Category Archives: Celebrations

Account of Ladies Who Impress celebrations

A Dash of Talent with Lois Pryce, Susan Ma and Vivienne Clore

A Dash of Talent at Grace Belgravia by Abby Chicken Photography

A Dash of Talent at Grace Belgravia by Abby Chicken Photography

What is talent?

Is it an innate ability or capacity for greatness, which needs to be developed?

I lean towards the latter. As journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell explained in his book Outliers, success is not a simple derivative of natural ability be it in business, sport or arts. It takes practice, supportive environment and time to develop talent. And yet we tend to compliment people for being “talented” rather than praise them for tenacity, hard work or simply for being brave and giving something a go.

This summer the artist Marina Abramović spent 512 hours at the Serpentine Gallery, engaging with visitors. British Athlete Jo Pavey won the 10,000m gold medal at the 2014 European Championships in Zürich, ten months after giving birth to her second child, to become the oldest female European champion in history at the age of 40 years and 325 days. Both women put in a lot more than just talent to achieve career heights.

Just how much talent do we actually need to achieve success or fulfilment? We went on to explore with three wonderful guests: Vivienne Clore, Lois Pryce and Susan Ma.

Vivienne Clore

Vivienne Clore joined a theatre talent agency The Richard Stone Partnership as a secretary, starting with a typewriter and dictations, and working up to becoming a partner with her own client list, including such names as Jo Brand, Joan Collins, Bridget Christie, chefs Michael Caines and John Burton Race. With over 30 years in the business, Vivienne knows how to spot talent.

For her talent is a natural ability, and her role as an agent is to help nurture and grow it. Vivienne is convinced that women make better talent agents because of their greater empathy, ability to listen and multitask. She credits her own success to the fact that she had always loved being around creative people and that she is naturally more inclined towards putting other people into the spotlight.

Lois Pryce

Lois Pryce by Abby Chicken Photography

Lois Pryce  ditched her job at BBC at the age of 29 and set off on a two-wheel adventure from Alaska to Ushuaia in 2003. She does not rate herself as a naturally born motorcyclist but she enjoys it: “all the thrills of movement, travel and adventure, and the simple idle pleasures of just sitting and thinking in the great outdoors. You can’t beat it!” For Lois, adventure is a personal thing, “it means whatever you want it to”. She discovered her passion for travel writing and has since published two books:  Lois on the Loose about her American adventure and Red Tape and White Knuckles about Africa.

On the night Lois talked about her simple lifestyle, living with her husband on a boat, having had to take on temporary jobs, even working as a motorcycle courier in London. But she has found creative fulfilment in travelling and writing about it, running a travel film festival with her husband and giving talks around the world.

Susan Ma

Susan Ma by Abby Chicken Photography

Susan Ma has quite a story to tell. From the stalls of the Greenwich market, Susan grew her natural skincare brand Tropic to turn over £3 million in 2013. Lord Sugar, who had partnered with her even though Susan had lost in the final of the 2010 Apprentice series, must be pleased.

During the interview, Susan told us about her challenging childhood in the communist Shanghai, then in Sydney where she had to teach herself English before moving to Britain with her mother to start all over again. Susan believes talent is something one grows and develops and that we are all capable of achieving tremendous heights, provided we are hungry for it.

Susan talked about the Apprentice with great enthusiasm describing the contest as a crash course in entrepreneurship, with access to incredible perks and learning opportunities. She came out knowing she wants to grow her own business and succeed. She did, and she is now helping other women supplement their household income through social selling of Tropic skincare. (By the way, the products are amazing, try ordering a few from the Tropic website).

It was a inspiring night, hosted at the beautiful Grace Belgravia, where women (and a couple of men!) of the Ladies Who Impress community gathered once again to celebrate talented(!), tenacious and successful yet grounded female role models.

You don’t need buckets of talent to brave something new or achieve fulfilment.  A dash of it is just about right.  Talent might be the opening but it’s courage, perseverance and hard work that make all the difference.

