Claire Fenner’s BIO
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. How did you first become involved in the non-profit sector?
Claire: My friend Georgie Hearson and I first talked about launching a networking group for women entrepreneurs in October of 2008 as we had both launched our own businesses earlier in the year. As the economy became more challenging we both had to focus on keeping our businesses going. My business was a free magazine for parents called ‘Easy Living – the Parents Guide to Dubai’ and as advertising spending nose-dived I had to work harder and longer than ever before to generate advertising revenue while at the same time keeping overheads and expenses down. Georgie’s business ‘Jute Couture’, a range of ethical and environmentally friendly fun Jute bags was also affected by the economic downturn as wholesale orders were cancelled with many retailers choosing to order on consignment basis instead of the preferred wholesale basis.
On one particular day in March 2009 I spoke to three clients, all female business owners who all said they were having a tough time due to the economic conditions and were fearful about what the future held for their business. When I told them they weren’t alone in this fear they found a little comfort but I really felt they would be more empowered and confident if they shared their fears and celebrated their achievements with other like-minded women. So I called Georgie the same day and she felt exactly the same as me. It was time for us to step up and help make a difference.
After just 4 weeks, not very much sleep and a lot of caffeine later Heels & Deals launched. We’d originally expected about 30 to 40 women to turn up but when online registration hit 210 we were thankful for choosing a venue with plenty of space. On the night we were joined by 185 amazing entrepreneurial women! Since then, the Heels & Deals community has grown from strength to strength. Today we have a membership of over 180 entrepreneurs from a wide variety of nationalities, ages and industries, and we have plans to grow globally. Women entrepreneurs can already network online on our social media website and we’re launching events in Hong Kong the capital of entrepreneurship in Asia in the autumn.
As a member of the Sr. Mgmt Staff in a mid-size NPO, I can appreciate that the leaders wear several hats in accomplishing day to day responsibilities. Please share with me how you manage your multiple responsibilities.
The partnership between Georgie and myself works extremely well because we are both passionate about our mission of helping women entrepreneurs succeed, but our skills, strengths and experiences are complimentary. We have divided the responsibilities in the business up to match these skills and strengths so I manage the marketing, finance and business development and Georgie manages memberships, the website and the events.
When we first launched Heels & Deals it was secondary to our existing business but as time has gone on the potential for Heels & Deals has become more evident so we’ve both put our original businesses to bed to allow us to focus on growing the business and empowering more women entrepreneurs.
Georgie and I are both mums to young children, my boys are aged 3 ½ & 5, and Georgie has a 6 year old son and another baby due this summer. We spend our days juggling the demands of motherhood and business but because we are both in the same position we understand these demands and are able to support each other practically and emotionally when needed.
2. What are your favorite tools (tech or otherwise) for managing areas of your life that are most important to you?
Claire: We use technology to enable us to work on the move but at the same time we’re conscious of controlling costs, especially with only being in our third year of operation. Georgie and I both have iPhones which enable us to keep in contact easily through emails, calls, and messages and we use Apps such as Skype to help keep costs down.
In the UAE we are very fortunate to have the world’s first telecoms provider to create a special telecoms plan just for women entrepreneurs and professionals! The monthly package is very cost-effective and even includes free calls between other women on the plan so Georgie and I get to talk for free which is invaluable!
We have a team from Microsoft speaking at our next event and they are going to teach us all how to utilise tools within Microsoft Office, many which we already have on our PC’s, such as Outlook, One Note and Office Apps to save time and make our lives even easier…we can’t wait!
3. Best advice received when you began leading your NPO?
Claire: “To stay true to our mission and vision”. Georgie and I felt compelled to create Heels & Deals for women entrepreneurs because we are women entrepreneurs.We seem to have hit the nail on the head so to speak with what women want from networking events; a comfortable, supportive yet fun environment with a professional purpose. Interest has and still does not just come from entrepreneurs but from women employees and although we could make easy money from allowing them to join, this would dilute our USP and deviate from our mission. The challenges, demands, triumphs and needs of entrepreneurs are different from those of employees and this is one of our USP’s. We’ve chosen long term sustainability over short term gain.
4. What’s been your proudest achievement at Heels & Deals?
Claire: Winning the Incredibly Innovative Approach Award at the SME Middle East Awards 2010 after only launching the business a year and a half before! Since launch we have not stopped innovating so this was great recognition. From turning the business model on its head to where it is today, to constantly developing the website to deliver better exposure, to keeping the events fun, fresh and beneficial…we keep on innovating!
5. If you had the opportunity to bring all residents of your city into one room, what message would you share with them?
Claire: With one of the worst records for injuries and deaths caused by road accidents in the world I would tell everyone to be more respectful of each other on the roads. The number of parents here who don’t use car seats or even seat belts for their children is absolutely shocking. Why would you be so careless about the most precious thing in your life?
6. What is the best way for our readers to support Heels & Deals?
Claire: Ha, easy! To help spread the news about Heels & Deals with women entrepreneurs they know or to join our community…please! The more members we have the more valuable the experience for every member. They can visit our website www.heelsanddeals.orgor follow us on Twitter @HeelsAndDeals and join us on Facebook at HeelsAndDeals.
7. Who has been the most influential person to you as you’ve advanced in your career?
Claire: Funnily enough Georgie and I both say the late Dame Anita Roddick has provided us with a vast amount of inspiration. As an entrepreneur she made so many positive changes in the world but didn’t compromise on her values and beliefs for commercial gain.
To learn more about Heels & Deals, please visit their website and social media websites via the links below:
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