Saturday, 25 September 2021

Businesses band together

A NETWORKING group for businesses has been set up in Sonning Common.

A NETWORKING group for businesses has been set up in Sonning Common.

The Sonning Common Business Collaboration held its first meeting at the Butcher’s Arms pub on Monday last week.

It was attended by 12 people from a range of businesses, including beauty therapy, dance teaching, chauffeur services, HR consultancy and baking.

The group has been set up by Kathryn Willis, who runs Kathryn Fell Photography, and Rob Blues, the pub’s landlord.

Mrs Willis, 37, of Churchill Crescent, said: “I wanted to get the whole business community together and to get to know people face to face.

“Being a sole trader, I know the difficulties that you can face in this economic climate. If you get people from the same area together we can help each other.”

Mrs Willis, who previously worked in marketing for 13 years, approached Mr Blues and his wife Ellie because she believed the pub was involved in a number of activities in the village.

She had attended business networks in Caversham and Reading but was put off by their size.

She said: “If you are a shy person it can be quite intimidating going into a big room with all these other people so I thought we could set up our own group.”

The first meeting involved a talk on social media and at the next one there will be a presentation on how to market a small business. Meetings will take place every six weeks. Mrs Willis, who is married to Richard, a production controller with a greetings card company, believes it will be a good opportunity to meet more people, having found it difficult to integrate until the birth of her son Jake in May.

She said: “I used to go out of the house at 8am and not get home until nighttime. I didn’t get to know the neighbours much and it’s not until you have a baby or a dog that people start talking to you. Everyone communicates by email and online these days so we’re trying to get people into one room and able to support each other. If you can find like-minded people it can help own business.

“If I’m taking photographs at a wedding I can ask the couple if they have sorted cakes or flowers and refer them to people in the network.”

Mrs Willis believes the Butcher’s Arms is important because it is at the heart of the community and has a noticeboard where business cards can be displayed.

She said: “As a publican, Rob overhears all sorts of conversations and knows people in all sorts of industries. He can put people in touch with tradesmen he knows and will be trusted.”

Mrs Willis said she was pleased with the turnout at the first meeting and had received positive feedback.

She said: “There were a lot of people who didn’t know how to use Twitter effectively so we’re looking at having a Twitter workshop.

“In the corporate world you get trained left, right and centre about these things but when you’re a sole trader you don’t always get the chance. We’re hoping that every time we will be able to have a different subject, whether that’s accountancy or health and safety, it’s something they can take away from the meeting.”

The next meeting will take place at the pub on December 2. Anyone interested in attending should contact Mrs Willis by email at kathryn or Mr Blues at

The group has a Facebook page called Sonning Common Business Collaboration and a Twitter account called @SCBCRG4.

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