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International Women's Day at Black Pool Mill

Black Pool Mill hosted a special International Women’s Day lunch for the Institute of Directors on Friday, March 8, 2024. With an overarching theme of empowering female entrepreneurship in West Wales, guests listened to speakers Bernie Davies, Lee Ann Smith and Mel Evans as they shared their own personal journeys to business success. Under the original 210-year-old rafters on the top floor of the Mill (some of the only remaining examples of king trusses in the UK), the audience enjoyed a two-course meal with inclusion and diversity champion Bernie delivering the keynote speech before dessert. 

The one thing all three speakers had in common was a deep-rooted desire to work for themselves since childhood and a hard work ethic. Mel Evans, who founded Voice of the Customer, explained how being brought up on a farm gave her a “really good grounding in how hard work pays”. Lee Ann Smith moved from South Africa to West Wales eventually setting up her business, Printed Chocolates, in 2015. She recalled selling chocolates to her classmates in school before progressing to knocking on doors and selling to her neighbours. Tom Jones, Marco Pierre White and the Savoy have all been customers since. Bernie Davies, a notable global speaker and champion of diversity, described how as the fourth of five children she “never really fit in”. She explained: “I had to figure out how to get noticed, get heard and valued. I quickly discovered the way to do this was to excel. My mother was a university professor and so academic excellence was a very valuable currency in my world. As early as four years old, when we had the weekly in-house spelling and multiplication quizzes….yes we had them…I learnt that if I won, I would get the current prize AND be praised, noticed….the centre of their attention.”

On International Women’s Day 2024, she said: “It’s the season where more women are attuned to unity rather than the Mean Girl’s spirit.” The Black Pool Mill event was a time “for coming together, supporting each other and exchanging ideas”. Everyone has a “you print” she said. “Why not deliberately and intentionally leave a ‘you print’ to last forever?” she asked the room. “Now is a time for purpose, not self-promotion.”

The afternoon was rounded off with a panel discussion which included Rebecca Rigby, director of operations for Bluestone National Park Resort. It was a privilege for Bluestone to sponsor the occasion at Black Pool Mill and show off the historic and picturesque mill, which is available for corporate events as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner.