May 11th 2016 is a milestone for the NOI Club. We celebrated our 1st birthday! Here is the writeup of the evening, brought to us by the wonderful Hannah Smith, freelance journalist, copywriter and NOI lady!

NOI first birthday celebration – onederful

One of the first NOI events ever held was on the day of a tube strike and the speaker, as well of many of the guests, couldn’t get to the venue but the event went ahead and the speaker attended via Skype. This proves that if you keep going and find your way, even when the odds are stacked against you, you might just make it to your own first birthday party, an event that incidentally went smoothly and without incident 🙂

As Yulia Rorstrom, the founder of Duck and Dry and our host for the evening, said during her inspiring speech, what is the worst that can happen? If you only put in as much as you can afford to lose and life doesn’t collapse after it, then it’s already an amazing experience.

Much like the event itself, which was a truly wonderful first birthday celebration full of everything you would expect of a NOI event: inspiring women, interesting conversations and a lot of fun. It happened to be my first NOI event and networking events can often be filled with anxiety and awkward conversation but from the very minute I arrived it was clear that this was going to be a welcoming and open space.

We were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco and some delicious food by Haleo. Three years ago founder Jane’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given months to live. Jane moved home to New Zealand to be with him, they took him off of chemo and began researching nutrition. Now on a strictly healthy but, judging by his daughter’s recipes, delicious new lifestyle her Dad is still alive three years later. During their research they discovered there wasn’t one website containing all the information they needed in one place, so they decided to provide it and Haleo was born. 

Whilst eating Jane’s food and sipping on Prosecco the event began with a talk from the wonderful Paola, the woman who continues to bring us all together and creates warm and welcoming spaces for ideas to be shaped. She told us about the first NOI events and how life interfered in her first year, which meant there were more NOI events than she could attend. Hers was the first of many stories about how sometimes life and business can happen all at once.

She then introduced us to Yulia of Duck and Dry, which is 18 months old; her son is 16 months old and Yulia had work calls the day after giving birth and held a meeting in Harrods ten days later. All our mouths were on the floor as smilingly she told us the challenges of her first year. Her advice was to take the time you need to think through your business plan but whatever you decide will be the right choice at the time, at some point you have to commit or walk away. Allow yourself to make the decision you need to at that time. She chose to commit not just to her business but also to her life and found that they both happened at once. It’s good to remember we cannot control life but we also don’t need to wait for it or plan around it; if you have the passion, you will make it work.

As women we are constantly being told we cannot have it all or we can and should have it all but in truth the only people who can decide what we can have are ourselves. Having a family and a business is possible if it’s what we want. But want is the key word here.

In total there were ten start ups at the event and after Yulia had talked us through her own start up challenges and successes (she is already launching a product line to help women achieve a professional blow dry at home well ahead of her schedule because the business need has dictated it) we were introduced to everyone else.

Melissa De Santis whose MDS flowers were brightening the room even more, told us she realised that she had had enough of her finance career and decided to follow her passion, starting with a Valentine’s day pop up and she is now looking to move into weddings and events. Sashi at Peridot Place started her online boutique after she had tried to furnish her flat sustainably; like Yulia, her life has also been moving at a pace since she began and she has now left London and got engaged whilst growing her business. Abi at Samanata Yogi has created Yoga clothing using designs by artists from all over the World; the clothes are inspired by travel. Her business partner in Australia was due to give birth the day after the event so they had launched the Australian website first but the UK website will follow soon. They are looking for yoga teachers to be ambassadors for the brand so do get in touch if you know any.

Lucy at Crafty Nomad’s idea had been to set up a platform for eco-friendly gifts and her old work network in Law has led her down a path towards corporate gifts that can show the ethics of the company whilst offering a fun and bright gift to attract clients at events. Deborah at The Red Beetle had brought a slice of Italy into the room with her delicious food products. She explored Italy with the idea of bringing home the food to sell online and get us all cooking Italian food every day and who can argue with that?

Valentina at Yacht and Yoga wants to share her passion for sailing and yoga by starting our day with some light yoga on the deck of a catamaran before sailing us to a beautiful beach for lunch and relaxation and then calling in the sunset with some yoga on the beach, for a full week. Where do I sign up I hear you cry? Right here but get in line!

Sarah at Style Tonic had some great advice to share from her mentor, “Of course you don’t know what you’re doing: no one does. You’ll make loads of expensive mistakes and you’ll learn quick.” Which is exactly what Sarah has done but her expensive mistakes and quick learning has led her company, the only digitalised stylists, onto one of Vogue’s ten best lists and she is currently engaged in another start up. Her message to us all was chase down all your dreams, even if it’s taxing. 

Another Sarah founded her company BalanceGrowthHappiness by opting to go into her heart and her intuition to find her dream. And it turns out that her dream was to help others become more in tune with their intuition. She also does angel tarot card readings regarding your past, present and future, creative visualisations and has a workshop in a week looking at confidence hacks. So if you need some help following your intuition as you struggle with your own start up then get in touch.

We have already heard Jane at Haleo’s amazing start up story but I will take a moment here to tell you that her brownie balls and brownie ball jars are a little slice of heaven we all need to indulge in.

I come finally to Lizz at Onnix bags, she had launched her bag just two days before the event, a bag that quite literally every woman needs in her life (please check out their Kickstarter campaign, don’t just take my word for it). Lizz was very honest about her journey. Both she and her business partner have had companies in the past, her business partners were successful but Lizz’s was not. When she arrived in London she was seven months pregnant and after a terrible birth experience her confidence was very low. Feeling isolated in a new city she was very depressed, something she chooses to be completely open about in case it helps another person in the same position. This company is her last go at a start up as she is out of funds. They really need help for the campaign to gather traction and if you can help in any way by donating or sharing, then please do. Lizz had been knocked back a few times but she was determined to try again and had picked herself up. It was impossible not to feel inspired by her.

In fact inspiration was the word of the day, which is a gift that Paola gives us with every event, Facebook post, and link share even whilst working a day job, like many of the speakers mentioned above. She admitted that juggling the two often means she is late for her own events and taught us a really important lesson that was reiterated by every woman who spoke, it is okay to be human. In fact, that is all we really can be. Keep being human, take one step at a time, fall over, make mistakes, and get back up again, as many times as it takes.

Happy 1st birthday NOI! As this toddler starts to make first steps and tentative leaps we can all follow her example: our start ups have to learn how to be what they are and mistakes are the biggest part of the learning process.


Hannah is a freelance journalist (Time Out, Refinery 29) and copywriter. She has never owned a goldfish and therefore has never flushed a possibly still living goldfish down the toilet, so her conscience is clear…

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