A CRYPTIC conversation in a cafe has confirmed that Tamworth’s new network for women’s development is on the right track, as the creators reveal to Carolyn Millet.
Dimity Smith knew she and Michelle Morgan were onto something with their regional women’s network Savvy Birds when she ran into someone who’d attended one of their recent events. The woman didn’t tell Dimity much, but she told her enough.
“I had someone come up to me at Addimi; a lady came up and said, ‘You’re one of the girls from Savvy Birds – I wanted to tell you that I did this thing I’ve been meaning to do for ages; I finally went and did it!’” Dimity says.
“Just the look on her face – she was excited.
“That’s just the best feeling; if we can get that reaction from just one person, I think that’s the best thing.”
Savvy Birds was hatched when Michelle and Dimity saw a need for professional and personal development opportunities for women in the region.
Michelle, an exercise physiologist, had recruited Dimity as an occupational psychologist to a private practice in occupational rehabilitation a few years earlier.
They stayed in touch after they moved on to other jobs, and started talking about how they and other women could benefit from female networks, leaders and mentors.
“We identified a gap for us in terms of mentors,” Michelle says.
“There are some great women in our region, but we needed a catalyst to bring everyone together to share experience, knowledge, and professional and personal learnings…
“Both of us had been given good opportunities for our professional development, but we just felt within the community there were so many different women doing great things but doing them individually."
Dimity says she'd been travelling to Sydney to attend Business Chicks events, particularly two-day events with a range of guest speakers.
"We said, 'Why aren't we doing something here? There needs to be something that ... gives a fresh, new perspective to people'."
BIRDS TAKE WING
Savvy Birds took off in August with a launch held at the Audi New England showroom, with a keynote address from Brisbane contemporary creative types Those Two Girls and a panel comprising Robbie Sefton, managing director of marketing communication company Seftons; Glamour Empire owner Susie Slack-Smith; and Sally White, the first female editor of The Land and now a Fairfax Media regional business manager.
The theme was business development, branding and regional growth, and the concept of ‘having it all’.
With only a few months under their belt, Savvy Birds have already held another two networking events with different speakers and themes of networking and social media, and will host Christmas drinks towards the end of this month.
The plan is to hold a mix of feature, networking and social events in any given year, and to hopefully branch out so other larger towns in the New England region can also get their savvy fix.
“There are four pillars that we want to focus on throughout the whole year: personal development, professional development, celebrating success, and health and wellbeing,” Michelle says.
“It all comes back to what our values are and our vision for Savvy Birds; we wanted to focus on those four areas given they encompass most people and are relevant to everyone.
“Not everyone has a business, and we wanted a holistic approach.”
Dimity echoes Michelle’s thoughts on Savvy Birds having this point of difference from other groups that might focus on only business, or only socialising, or only service, or only health.
“I don’t care what kind of business you have, or if you’re a nurse or work at Teys, if you’re a schoolteacher, or you work on a farm, or you’re a CEO – if you walk away and think, ‘I’m so excited, I know what I need to do next’; or ‘I need some time out and need to care for myself’ – if it kickstarts some sort of action, then Shell and I are very, very happy,” she says.
While Michelle and Dimity both say Savvy Birds is not about them but about bringing women together, it’s interesting to hear about their lives and how they reflect the importance of Savvy Birds and its inclusive, supportive and holistic philosophy.
Firstly, they’re both professionals, but Michelle is currently on leave from her job as Rural Fit’s practice manager after having her third child just a few weeks ago – that makes three boys five and under – and both feel their network should include women at any stage of their career or life.
“The backgrounds of the people coming to our events have been really varied … definitely health is one of them, but there are a lot in creative industries and media, corporate women, and women in small business,” Michelle says.
“There has been a really good mix of ages; we thought it would be a lot of younger women, but surprisingly we’ve had a great mix of older women saying Tamworth really needed this.
“We wanted to make sure at the start it wasn’t just for women in business, that it was also for stay-at-home mums, women on maternity leave, and women who are out of work for short periods of time but want to keep their minds active.”
Also, one of their main goals is to help women build encouraging, generous networks with other “good humans”, and Dimity certainly demonstrates this attitude when she talks about her friend and business partner.
“Shell is unreal, someone I totally look up to professionally and personally,” she says.
“She always does everything with such integrity, never cuts corners and always works hard.
“Shell uses me to pep her up, because I’m like the bouncing puppy full of energy, and when I get too revved up and excited, she might say, ‘Dim, let’s have a think about this’. We’re like yin and yang.”
Michelle says most of the feedback they received after their launch was in a similar vein.
“The theme was that this is exactly what Tamworth needs: women working together as opposed to competing against each other, women joining forces and using our strengths and building each other up, the power of women actually encouraging and supporting each other, sharing ideas, sharing stories, sharing failures, sharing successes.”
POTENTIAL AND DREAMS
Michelle and Dimity are now planning their next feature event, with the hope of securing a certain high-profile keynote speaker.
In the meantime, they’re thrilled with how they’re seeing Savvy Birds unfold, and the range of contacts, help and motivation it’s giving women in the Tamworth region.
“Our tagline is ‘sparking potential, igniting dreams’, that’s been the theme,” Michelle says.
Dimity says: “We want people to feel excited about their future, that’s pretty much it – to be excited that there’s so much opportunity out there that the world is your oyster.”