There was a time when I used to be filled with excitement and a sense of adventure to travel a few hours to the city for an event that cost a small fortune with tickets, travel, accommodation, food and drink.
Then I became a mum of four and a business owner, and the idea of traveling for an event was unfeasible and incredibly frustrating. The breakfast events were the worst - even with my husband’s support, it was a logistical nightmare.
I was missing out on listening to incredible keynote speakers. Distance had become a disadvantage.
Since launching OAK, it has become my mission to host women in business events in Bendigo. I’ve done it a few times over the last three years on a very small scale but in March my dream of hosting a keynote speaker became a reality all thanks to the wonderfully kind, creative and inspiring Samantha Wills.
Samantha travelled from Sydney to Bendigo so that 85 people could sit close to home and listen to her stories of business, love and life that she has fabulously written in her memoir ‘Of Gold & Dust’.
We talked about storytelling, business, debt, community, creative life, women's health and - off air - Bridgerton, Harry Styles and how we can continue to work together to support women in business in regional and rural areas.
The sell out event was made possible thanks to AFS & Associates Chartered Accountants in Bendigo. By hosting at home, we were able to support and promote so many local businesses.
My mission to host local events with the purpose of connecting women is not unique.
Last year, Pip Brett from JUMBLED hosted a two day business event featuring her favourite female trailblazers which saw more than 400 women descend on her hometown of Orange, NSW. (I hear a whisper that it’ll be back this year!)
In this issue, Steph Wanless talks about searching for a group or an event she could join having moved from Sydney to Armidale, NSW. She kept coming up short. Steph decided to stop searching and instead create that space herself - FOUND, a creative community for regional women. (At the time of printing, Steph has hosted two sell out events.)
You’ll also see an article and advertisement from Rural Business Connections. I’ve been truly fortunate to work with them for five years as a social media trainer. I’ve travelled to many rural towns so business owners could access cost free training close to home.
And Claire from Rupanyup Living commented on a recent social media post that she too would like to host an event in her hometown in rural Victoria but doesn’t know where to start.
Women in rural and regional areas make an enormous contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of their communities. To continue to grow as individuals and business owners, we need access to role models and mentoring, training and events.
Events are an opportunity for women to come together to connect, learn, be inspired and to support one another. These gatherings make it easier for us to discuss the challenges we experience and come up with actions to address these challenges. It’s time to stop holding our breath waiting for big event organisers to come to town. Instead, let’s make it happen on our terms.
It doesn’t have to start on a big scale - build your community first, leverage local experts and work towards bigger events with keynote speakers.
Let’s continue to advocate for more women-focussed events in regional and rural communities.
Distance shouldn’t be a disadvantage.
Until the next issue,
Kimberley, Founder + Editor
P.S. If you’re hosting an event, don’t forget to send me an invite. I would love to travel and discover the hidden gems of your hometown, and share that with our OAK community.