2011 for making a difference to the economic empowerment of women, then the 2013 New Zealander of the Year – UK, just to name a few. What really matters to her is helping create New Zealand connections to inspire and help others.
Coming from Canterbury back in 2007 Bronwen’s first step in London was to help set up ANZ’s office for expat business in London. It was here she found an expat niche for New Zealand business women that was just waiting to be created.
Having just completed a 3-month leadership program, she set up her first network launch event on Wednesday 10th June, 2009. She had no idea at the time, if it would be a one off or something to continue. However, with the commitment of New Zealand Business Women in London, braving the first of many years of tube strikes, the event was a great success.
That night, back in what was then the Royal Commonwealth Club, 50 Kiwi women came together to hear Maggie Eyre (who has experience coaching people such as Helen Clarke and setting up the Performing Arts School in New Zealand) speak about elevator pitches. It was incredibly well received and a great opportunity to kick off and grow the network from there.
The New Zealand Business Womens Network Launch event 2009
Five years on and another amazing celebration saw 20 of those 50 original ladies, attend a glorious celebration with many of the others from the network (which is continually growing from 1000+ members now) at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London with an extra 130 women. It was here that 13 New Zealand wine merchants and restaurateurs hosted a 4 minute tasting at each of their tables for women of the network. It was a brilliant way for members to meet many of the people that have supported the network over the years and are doing new and amazing things from their base in the UK.
The New Zealand Business Womens Network 5th Birthday Celebrations
Bronwen is determined for the core values of the network to stay put while it grows. When asked about how the network has developed since 2009 she describes, “It has grown in terms of size but has maintained its core values of staying true, learning, connecting and inspiring each other. Amazing relationships have happened in every part of life – not just business, but family, relationships, all from being in the UK. It now has a bigger culture but the feel has stayed the same. I’m constantly blown away by the people coming out of the network and the talent they have.”
The Christchurch earthquakes affected many New Zealanders around the world, Bronwen being one of them. When she heard what happened she immediately contacted the New Zealand High Commission to find out how the network could help. Events like the Step Up 4 Christchurch Charity Stair Climb up the Gherkin, contributed to the £3 million raised to help the people of Christchurch. This cemented the importance of the network when disasters happen people look to networks to create something positive from something tragic.
There have been many other events on the calendar over the years, from one-to-one speed networking, hearing New Zealand business leaders speak (Amanda Ellis, Marylin Waring, Annah Stretton just to name a few) and more recently the fantastic 5th birthday celebrations.
Bronwen explains that “The purpose of the network is to help New Zealand women in London reach their full potential and through mutual support helping each other to be as successful as they want to be. We celebrate the successes and shared learning’s of our women to inspire and motivate the membership base. Our Network is outward facing, we want to help springboard our women to achieve success in their careers and personal lives and to help build diverse real relationships. We endeavor to be all-inclusive and open to all who have a strong connection with New Zealand.”
Being an expat for the last 7 years, Bronwen seems a wealth of knowledge, her response when asked if she had any advice for a Kiwi new to London was “Get in touch with expats over here. They can help give you information of how to settle in, can help in terms of job and career opportunities, the dos and don’t of flatting and so much more. Doing this will make it so much quicker and easier to enjoy what the UK has to offer. It doesn’t have to be about choosing to socialise with Kiwis over Brits, they can be complementary and knowing expats can help you when you need it and can help connect you with other networks.”
From her personal experience the best aspects about being involved in the network are “coming across so many different people from different walks of life. What they’ve done is amazing. You get to work with a number of women and businesses. It enhances the way you work, with the different people from different industries it is crucial.”
Why should you be part of the New Zealand Business Womens Network?
- To give back to New Zealanders, share what you’re doing.
- To be inspired by what Kiwis do, it can have a huge impact on people.
- If you’re running a business or have a good cause, being part of the network is a great way to get New Zealanders behind you.
- To gain friendships and connections to help women in both their personal and professional lives (it’s not all about business).
Headed by Bronwen, the network is run by a team of volunteers and is self-funded through tickets purchased to events. All events to date have sold-out (many within hours of going on sale) and often there are long waiting lists.
In late July-early August the network will be holding a volunteers evening to allow more women to get involved and help grow the network, while growing their own careers at the same time. Check out http://www.nzwomen.co.uk/ for more details on upcoming events.
Ngaire Ackerley is a New Zealand travel/wildlife photographer and travel writer. She is available for freelance projects. Her work can be found online at http://designack.com and http://kiwifootprints.com.