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Interview With Jacqueline Rogers Athena Founder

Interview With Jacqueline Rogers Athena Founder

You founded The Athena Network five years ago, why did you choose networking for your business?

I rather think it chose me! I had worked for Thomson NETg for nearly 12 years in project management, consultancy and latterly sales. During those 12 years the majority of my meetings were scheduled by a telemarketing team.

You can imagine my surprise when I set up my coaching and training business ‘Phoenix Potential’ to find I needed to source my own clients … a culture shock to say the least. Business advisors suggested networking, I couldn’t think of anything more abhorrent but made the effort so I could, at the least, go back to my business advisor to say that I had done it.

I attended several breakfast networking events and was challenged. I consider myself to be a confident women but at these meetings my knees would knock and I didn’t know what to say. When I spoke to the organisers about this I was advised that “you will just get used to it”. I didn’t want to spend an indefinite period of time ‘getting used to it’ but didn’t know how else to improve. A friend advised me that there was a networking group for ladies being launched in Watford and I made the decision that this would be my one last attempt at it. I loved it!

With a background in business development, corporate training and motivation, I recognised that what was currently being offered could be improved upon with the inclusion of training and a simple replicable business model.

When was the decision made to franchise the Athena Network?

The Athena Network was launched in January 2006. and the intention was always to franchise Athena. I am an advocate of Michael Gerbers E-Myth Revisited, I had worked with excellent coaches, Chris Barrow, Nicola Cairncross who also followed Gerbers principles and very simply  Athena ‘started with the end in mind’

And what led you to decide that there was a need for a networking organisation specifically for women?

Ladies I was meeting were finding that they were not able to commit to attend the early morning meetings. A trial of networking at lunch time attracted more women than men

The Athena Network was launched with the intention of providing networking events specifically for women

So, do men and women have different networking needs do you think?

We certainly have different styles of networking. Women tend (and this is a huge generalisation) to respect that networking is a long term strategy. I’ve been to networking events with men where my eyes have nearly been taken out the business cards are being thrown at me so hard and fast.

Part of the success of Athena is the preparation we give our members and visitors. When they attend a meeting they know exactly what is expected of them.

Is there something special about Athena compared with other women’s networks?

I’m completely biased and of course I would say yes! What differentiates us is that the members have embraced the values of Athena, they are proud to be members. There is a genuine feel of community with Athena

And why do you think Athena has become so successful so quickly?

Because of the training, the support and the community that has been created.

We have incredibly fabulous Regional Directors on the team who are all committed to supporting their members. Many networking organisations are run by individuals who do it as an additional revenue stream, they take on ladies who are paid a commission to run a group. Very simply there is no commitment from them. Although Regional Directors do have other businesses they are as committed to Athena as they are to others.

Speaking as a franchisor, what do you think are the key elements in putting together a successful franchise business?

Training, support, motivation, holding the vision for them (it can become heavy sometimes), creating a simple effective model to follow. Documenting each process acurately, ensuring that you are constantly adding value and supporting.

And do you think buying a franchise is a better business option for women particularly than other start up routes?

I spent two years developing a coaching and training business that was only just starting to earn the revenue that an Athena franchisee could earn in a month. I do think that women need to be discerning in their choice of a franchise, make sure that it matches their values, their lifestyle and that it is something they can see themselves still doing in three years time.

What I personally love about franchise models is that you can still run other businesses but are guaranteed an income from your franchise.

In terms of developing a successful business do you have any top tips for other business owners or those thinking of starting up?

Be kind to yourself! Start with a business you can still imagine yourself in in three years time, surround yourself with mentors and advisors who have trodden the path before you. Educate yourself daily and ask lots of questions!

Finally, how do you see the future of networking developing in the UK?

The UK are behind the USA in their networking strategies and I hold the belief that the future of networking will explode in the UK within the next three years. I only have to look at how many networks start up (sadly as many fail because they don’t understand the principles) hoping to fulfil a need.

Networking will become more diverse, there will be more gender/profession specific groups established and for that I am grateful. One of our Regional Directors said that when she knew she had competition locally it made her ‘sharpen her pencil!’.

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About 14 hours ago from The Athena Network's Twitter via Hootsuite

What Athena Members Say …

Nicky Fitzmaurice

"Athena Networking has been the making of me! I have made more friends and learnt more about business tools and networking strategy in the last year than I ever thought possible. Athena’s focus on training members to be the best that they can be, whilst in a supportive and nurturing environment, gave me the confidence to learn and grow which in turn allowed my business to do the same. It is this, that is the heart of Athena. No hard sell amongst the members, we encourage one another to help where we can. I always come away from a meeting inspired and bubbling with ideas on how to grow my business. It’s a fabulous way to live, learn and grow. Nicky Fitzmaurice

Selena Ludick

“The Athena network can be distinguished from any other networking group I attend. Its structure and form mean that members who attend are committed and dedicated to proactive networking which on turn achieves tangible results.  This benefits me and my firm,  in just a two  hour monthly meeting I have the opportunity to talk to other business women about me, my business and what I need and how I can be helped.  The environment for delivering this is focused and professional. As a result referrals are made and recommendations given which, for me achieves increased clients and in turn builds greater contacts.  As a busy business women Athena also provides a forum to connect with other business women on a social / friendship basis so “all work and no play does not make this Jill a dull girl” Athena motivates me, strengthens my vision, equips and endorses me but most of all provides the fuel every business women needs to keep raising her game and stepping up to the mark.”

Rosie Mortimer

Working mostly on my own, I really appreciate the positive camaraderie of the Athena women. Whatever need or concern one has, there is always someone able, and enthusiastically willing, to help with good advice. I find the interaction tremendously stimulating and enjoyable - and highly instructive. A wonderful group to see regularly, with excellent opportunities to meet other interesting and skilled women at training days. Thank you Athena!


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