I’d like to leave you with a quote by Henry van Dyke:

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

Lois, Jana, Susan

Lois Pryce, Jana Bakunina and Susan Ma by Abby Chicken Photography

Ladies Who Impress in the audience by Abby Chicken Photography

Ladies Who Impress (and a gent!) in the audience by Abby Chicken Photography

Leap of Faith, a Ladies Who Impress celebration

Leap of Faith was the 7th(!) Ladies Who Impress event, celebrating courage and ingenuity of women who brave new territories, once discomfort with the status quo overweighs the fear of the unknown. We’ve talked about entrepreneurship, but also eyewear, travel and opera..!

Nadine Mortimer-Smith, Claire Goldsmith and Marianne Cantwell

Here are the highlights of the celebration…

For Nadine Mortimer-Smith it seemed the most natural thing in the world to write a business plan of how she would become an opera singer. Indeed, even with the most dramatic career changes, it pays to play to your strengths, and Nadine’s financial background in the City helped her find an investor to sponsor her for the first few years.

Jana Bakunina with Nadine Mortimer-Smith

Jana Bakunina with Nadine Mortimer-Smith

Nadine also revealed that she had got her first role before she received any formal training – her audition was impressive enough. If you are holding back because you don’t feel you are qualified to do something, just give it a go. You may surprise yourself…

At the end of her interview Nadine challenged five people in the audience to stand up and take on new challenges there and then. Five enthusiasts came up with fantastic ideas in the spirit of the moment, and if they think everyone’s forgotten all about it by now, they are wrong! I’ve put their pledges on a post-it note and even framed it!

Pledges Leap of Faith

You may like to visit Nadine’s website and sign up for her newsletter.

Marianne Cantwell admitted that a ‘Free Range’ career may not be for everyone, but she is certainly making the most of it, roaming around the world and inspiring people, stuck in career cages, to build their own businesses, based on their strengths and passions.

Marianne advised to be honest with yourself and remember that ‘Free Range’ life is a journey, with its inevitable ups and downs, changes and even u-turns. Once you’ve taken a ‘leap of faith’, you will probably continue ‘leaping’ every week but you won’t feel stuck…

Please visit Marianne’s website to find out about her Friday’s Love Letter, her courses and her book  Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9 to 5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills.

Claire Goldsmith told a story of how she revived an iconic eyewear brand, worn by such fashionistas as Audrey Hepburn, Michael Caine and Grace Kelly. What’s interesting is that she made us think of a brand as a person: “No one likes arrogant or unpredictable people and the same applies to brands. Make yours likeable and consumers will follow.”

Claire certainly got it right for Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses, now worn by Kate Moss, Yoko Ono, Damian Lewis, Kate Beckinsale and Lady Gaga, to drop a few names…

Claire also asked the audience, whether they spend more money on shoes or optical glasses – it’s some food for thought, given that most people first look at our faces not shoes… If you’d like to invest in a pair of glasses, you’ll find some ideas and a list of stockists here.

Claire Goldsmith

Claire Goldsmith

It’s been another great celebration – thank you so much for your continuing support! If you are not yet friends with Ladies Who Impress on social media, please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It’s where I post links to interesting, relevant articles, updates on Ladies Who Impress I’ve interviewed previously and share thoughts and inspiration on a daily basis. All photos from the last week’s event are also on Facebook.

Confidence with Alex Depledge, Kimberley Wilson and Sophie Campbell

In April 2014 we gathered at the gorgeous Grace Belgravia to celebrate talents, achievements and ingenuity of Ladies Who Impress and to get inspired to be more confident.

Sophie Campbell, Kimberley Wilson and Alex DepledgeWhy does confidence matter?

Often success in any role or endeavour depends on how well we take advantage of opportunities that come our way. And for that we need to be confident in our own abilities, trust that our skills are good enough and believe that such qualities as courage, tenacity and perseverance are as important as experience.

And confidence is something we can cultivate and simply put on, like make-up…

Here are some of the highlights from the night!
Alex Depledge with Jana Bakunina

Alex Depledge, one of the founders of Hassle.com, a website, which helps consumers find vetted cleaners in their neighbourhood, talked about her journey from being a management consultant at Accenture to starting her own online business with two friends.

