By EHM Editor Jade McKenzie
In May 2014, Soar Collective founder Jess Jones saw the need to create a comfortable, open environment allowing the women attending to be brutally honest with each other as well as identifying collaborative opportunities.
Jess was sick of attending events where guests seemed to be competing for a prize for who was the busiest. She and a friend discussed this in depth over coffee, and that there was something lacking in the women’s networking market. They were frustrated at the current offer as it didn’t resonate with them. Less than a week later, the first Soar Collective event was held in Mornington with 12 local business women attending.
I have personally watched Jess develop Soar Collective since she brought it to life and it has been a beautiful journey to watch! I spoke to Jess about the story behind Soar Collective and what makes it so different to the other networking events out there.
Your Mission is to empower and inspire women in business through authentic networking events and the big one – Soar Con the conference and awards. – How did the idea for these events come about?
When I first started the Soar Collective, I had a big vision including holding a huge conference for thousands of women on the MCG with guest speakers, workshops and more. An idea for a smaller scale version started to come together as the Soar Collective community grew and I realised we had nothing like this in the Mornington Peninsula region. We wanted a whole day devoted to women in business as well as holding the Soar Awards to celebrate and bring together the amazing women in our community.
What are some of the topics you discuss to encourage women to be true to themselves?
We always remind attendees at our After Dark events (networking with inspirational guest speakers) to drop the mask and be truly open and honest when speaking to other women. We encourage authenticity knowing you can’t truly grow or connect with others if you’re not being true to yourself.
In business we’re faced with many challenges and there’s absolutely nothing wrong in admitting you’re not coping, that you’re exhausted, that sales aren’t great or that you’re struggling with something.
How have you found interactive events assist women truly becoming their authentic self and being confident about their business?
I think the biggest thing is meeting and talking to likeminded women and realising they’re not alone on this path. Also empowering them to learn new skills and seeing them feel less overwhelmed with the challenge of wearing many hats as a business owner.
How do want women to feel when walking away from your events?
Our vision is to empower and inspire women in business. We want to educate women with practical workshops and discussions so that they’re learning as well as gaining inspiration from the guest speakers and facilitators we invite to our events. We want women to feel like they’re not alone, like they’re supported and that they’re extremely capable of doing great things, even when they don’t feel like they are.
How do you make your events different to the norm?
The biggest part is that we promote truly authentic networking events. It’s so important to me that each person who attends our After Dark events (whether attendees or speakers) feels welcome and comfortable. If people feel excluded or uncomfortable, they’ll revert back to feeling like they can’t be themselves or that they have to put on a front.
I’ve been to many events over the years where it’s felt competitive and people are more focused on what’s in it for them. It got to the point where I could see straight through people, and could tell if they were actually listening to others or whether they were just waiting to get their sales pitch in. It made me feel quite jaded about the networking and events industry and I just wanted to create something real. I love events where I feel inspired to do great things but just as much need the practical component to learn ‘how’ to do those great things! Soar Collective tries to bring both of these things together. We also have a focus on collaboration, encouraging our members to identify opportunities where businesses can work together to benefit both groups of customers. We’ve seen a few wonderful collaborations already, with more in the mix as we speak.
What feedback have you received from women attending your events and workshops?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have members and event attendees tell me there’s nothing like our events out there and that they feel like they can be honest and open. We’ve also had many tell us of new partnerships and collaborations as well as lots of referrals due to women truly connecting with each other and wanting to refer business to one another.
Since launching the membership model at the beginning of 2015, we’ve had lots of women get in touch to say thank you for the opportunity to be part of our community. I’ve also received gorgeous cards from members too which I’m so grateful for.
What’s on the horizon for Soar Collective?
We’re launching Soar Collective in 2 new locations in 2016. The first will be in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the second is to be announced! We’re also looking forward to growing our community to other regions of Australia in the future with the hope to support and inspire businesswomen all over the country.
How beautiful is Jess?! You can check out Soar Collective HERE and there is also some time to snap up your tickets to SoarCon HERE, the first full day conference and cocktail event for women in business on the Mornington Peninsula, on November 14.
Photo credits belong to Photography by Bianca