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Issue #19: The Back to School Issue

September - the advent of autumnal leaves and cooler evenings, and traditionally a time for the little ones (I can say 'little ones' now I am over 30) to return to school. I was never one to get excited about going back to school, but I loved the idea of a new notebook or a new pencil case and the feeling that I could reinvent myself and start all over again - this year I'm gonna be a cool kid, a skater kid, a goth, a super sporty cheerleader who dresses like Britney Spears and dates a Justin Timberlake look-a-like kid (inevitably I was none of these, although I did manage the awkard geeky thing for a couple of years - go me!).
So in honour of new beginnings and days filled with the notion I could do and be anything, this issue is dedicated to those inpirational women who have really gone for it and pushed themselves out of their comfort zone - with some truly aspirational results. Here Amanda Thomson, founder of Skinny Champagne, Ali Meehan, founder of Costa Women, and Vanessa Vallely, founder of We Are The City, share their stories and some great advice. And let's not forget the men - we feature the brilliant Andy Woodfield, creator of Genius Power Dreams and PwC partner, in our Man's Corner.

I hope you enjoy this issue and that it inspires you to take one step that will push you outside your comfort zone, because as a wise person once said "that's where the magic happens" (no, that wise person wasn't me - I wish it was).

If you enjoy this issue please feel free to retweet us, like us, share us and of course email us (cos we love fanmail)!

Happy reading!

x  foong
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Issue #20 of Suit & Pie is out on 25 September 2014. Subscribe here to receive it straight to your inbox and catch up on past issues in our archive. You can also read the Suit & Pie story here courtesy of
Where the magic happens
We asked three inspirational women what it felt like to push themselves out of their comfort zone and if it really paid off (of course it did!). Here are their words of wisdom.
The Champagne champion
Amanda Thomson quit her job as a BBC broadcaster to retrain as a wine expert at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. She launched Skinny Champagne, described as a 'high end Grand Cru with almost half the calories', last year to an incredible reception - Skinny Champagne is what we had all been waiting for! Skinny Champagne is now sold at The Corner Restaurant and Bar at Selfridges in London and the Skinny Champagne Afternoon Tea just launched this month!
Amanda: "I cannot tell you how exciting it is to be 100% in control of my career and its direction. While I had a fantastic career as a broadcaster when I was younger, I was very much at the mercy of my producers and editors. Now success is entirely my responsibility. It's all down to me to push things forward. 
Everyone talks about passion being the essence of entrepreneurship. But it's absolutely true. Without this, all the mistakes, disappointments and failures along the way would be impossible to overcome. It's imperative you're passionate about what you're doing to the point of obsession. It's often just at the moment when you think it's all for nothing that all that blood and sweat suddenly pays off. I've learnt to celebrate the small things. And remember that experts are not always right.  
Us Brits can be terribly glass half empty and not very comfortable pushing our own talents forward. But it's no excuse for not promoting yourself and your product or service. Skinny Champagne is selling because I made my own noise. I'm now discovering that people are listening."

Check out the Skinny Champagne website, on twitter (@skinnychamp), LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Photo by Alex Catt.
The Spanish imagineer
Ali Meehan founded Costa Women, an online community for women living in Spain, in 2010. Nearly four years later, 3,100 members from 57 different countries, a social media following of 12,000 and a Telegraph Expat Award later (2012 Best of British Social Club), she can safely say that it has been a success! And all this while doing her day job too. Wow.

Ali: "If 'life begins at the end of your comfort zone', then I have my hands in the air waving that I want more of life and less fear! Running Costa Women, I never fail to be amazed at the leaps which expat women take on a daily basis, whether through moving to a new country, learning the language, applying for work, or just making new connections and expanding networks.

I started Costa Women at the end of 2010 to meet a need for friendships and support for expat women and attribute my success to growing organically.

I have learnt that starting small, but thinking big is the key. And most importantly, just start! It may not be even 25% right at the beginning, but the need for getting it 100% right can paralyze you from even starting. In reality, you are the only person who knows it isn't perfect!"

Check out the Costa Women website, on twitter (@costawomen), LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.
                                ... and the lady with Heels of Steel!
Vanessa Vallely is the founder of the excellent women's network, job board and website We Are The City which reaches over 200,000 women every month in the UK and India. She is also an inspirational speaker and author of Heels of Steel, an autobiographical book about surviving and thriving as a woman in the corporate world.

Vanessa: "Every month I try to do something that takes me out of my comfort zone. For me, the feeling of being comfortable means I am not working hard enough. When I quit my job in the City last year to pursue my passion with, the first thing people asked was how I was going to make a living!

