Networking without the Networking - How two Congleton women's monthly catch up grew into BREW

By Rich Wilcock

3rd Feb 2023 | SME's and Start-Ups

Sarah Cornwall (left) and Veronica Kitton (right) set up BREW in Congleton
Sarah Cornwall (left) and Veronica Kitton (right) set up BREW in Congleton

When Sarah and Veronica started meeting regularly to catch up and share ideas and stories over a brew, little did they know that they were starting a new chapter of networking.

But once they realised that they were getting more out of these regular catch ups, the more they thought it would be a good idea to branch out to other businesswomen in Congleton and the surrounding areas to see if any of them were interested in a simple monthly meet-up. And quickly, Sarah and Veronica realised that many others were interested and so, from a simple monthly chat between friends, grew BREW (Breathe and Regroup for Entrepreneurial Women).

"We are not a networking group" says Sarah Cornwell, the co-founder of BREW, "we are not there to make referrals and 60 second pitches. I have nothing against networking, it has its place, but BREW is different – it's simply a place for businesswomen, freelancers and self-employed women to share ideas and stories, support each other and just have a brew and a breather, without the pressure".

BREW was set up a year ago by Sarah Cornwell and Veronica Kitton and meets once a month at the Lion & Swan in Congleton. It's open to any women within the surrounding area, with some women coming from Alderley Edge, Sandbach and other towns. The women only group aim for quite a relaxed atmosphere, away from the formalities and sometimes intimidating atmosphere of networking. It started completely organically says Sarah, "We opened up our monthly chats to others we knew and each month, more people came along, and it seemed like everybody was in the same boat or felt the same way."

The appeal of BREW is its relaxed nature, believes Sarah "it's simple and easy going, a support group really because at the end of the day, we are all navigating this small business world on our own, so it feels good to share those experiences and learn new things."

Each monthly meeting has a loose theme, to give a direction and focus to the meetups. Some recent ones have been a focus on CRM's and sole-tradership but rather than seminars or guest speakers, it's a shared experience amongst the members with no pressure to follow up. Advice for advice's sake.

"We have a bookkeeper who regularly comes, and came to the catch-up where we spoke about CRM's, and they went away from that and set-up their first CRM system off the back of the groups advice. That was a really nice thing to hear and what the group is all about." Says Sarah.