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News > SHSK Society: Staying Connected > Meet the speakers: Entrepreneurship and running your own business

Meet the speakers: Entrepreneurship and running your own business

Ahead of our 'Entrepreneurship and running your own business event' which takes place via Zoom  on Friday 13 November, we're finding out a little more about each of our expert panel members and Old Girls who will be sharing their top tips for success with members of our alumnae community.

Alison Hargreaves (1988 leaver) Guides for Brides

Guides for Brides Ltd was established in 1995. Alison has also  set up Beyond Weddings in 2005 and Fine Farewell 2020

'Guides for Brides is an online wedding planning directory and portal. We don't get involved with wedding planning at all; give couples the information they need to plan their own wedding and receive revenue from marketing venues and suppliers to those couples. In recent years, we have used the same business model to roll out specialist websites for overseas luxury weddings, budget weddings, gay wedding and most recently, funerals. We are based in Wantage and have had numerous St Helen's students here for work experience and internships, the most notable being Axie Finch whose 2012 gap year project proved so important that we have employed someone full time to continue her work ever since!'

Alison's top tips for running a business:

'Running your own business is fun but demanding. You'll want to spend long hours working. As well as being personally totally committed, you will need those around you to support and understand your need and desire to put in those hours'

We asked Alison to share any amusing stories about her time in business:

'In the early days of search engines, our website was blocked by most businesses as images of brides wearing wedding dresses "showed too much bare flesh".'

'Before online directories were popular, several Asian countries banned our website as they thought our website was selling brides!'

Find out more about Alison's businesses:

Guides for Brides Website

Guides for Brides Facebook page

Guides for Brides Instagram page


Naomi Ryland (2003 leaver) tbd*

Naomi founded her company, tbd* in 2014

'tbd* is a digital hub where people determined to change the world can find a job, discover workshops and courses, locate funding, hire the right team, connect with mission-driven companies, share best practices, or learn from others who are using their careers to make an impact.'

Naomi's top tips for running your own business:

'Don't follow the crowd and make sure you invest in your own personal development' 
Naomi has written a book about her experiences called "Starting a Revolution: What we can learn from female entrepreneurs about the future of business".

Find out more about Naomi's business:
tbd* website


Mary Bateman (1996 leaver)  Twisting Spirits

Twisting Spirits launched in 2017 and has since been creating gins that are genuinely different from others. The gins have bold flavour profiles with bright modern packaging and transparency of botanicals.  Founded by Mary and Richard in their garage in Oxfordshire, it now runs from a small unit in Gloucestershire producing world first award winning gins. Mary started her first business, an IT company when she was 28 with her future husband and now head distiller Richard.

In 2020, Twisting Spirits launched a world first Kimchi gin, made with Mary's own Kimchi!

Mary's top tips for running your own business:

'Don’t be afraid to ask other people and businesses for help and advice'.


Find out more about Mary's business:







Join us on Friday 13 November to hear more from our panel of experts at our Zoom event - book your free place here

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St Helen and St Katharine
Faringdon Road
Abingdon, OX14 1BE


Phone: 01235 520173


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