“I don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur – it sounds too fancy. I am more of a grafter than an intellectual and believe in hard work.”

Before a meeting with intimidating investors, Alex gives herself a prep talk in front of the mirror to boost confidence. You may wish to follow Alex on Twitter.

Kimberley Wilson with a trademark smileKimberley Wilson is a counselling psychologist who loves a challenge, which is why she applied for the Great British Bake-Off series last year. She reached the final and now hopes to apply her creativity and tenacity to bake her own social enterprise. Stay tuned…

When asked what helps her feel more confident when she needs to, Kimberley said:

“It’s about keeping things in perspective. Yes, baking on a popular, competitive TV show may seem like the most important thing in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s just … a piece of cake.”

Sophie Campbell with Jana BakuninaSophie Campbell gave a candid account of what it’s really like to make a living from travel writing. Her story was also a masterclass in perseverance:

“Set yourself a deadline and keep going. A couple of months before I was ready to give up, my article was published and other broadsheets were soon after my work.”

Sophie built herself a well-balanced portfolio career, combining writing and guiding in London.

Her book, The Season, is now out in paperback.

A massive Thank You to Clare Stuart-Adams for taking wonderful photos in a semi-dark room, Anna Palinkas for recording a radio podcast and Grace Belgravia for accommodating us on the night!

Sophie Campbell, Kimberley Wilson, Alex Depledge and Jana BakuninaFor more photos from the night, please visit Ladies Who Impress page on Facebook.

fab-5

Maybe I’m Crazy But… with Jen Brister, Sarah Weldon, Chi Onwurah and Helena Morrissey

Maybe I’m Crazy But… this time I’d like to celebrate women who embarked on the most audacious of missions, came up with the most impossible ideas, weren’t afraid to break conventions and set their own rules.”

It’s always a thrill to open a Ladies Who Impress celebration, and our 5th event was very special indeed: a packed room with over 100 guests, very naughty espresso martinis and not three but four fabulous guest speakers from very diverse backgrounds: stand-up comedy, education and adventure, politics and the City. Backgrounds aside, their stories were equally inspiring and here are some of the highlights.

Jen Brister

Jen Brister’s profile on Twitter says: “I am a stand up comedian and I am a woman. I know AS IF?”

Jen did have a stab at the 9 to 5, selling advertising space, once in her twenties, but having studied stand-up comedy (although by her own admission, you cannot be taught to be funny…), she knew that her calling was to be on stage. You may think that Jen has always been supremely confident to take on live comedy, but it’s about ‘faking it till you make it’ and then being on stage becomes natural and quite a bit addictive… Why, I can even relate to it myself.

To see Jen perform live, check out her website or Twitter.

Sarah WeldonSarah Weldon is setting off to row solo around Great Britain in May 2014. Nope, this hasn’t been done before but this incredible woman has come up with an insanely ambitious plan to raise awareness and funds for the Oceans Project she founded in 2010, whilst teaching kids in Georgia. The project has a custom-built online platform with English and Science lessons delivered via Skype. Funds raised will buy tablets, internet access, projectors, solar charges, and, ultimately, education, for kids globally.

There are many ways to help, so please get involved! For just £10 sponsorship, you can get your name on her boat!

Chi OnwurahChi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle and Shadow Cabinet Minister, joined us straight from the Parliament, which, by her own admission, still largely resembles a men’s club.

When asked about her most treasured achievements, Chi first told us about her career as an Electrical Engineer, connecting Nigeria’s first telecoms network to her father’s house and making him proud.

Chi is incredibly passionate about getting more women interested in science, engineering and technology. On a personal note, if she had any spare time, she would study … Portuguese.

Helena MorrisseyHelena Morrissey advised women to be open to opportunities, get noticed rather than blend in and be proactive because merit alone isn’t enough to advance your career. Otherwise, she talked about doing not just ‘white’ and ‘dark’ but ‘orange’ laundry, an ordinary chore for a mum of nine…

Helena’s foundation, the 30% Club, committed to greater gender diversity on corporate boards through voluntary actions, has made great progress since 2010: now only 2 FTSE-100 boards have no female directors and 20% of all FTSE-100 directors are women, up from 12.5%. To find out more about the 30% Club, please visit its website.

Fabulous five

This event has been generously sponsored by:

MakersAcademy

The Makers Academy, offering full-time web development courses for both IT professionals and complete beginners and helping their graduates to get jobs at top technology companies in London. 

They also offer £500 scholarships for women to promote greater diversity in the tech community.

CRU

Cru Kafe, a new brand of 100% Arabica, organic, eco-friendly coffee, delivered in biodegradable pods, compatible with Nespresso machines.

Indeed, the evening wouldn’t be the same without the Cru Kafe team and their fabulous espresso martinis…

Many thanks also to Abby Chicken, Anne Sommerfield, Michael Hobden and James Stittle!

Jana with Jen Brister

Cru kafe martinisJana with Helena

Jana with Sarah

“An incredibly inspiring event, highlighting successful women”

“Far exceeded my expectations – a truly inspirational evening. A room full of positivity and forward thinking. Cannot wait for the next event!” 

“I left the Maybe I’m Crazy But.. event feeling pumped up for life. Such inspiring women make you realise you can do anything!”

The F Word with Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold & Polly Courtney

We have taken on Mission Impossible, we have had some Food for Thought, we’ve looked at London in Her Eyes… It was time to have a word, The F Word. The F Word stands for feminism, a subject I was keen to explore further ever since my rant about Caitlin Moran. The title The F Word was deliberate, since there are many women, who hesitate to call themselves feminists. For some ‘feminism’ may even feel like an insult. It is a shame because feminism isn’t about women vs. men, burning bras or refusing to shave, it’s about equal rights and opportunities. What’s there not to like?

On 4 October we gathered at the Skyloft bar of the Millbank Tower to admire breath-taking views of London by night, talk about feminism, support The What I See Project and, of course, to meet three very different, but equally inspiring Ladies Who Impress and hear their stories.

In my opening speech I said that Ladies Who Impress started with an idea to celebrate genuine female role models. These women are not just talented, successful and brilliant at what they do, but they also remain grounded and somehow ordinary, helping us to believe that we too can achieve tremendous heights and follow our dreams.

Here are some photographs and highlights from the evening:

Urvi and Jana Surprise guest

Ladies in the audience

Two guests

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

Nicole Wilson has been playing violin ever since her father decided  to become a music teacher and use her as a guinea pig. Nicole does not believe she was a ‘natural’, she worked hard to earn her place in such prestigious orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra and the English National Opera. However, her tenacity and character always shone through. At some point Nicole was presenting her own show on Classic FM. How did she manage that? She just asked…

In addition to her ‘day job’ as a violinist, Nicole, her partner Colin and their friends recorded an album of popular nursery rhymes, performed for children by professional musicians. FunKey Rhymes won’t drive parents mad either. You can order a CD, download music from itunes or get an app following this link.

Alice Arnold writes for The Telegraph, addressing a wide range of issues such as representation of women in the media, women’s rights, gay rights, etc., effortlessly covering both public affairs and culture. Since leaving BBC Radio 4, her employer for the last 25 years, she has become a well-regarded and a much respected voice. Yet, she admits that leaving a stable job was not easy, not least because of the sense of identity it provides. She would not even call herself as a journalist, modestly saying ‘I just write…’, but I’ll insist on calling her a brilliant features journalist, taking on big issues in a calm, well considered way.

On the night Alice said this: “I don’t care whether women are confident or not. That’s not important. What’s important is that they appear confident and act accordingly. Do you think men are always confident? They are not. The difference is, they’re good at faking it.”

I may not have quoted her accurately, but I hope you get the message…

I’d like to compare Polly Courtney to a fish. Before she denounces me on Twitter, I don’t mean any ordinary fish, I mean salmon, swimming against the stream, guided by instinct. Back in 2003 she quit the City, started to write and discovered her passion. She is as fearless as she is talented, as opinionated as she is kind.  Her life is a masterclass in challenging norms and conventions and standing up for things she believes in.

