Record turnout for Chester’s women’s network

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From burglaries, raids and murders to being bombed inside Kandahar former journalist Laura Garner has certainly had a lot to report on over the years. 

Laura Garner, owner of PR company Beaucomms Ltd, gave an ‘inspirational’ talk to more than 70 businesswomen from across the region at the Holiday Inn Chester South on Thursday, September 6.

Founded in 2013, the West Cheshire Women’s Network provides an opportunity for businesswomen to come together.

Co-hosted by Natwest PLC, Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce and Cheshire West and Chester Council; the group meet four times a year with a different guest speaker at every event.  

The audience listened intently as Laura spoke of her journey through bullying at school, including a threat on her life, to a head on collision that changed her career path from dancer to journalist. 

“When I was 17 I was signed up to start at Goldsmiths Dance Academy, but I was involved in a head-on collision and incurred a spine injury,” said Laura. 

“I was told I would never dance again, so I had to re-think my career, it was then I realised you have to let go of what you can’t change.”

Raised in a single parent family by a mother who worked several jobs, Laura always had a strong work ethic, whether that was helping her mum with her cleaning and ironing jobs after school or on a Sunday or her school work, she always had the determination to do her best.

“My nana was my style icon, she would always keep me the style pages out of the Sunday magazines, I soon realised I could put my passion of writing and fashion together so that’s what I decided to do and I became a student at the London College of Fashion,” said Laura.

It was during her time in London that Laura realised the importance of work experience, with the college ‘pushing students out the door’ to make connections. 

“Work experience is so important, I always try to give young people experience, even when in employment having someone to help guide us in our choices is so important, I met Dawn Collinson when I joined the team at the Liverpool Echo,” said Laura.

“Dawn taught me a lot about the world of newspapers and even if she didn’t know it, a lot about being a woman in a predominately male dominated workplace.”

In 2009 as a 24 year-old junior reporter for The Leader Laura found herself on board a military transport aircraft heading for Afghanistan. 

“The paper was approached by the Ministry of Defence asking for one of the team to travel out to Afghanistan to report on the conflict and speak to local soldiers.

“We landed in Kandahar in complete darkness, lights on the plane were switched off, and there were no lights on the runway, pretty difficult conditions for the pilot. 

“Stepping out on the tarmac we heard the whirring of the air raid siren, we were being attacked by the Taliban.

“We were all told to lie down on the floor, it was terrifying, there was no panic, but we were all holding on to one another,” she added.

A missile hit the runway, missing the fuelled jet by 50 feet, the military and Laura, were ‘hot targets’ and thanks to heat seeking missiles Laura and her companions were targeted once again during their journey onto Camp Bastion in the middle of the night. 

“That was when I realised I didn’t want to be the next Kate Adie!” Said Laura.

As with a lot of journalists, Laura soon crossed over to the world of PR and communications, headhunted by a Chester PR company Laura started working on branding, social media and PR. 

“It was here where I met Hems De Winter, he is now my mentor, guide and guru,” said Laura.

“Hems is one of the best people I’ve ever met, he challenges me and asks me those difficult questions.

“I’m a huge believer in mentoring, it is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and guide in the right direction.”

After a summer working for Live Nation in Ibiza, Laura joined a team at PR agency in Liverpool and became a mother to a daughter, Florence.

“In my rolls in other businesses after becoming a mum, I came across challenges that I didn’t think still existed today, but sadly they do, that was when I decided I wanted to be my own boss.”

Since Beaucomms was launched in 2017 it has earned a reputation for delivering a successful mix of communications, specialising in media, PR and digital.

“I’ve surrounded myself with a strong team of talented freelancing women and mothers and I’m still here to tell the tale!” added Laura.

Natalie Tomlinson, PR and marketing manager at Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers said: “This was a very well attended event, we had standing room only.

“Huge thanks to Laura for giving such a thought provoking talk, she is proof that hard work and determination certainly pays off.”

The next event, the final one for 2018, will be networking with a Christmas twist on Thursday, November 29 at The Holiday Inn Chester South.

Attendees will be greeted with a selection of tea, coffees and pastries; followed by networking and festive themed games.

The event, which runs from 9.30am to 11.30am, is free to attend but your place must be booked.