If I am honest I didn’t know, I knew I had my book coming out (Heels of Steel) and I had a great platform with the website, but it wasn’t a real business per say. Turning what effectively was my hobby into a true business was probably the biggest stretch of my career. I am still learning day by day, making good decisions and the odd mistake. I don’t beat myself up about the odd hiccup as every decision you make, be it good or bad is an opportunity to learn. I still have a way to go and every day I have what I call heartbeat moments, however I appreciate that it is all part of the journey and I wouldn’t change it for the world."

Check out the We Are The City website, Vanessa's website, on twitter (@Watc_Girl), LinkedIn and Facebook.
Socks & crumbs (or the bit at the bottom)
Heard it through the (corporate) grapevine...

- On 19 September, CEO Mums will be holding a "More Than Networking" event at Browns Courtrooms for mothers who want to start and grow a successful business while still maintaining a great family lifestyle.

- The Inspiration Awards for Women to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer will take place on 2nd October at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea.

The awards celebrate the achievements of remarkable women who inspire those around them through the media or through their achievements in their everyday lives.
This week I will be...

- enjoying these great simple yet effective images by Yang Li which illustrate the difference between women and men

- remembering Joan Rivers with some of her best one liners

- realising that women can be awesome at any age - yep, two 90 year old ladies getting married in Iowa and a 127 year old woman attributing her longevity to chocolate and sleep (works for me!) confirm this

- getting in touch with my inner sk8er girl at the UK's biggest indoor skate park, House of Vans (complete with bar and stage)
It's a man's world - maybe we aren't so different after all 

Genius Power Dreams

Andy Woodfield is the lead partner for the International Aid Development Consulting practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is an accomplished TEDx speaker, tweeter and sponsor of the GLEE network at PwC (for gays, lesbians and everyone else). He is also the creator of the Genius Power Dreams approach to unlocking potential. No wonder he has so little time to sleep!

Andy: "Ok so let's start this with some deep honesty here, my absolute comfort zone is alone at home in my flat in London with my dog Lukas - or in the Dorset countryside, alone with my dog - that's how I spent my youth and it's truly when I am calmest and in my absolute comfort zone. Clearly, however, I'm not going to be able to pay my mortgage and feed my dog just walking aimlessly in the countryside.

Ever since leaving school in 1989 I've been confronted with extreme exits from my comfort zone. Before joining PwC in 1998, I worked for a number of smaller organisations, each one very different, each job I secured without having much of a clue how to do the job, each job lasted 2 years before I moved up to a tougher job in a new area, each new role pushed me further and further from my comfort zone.

Ultimately the country boy moved to London and my last role before joining PwC was in the city working in dealing rooms with dealing technology, again I had no clue how to do my job when I secured it, then after 6 months I was doing very well, after 1 year I was starting to get bored, by 2 years I'd already moved - this pattern has typified my career each time the fear of starting a new job subsided as boredom kicked in.

Essentially I guess I've become addicted to the feeling of living outside of my comfort zone. At PwC I've never been bored, everything changes all the time, when I get the chance I sleep."

Check out the Genius Power Dreams website, Andy on twitter (@andy_woodfield) and GLEE (@GLEEPwCUK).
Mr Smith's corner

Mr Smith gives us his thoughts for the week.
Highlights: No.2 son emerged from first day at school 30 mins late and with no trousers accompanied by the teacher. Nothing like making an impact... Apparently he lost them getting changed after PE and was too scared to come out as Mrs S had told him 'don't lose anything on your first day cos we can't afford replacements'. Which he obviously told the teacher - if the earth could have swallowed me up...

Lowlights: Very sad news as our next door neighbour, Molly, passed away this week at the age of 99. An amazing lady, as well as routinely kicking our stray footballs back over the fence, she was also still driving well into her 90s - although a few wing mirrors did suffer from time to time! Whereas we won't be prepping for a big 100, there'll  still be a big party to look forward to as her friends and family say goodbye.

Lesson learnt: As one door closes another opens etc. After the very public separation in May of celebrity sports couple Rory McIlroy (golf) and Caroline Wozniacki (tennis) (apparently Rory got cold feet writing the wedding invites) both have gone on to rediscover their tip top form. Rory has returned to world number 1 whereas Wozniacki's recovery has been even more spectacular - reaching the final of the US Open from nowhere last week. I did check in with my golf pro as to whether this was where I had been going wrong - it isn't, it's a lack of talent...
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