Polly’s take on the City’s culture, her first self-published novel Golden Handcuffs became a best-seller. Her latest novel, Feral Youth, made me challenge my views on young people with unprivileged background, undeservedly frowned upon by  our society.

Me with Nicole, Alice and Polly

Jana Bakunina, Nicole Wilson, Alice Arnold and Polly Courtney

And here are a few testimonials I received. I cannot help but post them here. Shameless, I know!

“Fantastic! Great speakers, great guests, great night out!”

“Really interesting, fun and entertaining. I’m definitely coming back!”

“Fantastic. Inspiring, motivating, reassuring, stimulating…”

“Extremely well planned: the order of the speakers and flow were in my opinion perfect.”

“Inspiring – at least one quote from each speaker has been ringing in my head since.”

P.S. Have you spotted our surprise guest, Clare Balding, OBE? I felt like I was playing tennis in front of Steffi Graf or singing in front of P!nk. I can’t do either but it was an honour and a privilege to have Clare in the audience. She told me she had a fun night. How about that?!

Jana with Clare

Jana Bakunina with Clare Balding, OBE

London in Her Eyes with Jenny Dawson, Katherine Grainger and Xiaolu Guo

On 17 June 2013 seventy brilliant, curious, eager to be inspired women gathered at the Cecil Sharp House for the summer celebration of Ladies Who Impress. The first hour is always magical: excitement, anticipation, “old” and new faces, the heart is racing as adrenaline kicks in..

I need not have worried: the evening was a success, guaranteed by such an inspiring trio of talented, brave, honest and beautiful ladies: founder of Rubies in the RubbleJenny Dawson, one of Britain’s most iconic athletes, Katherine Grainger and British-Chinese writer Xiaolu Guo.

“Fascinating”

“Friendly, inspiring, genuine, believable, easy-going, happy and, most of all, HONEST”

“As always, fun and inspiring”

“Diverse, balanced and fantastic. Informative and emotional”

“Exceeded expectations”

Thank you for the kind words, your continued support and your contribution to the Alzheimer’s Disease International, a charity raising awareness about dementia in the UK and internationally.

London_with_Jenny London_with_KatherineLondon_with_Xiaolu London_audience

A few inspirations from the evening…

Jenny DawsonJenny Dawson told a story of how a Mayfair fund manager spotted an opportunity in the midst of food waste at London’s wholesale markets, and before she knew it, she was cooking chutneys and changing lives of disadvantaged women.

In Jenny’s view, all entrepreneurs share a certain degree of naïvete or lack of fear. For her, launching Rubies in the Rubble has been about the journey. It’s impossible to predict how successful you’ll be, but if you’ve put your passion into your business, given it your best and learned along the way, you won’t have any regrets.

Jenny’s London is a kaleidoscope of London canals, St. James’s Park, New Spitalfields and Borough Markets, best enjoyed in the sunshine on her bike.

Rubies in the Rubble chutneys are now available at Waitrose.

Katherine GraingerKatherine Grainger confessed that it was not until the second year at Edinburgh University that she took rowing seriously, and then it took a lot of hard work, determination and stamina to become world’s best. Katherine’s London is the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, the unrivaled atmosphere of the London Games and the triumphal moment of glory, when she claimed that very special Gold with partner Anna Watkins in women’s double skulls.

During the interview, we got to know Katherine not only as a strong, incredibly gifted and inspiring person but also as a grounded, soft and even a wee bit vulnerable woman.

Katherine’s autobiography Dreams Do Come True comes out in August 2013.

London_Xiaolu28ae97Xiaolu Guo’s raison d’être is to fight indifference, stereotypes and mediocrity of art. She is a fighter, a rebel, a revolutionary. Every novel, every film, every story is a message, and even humour is just a veil, gently covering a tragedy, soul-stirring content, a serious cause. At the same time, Xiaolu is painfully aware of the commercial challenges of the creative world.

Xiaolu also talked about her 5-month-old daughter, and how her birth and registry at the Hackney Town Hall has transformed Hackney in her eyes from a rough, dirty, criminal area of London into a very precious, special place.

