18 February 2000




JUST do it… that was Mo Mowlams advice to women attending the Women in Rural Enterprise Conference at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire.

Dr Mowlam, MP, who chairs the Cabinets Rural Affairs Committee, said that if she has learned one thing in politics it is that confidence is the secret to progress. "Be pushy," she said, "Just like Sally Robinson, the lady who has just thrust her catalogue at me."

Farmers wife Mrs Robinson from Yorkshire has started an on-line underwear business called Ample Bosom and when she spotted Ms Mowlam heading for the podium she took the opportunity to promote her company. Whether or not Mrs Robinson had attended the assertiveness training workshop – one of a range held during the day – is unknown but she had unwittingly made Dr Mowlams point very clearly.

Earlier speakers told of how they made their own way in business. Alwena Beresford was just 26 when she hit on an idea that became a runaway success and two years later led to her being lauded as Business Woman of the Year in 1996. She developed a training mat for golfers – it was taken up by clubs at home and abroad after one exhibition in which sales in three days outstripped her target sales for a whole year. Her advice is always patent an idea; set up an escrow account for security of payment – particularly from customers overseas; and never look at things as problems, just obstacles to overcome.

Delegates heard that women can break out of the traditional mould.Teresa Wickham told of her experience in setting up , with two other farmers wives, the Womens Farming Union to campaign against the dumping of apples on the English market by France. From this unpaid start she was headhunted by Safeways where she worked for six years and now runs her own company – TWA Communications. Her advice was always follow up contacts with a letter; keep an address book with details of everyone you meet and "network like mad".

Tessa Gates

Confidence leads to success according to (top to bottom)

Dr Mo Molam, Alwena Beresford and Teresa Wickham.

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