Kirsty’s been in the networking business since 2008 and runs a networking consultancy offering business development services covering networking events, skills, strategies and content.
She fronts a variety of networks, including her own Colony Networking, and is a huge advocate of keeping business local and promoting the interests of the Warrington business community. She was involved in the steering group of WBEx, and its pre-cursors, The Circle and It’s All Going On In Warrington.
Those who know Kirsty will know she has her fingers in a few pies. Lockdown has seen huge challenges but she has pivoted like so many of us and when talking about the future of networking, uses language such as hybrid and a blended New Networking Normal.
Q & A
Get to know Kirsty a bit more in this Q&A. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know!
Name of Business
Who are you?
Kirsty James - networking, relationship-marketing and communications consultant, specialising in business and community engagement projects.
Owner of Colony Networking, Manager of Lymm Business Centre, TEDx Warrington Licensee, Co-host of LinkedinLocal Manchester and Warrington, Host of SUBS Warrington, CoHost of KTS Women in Business, Founder of Think Family Matters, and Co-Founder of SoupOTG Crowdfunding.
I facilitate and speak at business development, networking and community events. I also offer consultancy services covering business development, relationship-marketing content, lead and connection generation, and networking skills training.
What sets you apart from the competition?
Competition isn’t really a C-Word I use much to be honest. Instead, I use these ‘C’ Words.
From day 1 in business, I’ve liaised with those in my sector and asked how we could collaborate. I believe there’s enough room for everyone (decent) and we all have our unique style of doing business. Mine is to offer my direct input into any project. You get the values I live and work by (if they suit you). I offer a style of consultancy (and event) that combines humility and humanity. I’m reliable, meticulous, honest, tenacious, authentic, motivating, connected, and energising to work with – in the words of my clients and attendees! If that sets me apart, then great.
How did the business come about?
To support my role at KPMG 2002-2005, I began some networking events to broker connections with referral associates. When I set up my own business, there were few networking events in Warrington (no independents back in 2007, just a few franchised brands) so I set up Lymm Networking Group to encourage local businesses to chat and help one another. The free drop-in quarterly coffee turned into Colony in 2010 and from there I added “proper” events and charges. By March 2020 (as Covid hit), I was running 6-8 events per month in Warrington, Lymm, St Helens, Liverpool, Chester, Alderley Edge, and was offering business development services to several retained private clients.
What are your main target markets?
My events and services help folk become better networkers and solve their business problems by quickly getting them to the right person, service, product or idea to help. Organising learning and speaker events and generating ideas or contacts has never been sector-specific for me. However, I tend to attract more service-based businesses, particularly professional services, wellbeing and coaching sector. Those who run events, be it workshop, network meeting, business launch or conference, also approach me to assist with organising, hosting or speaking.
How long has your business been in existence?
7 July 2007 is when I became self-employed, 4-months pregnant with my 2nd of 3 children and seeking more flexibility around family commitments. Colony is its current form was born in 2010.
I grew up in Lymm so my youth was spent in Warrington as the nearest town. My social life and all my part time jobs were in the town centre. That’s a lot of bus and taxi journeys to Beaverbrooks (my first Saturday job), Time Square and Mr Smiths (my main weekend hangouts), Golden Square and Warrington Market (where I spent my wages), and the Parr Hall and Pyramid (for entertainment).
How many staff do you employ?
None. I outsource and seek associates when I need to.
What job or achievement makes you most proud?
There are many.
- 29 years with my husband (met at Kent Uni and travelled together for years).
- Receiving the Prime Ministers Points of Light award in December 2020.
- Just completed 75 weeks of 5k Parkruns (and lockdown equivalents) after being challenged to run (which I dislike) at a business wellbeing event and the subsequent birth of NetRun.
- My community and charity work, including the Covid project Leave No One Behind In Lymm and SoupOTG (community dragons den style events).
- Getting the TEDx Warrington licence (a wishlist item for years, currently postponed).
- Bringing the Google Bus to Lymm (in the snow) as part of promotions towards the repurposing of part of Lymm Library into Lymm Business Centre which I now manage.
Where do you see the business being in five years?
Bigger, running less events directly, hosting and speaking more at other people’s events, more business development and marketing consultancy work, and still based from Warrington but working increasing remotely, including from Cornwall and Spain.
Tell us one interesting thing about the business that might surprise us?
I’m not a seal, bee, beaver or penguin Colony, nor are we called Colonic Networking.
It is named Colony with a strapline ‘Success in Numbers’ because of the analogy to an ant colony where teamwork, collaboration and working hard for the wider ‘pay-it-forward’ benefit is critical.
And yes, there is actually something called the Ant Philosophy. Google it!
Tell us one interesting thing about you that people might not know? (ie, hobbies, amusing fact, etc)
Hard to limit to one item I’m afraid. Life is full and interesting and this is the bit that makes me “me” and is interesting for all of us nosey folk.
- Aged 20, I was held up in an armed robbery in a post office where I had a part time job. I got victim support money and a prescription for sleeping pills. I binned the pills, popped the money in a savings account and a few months later left the country to backpack around Canada.
- I studied in France for 2 years and my Master’s thesis on Retention Marketing is all in French.
- I travelled to 78 countries during years of backpacking and worked in many of these, including a stint in the presidential campaign office in Washington DC (which my daughter translates into “my mum worked for Barak O’Banana”. Wrong President darling, let alone name!)
- I was an adrenalin junkie BC (Before Children). Wouldn’t dare these days. Sky-dived, bungy-jumped, hand-glided, and black and white water-rafted (almost killed on the Zambesi when I was knocked out by an oar and fell metres from the ‘Commercial Suicide’ rapid you don’t ride).
- I glazed windows, operated on a cheetah, helped slay a goat (I’m sorry), and was robbed whilst on a voluntary work expedition to Namibia.
- I had Heart Surgery ❤ in January 2021.
- I’m writing a book.
Fantasy dinner party – which six people alive or dead would you invite?
The question I dread. Six is tricky as I’m one of those people who would do the Peter Kay thing and borrow chairs of all sizes to cram in more folk around the table. But, here goes…
James Cordon. We all need a laugh and his style makes me chuckle. Plus, he could tell me what it was like to sit in bed with David Beckham during that comic relief sketch – JK (just kidding), he's not my type. Carpool Karaoke as after dinner entertainment would be a hoot though.
The Queen. For the amazing stories and experiences she must have from everything she’s seen and done during years of service.
David Attenborough. Animals, environment, travel, future of the world. I could ask questions all evening.
Michelle Obama. On her career, sacrifices for family, First Lady experiences, charitable work especially with young people, her book writing journey, and commentary on racial equality.
Jesus. Yes, you read that right, Jesus! (we’d leave out the bread and keep the wine though – no offence intended). I know a lot of religious people but I have limited religious education which makes for ignorance, despite the respect I have for all religions. When I learn, I like to go to the source of the information, not the interpretations provided by others so that’s why he’d make my list.
And my husband, Stuart. He can literally talk to anyone (even more than I!), is super-confident and sociable, knowledgeable on most topics, and fills any awkward silences with fun and flair. He’d sing with James C and as a geography teacher, have loads to ask David A.
Back up list or 2nd table, because 6 is so limiting: Shakespeare | George Michael | Freddie Mercury | Elvis | Mother Theresa | Winston Churchill.