Flick through the selection of Xiaolu’s novels on Amazon.

Jana Bakunina, Jenny Dawson, Xiaolu Guo and Katherine Grainger

Jana Bakunina, Jenny Dawson, Xiaolu Guo and Katherine Grainger

I’d like to thank GOSH Food for the generous sponsorship of the event and encourage you to check out Ange’s website and Facebook page. I’d also like to thank Liam, Simone, Clare, Kait, Sarah and my mum(!) for their invaluable help.

Until next time..!

Jana

P.S. In case you are curious, only 10 of the 70 ladies who attended the celebration were born in London. My favourite words in the English language are succulent, meanwhile and properly. The playlist on the night was inspired by Maybe It’s Because I am a Londoner by Flanagan & Allen.

Food for Thought with Anna Hansen, Simone Cunliffe and Kristie Walker

On 27 February 2013 about 100 women gathered in a warehouse art gallery in Angel to celebrate Ladies Who Impress.

This time we met Anna Hansen, a culinary artist and possibly the most creative chef in London, Simone Cunliffe, a lady who had successfully swapped her career in financial services to start a private catering business and Kristie Walker, a nutritionist and a young mum, running a fitness and lifestyle business together with her husband.

The foodies among us were delighted to get some inspiration from the experts, and there was plenty of Food for Thought to contemplate ways to achieve balanced nutrition and lifestyle.

The evening raised £1,000 (including Simone’s Kitchen Secrets sales) for Huntington’s Disease Association, which is a fantastic achievement.

Photos: Natalie Walter, natalie@exposurelive.co.uk

Here are a few inspirations from the evening…

Anna Hansen talked about her cooking philosophy which combines ingredients of completely different origins and deliberately creates dishes which push the boundaries, surprise, excite and please the palate.

We’ve discovered that tamarillo aka tree tomato is a fruit of South American origin. According to Anna, it tastes best when poached in spiced red wine and served with Greek yogurt and crunchy granola. For this and other sensational treats, book a table at The Modern Pantry.

And don’t forget to check out Anna’s cookbook: her recipes will intrigue, seduce, then delight you. I’d start with cocoa, cardamom and macadamia nut cookies… 

Anna reckons that paella is the ultimate dinner party winner as it’s really scrumptious, its components can be prepared in advance and you can really impress your guests finishing cooking this vibrant dish on the night. Why not cook paella this Easter? That’s what they do in Argentina…

I am fortunate to be able to call Simone Cunliffe my friend, and she is my first and foremost Lady Who Impresses. Simone is talented, kind, generous and super adventurous – all of these qualities are wonderfully reflected in her book Simone’s Kitchen Secrets. Whilst I have not yet cooked through the entire book, my favourite dishes so far are miso braised pork cheeks and grilled chicken with za’atar and sumac. Don’t be put off by Anna’s and Simone’s exotic ingredients – they are easily available from good online grocers.

If you did not get a chance to get a copy of Simone’s Kitchen Secrets on the night or would like to enquire about Simone’s private catering services, please email her directly.

Simone’s ultimate secret is to enjoy an active lifestyle (which may or may not involve kettlebells), to look at the bright side of life and to make the most of it.

Kristie Walker somehow manages to run a business, look after her family and find time to compete. (Guess who took home a gold medal in her category in 2011 World Kettlebell Championship in New York?) Interestingly, by her own admission, once she loosened the grip on herself, she achieved most through balanced lifestyle.

In fact, lifestyle comes pretty key in Kristie’s unorthodox approach to nutrition consulting. Apparently, you may be eating well and exercising plenty but still be overweight just because of various sources of stress in your life.

Kristie advised against toast with margarine or oats for breakfast advocating natural, unprocessed food as the best way to deliver essential combination of nutrients to your body in the morning. Natural yogurt with seeds and berries or eggs, such as Anna Hansen’s sugar-cured prawn omelette, do a much better job of balancing carbs and protein as well as stabilising blood sugar and energy levels. She also advised against anything “low fat” preferring food as nature intended. Once again, it’s all about balance; 80/20 is a good rule to follow when it comes to healthy food and occasional treats.

For information on personal training and nutrition with Kristie, see www.theurbanathlete.co.

P.S. In case you are curious, on the night we were listening to a playlist of songs containing a food item in their titles. My favourite tunes were Tangerine by First Aid Kit, Chocolate by Snow Patrol, Cherry Pie by Katzenjammer and Coffee & Cigarettes by Michelle Featherstone although none of these are recommended as balanced breakfast options!

Mission Impossible with Sarah Hyndman, Marianne Elliott and Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence

On October, 31st, 2012 seventy fabulous females gathered in The Groucho Club in London’s Soho for the very first celebration of Ladies Who Impress. Lawyers and nutritionists, bankers and writers, media professionals and academics, they were all equally curious, and they were about to be impressed…

Ladies Who Impress series started with Mission Impossible, an evening encouraging women to be inspired by the extraordinary achievements of ordinary women and to build up confidence to embark on even the most audacious missions of their lives in the future. In an intimate setting of The Groucho Club, the guests met three impressive women:

Sarah Hyndman is a creative polymath. In 2003 she founded the graphic design agency With Relish which works with clients from the arts to corporate sectors on a wide range of projects. Sarah teaches creative workshops, organises exhibitions, has launched a creative collaboration project with photographers, illustrators and anybody else who has the enthusiasm to have a go. Sarah continuously challenges herself with new ideas such as the Olympic Logo A Day project (for which she was interviewed by the New York Times) and The Random Project 2012 which is a growing collection of postcards documenting London in 2012. When Sarah isn’t busy being creative, she can be found kickboxing in Shoreditch or off having an adventure somewhere around the world.

Marianne Elliott is an Associate Director of the National Theatre in London. She is best known for the play War Horse, which she co-directed for the National Theatre, the West End and Broadway and for which she received the Tony Award for Best Direction of Play. She then directed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a brilliant production based on the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon, which made its way from the National to the West End and Broadway.

Before her tenure at the National Theatre, Marianne was an Associate Director at the Royal Court, where her productions included Stoning Mary, Notes on Falling Leaves, The Sugar Syndrome and Local. Other select theatre includes productions for the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester where she directed such plays as Design for Living and As You Like It; Much Ado About Nothing set in Cuba for the RSC and The Little Foxes at the Donmar. In an interview she gave to The Telegraph in 2010, Marianne said: “Theatre requires a huge amount of energy. So it has to be brilliant, I think. It has to be life-changing. Or what’s the point?”

Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence is an engineer, a Royal Society Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Department of Physics and a bit of a genius. In 2008 Hanna took part in an exciting project as an Instrument Downlink Engineer at NASA mission control station in Arizona. She was the only female engineer in her team and the youngest in a group of British scientists to take part in NASA’s Phoenix mission to Mars. She was the first person to see new images from Mars every day, produced using a piece of hardware 150 million miles away that she herself had designed and made. Hanna was selected as the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2008 at the age of 26. Hanna is currently continuing space research at the University of Oxford. She is actively involved in promoting engineering to young people, breaking the stereotype of this profession being dominated by men in blue overalls. Hanna’s favourite colour is pink.

In addition to being a fun occasion, the event raised £800 for Huntington’s Disease Association, a charity contributing to research and supporting families, affected by Huntington’s disease.

Testimonials:

“I just wanted to thank you for putting on such a great event. You were the perfect host and all three women were so inspiring. I came away from it feeling really happy, confident and ready to take on the world, so thank you! “
Ana Foster-Adams

“Massive congratulations on last night! Your first event was a triumph. I really thought it was fabulous, and there was such an inspiring buzz in the room with a gathering of like-minded females. Can’t wait for the next one.”

“I’ll be thinking for days, but I think one thing I took away from it was that ‘you can do anything, but you don’t have to do everything’.”
Laura Stevens

“Great night, many thanks. It was good to attend such an inspiring event and also to attend an event with lots of lovely inspiring ladies and not an annoying power woman in sight!”

“You were a brilliant hostess and the interviews were great. Very well done for organising such a great event and thank you, I felt very inspired!”
Sadia Salam