March 8th was International Women’s Day – see article on page 8 of the magazine. To further mark the occasion, LBM gives the floor to Samantha Gilchrist who offers her ladder of advice for women who want to climb to the top

When I first started purchasing wedding venues seven years ago, neither myself nor my business partner had any experience in running a wedding venue. The bank laughed at us saying they wouldn’t help us and I had to navigate building a business from nothing whilst trying to convince the bank I could have a mortgage. Going from one to two venues in different countries, then to twelve over two continents brought huge challenges, trust me, I made mistakes!

On top of that, being a woman in business comes with its own set of challenges, but I’m not ashamed or scared to make sure my voice is heard, and I like to instil this mindset into the junior staff, in particular the younger women across my company, the Gilchrist Collection.

I have thought long and hard about what advice I wish I had known seven years ago before I bought my first wedding venue. This is in the hope that it can help other women achieve their goals or feel motivated to start their own business. Here are my five points of wisdom, aiming to motivate and inspire.

1. Trust me – you do have the experience
It’s easy to sit there and think ‘What do I know’ however it’s important to realise that most skills are transferable. I had spent 15 years as a wedding photographer and often thought ‘what do I know about running a venue.’ In fact, I knew exactly what couples wanted from their wedding venue. I was aware of what they looked for in terms of hospitality for their guests and knew what they didn’t want from overhearing complaints in between wedding photos. Make a list of the skills you have and what you are good at. I’m sure it’s a longer list than you think!

2. Beat that imposter syndrome
Most people experience some doubt in their expertise and women (72 per cent) are in fact more likely to experience imposter syndrome in the workplace than men (63 per cent). Why do we doubt ourselves so much?
Realising that most people worry about their own expertise can be a comforting thought. You’re not alone, however it is important not to stand in your own way and let your fears prevent you from dreaming big. I often worried people wouldn’t think I had what it took to run a wedding venue business. Well, if they ever did, I made it my mission to prove them wrong!

3. Surround yourself with support
“The people you surround yourself with are crucial to your success. When you are first starting your new business the only employee may be just yourself, however other industry professionals and people in your networking circles can offer great support and advice. Be sure to return this guidance when needed. I am incredibly lucky that every person I work with at the Gilchrist Collection is exceptional at what they do and really help to grow the business and build a positive place to work.

4. Celebrate your successes
In my opinion business is no place for false modesty! You have to be proud and shout about your successes. Allow yourself to celebrate everything you achieve. You didn’t achieve your accomplishments by chance, you did it through hard work and sheer determination. So, get that braggy post up on LinkedIn and make sure your networking circle is aware of all the targets you have hit.

5. Build up the next generation
It’s no secret that women in business have faced a glass ceiling and we still have a long way to go, however I aim to make it easier for the women of younger generations to achieve their goals after me. At the Gilchrist Collection I often take on the role of ‘mentor’ to members of the team. One team member in particular I am proud of is Katie Comber, the senior coordinator at The Ravenswood venue. I took her under my wing when she unfortunately didn’t get the results she needed in her A Levels for her chosen career path, she has since gone on to win awards and take on a senior position at the age of 20 with an incredible future ahead of her. Women in business should be aware that they are paving the way for the next set of female entrepreneurs and it’s something to be mindful of from the day you start your business.

I am truly dedicated to helping other women achieve their goals by providing strategic guidance, mentorship, and resources to help them overcome challenges and achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Samantha Gilchrist is the owner of the Gilchrist Collection. She started building her wedding venue empire in 2017 after 15 years of being a wedding photographer