Monday, 29 February 2016

Women in Business

As you know I am passionate about empowering women to reach their full potential be it in their business life, family life or their personal life and as I have three daughters and a daughter-in-law I will never give up the fight for equality for women in both education and employment. Equality is not a luxury it is a right that we as women deserve.

We can be our own worst enemy allowing those internal feelings of self doubt paralyse us and stop us moving forward. We often lack confidence but as Shirley Conran says "Self confidence is the most important thing and comes from identifying your goals, knowing your limits and roping in all the help you can get". That's where women's associations and networking events are so important for women to attend so we can share ideas, discuss our problems, support each other and have fun.

International Women's Day is on March 8th and this year's theme is Pledge for Parity. So how do we want to celebrate International Women's Day? We can all pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly and that is both women and men. We can try and help women and girls to achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership and help them to realise the limitless potential they offer in all areas of life. It is estimated that the gender gap will not close entirely until 2133 as there is already a slowdown in the pace of progress we are making. We cannot and will not wait that long so we must continue to take action.

Women in Business Southampton are holding a conference 'She Leads' on Saturday March 5th at the University of Southampton from 10am until 5-30pm.

The next Wessex Women's Network meeting will be held at the Cloud Hotel on Wednesday 16th March at 6-30pm the speaker is Professor Jo Adams and her talk is about her research into Arthritis health.  I look forward to seeing you.

Remember if your 'dreams' don't scare you they are too small!

Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone'   Neale Donald Walsch

Get out of your comfort zone and fulfil your dreams


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

BBC Radio Solent Interview - Avril Owton MBE

In this BBC Radio Solent interview, Avril discusses 40 years at the Cloud Hotel and her experiences as one of the famous Tiller Girls.

Click here to download the interview.



Friday, 29 January 2016

Celebrating 40 Years in Business at The Cloud Hotel

This lovely article from the Southampton Echo was written following our 40th Year at The Cloud Hotel celebrations.

“I DIDN’T know the difference between a chorus line and a bottom line.”
Those are the words of Tiller girl turned Hampshire hotelier Avril Owton who celebrated 40 years in business this week.
New Forest District Council’s leader, Cllr Barry Rickman; chairman, Cllr Alison Hoare; chief executive, Bob Jackson; and the employment and tourism manager, Anthony Climpson, were among guests at special event to celebrate Avril’s four decades at the Cloud Hotel, Brockenhurst.
Avril’s husband Tom took over the hotel from his parents when they retired in the 1970s.
She learned the trade from the bottom up, starting with the washing up with a quick promotion to room maid and then helped her husband, who was the chef, with the cooking as well as caring for her four children.
In 1991, disaster struck: her husband died of a heart attack. “I soon found out there was no life insurance – he didn’t believe in it – and that I was stuck with a hotel we couldn’t sell because of the recession at the time.”
However, Avril, inspired by a magazine article which said “you are the steering wheel of your life” and decided she would take on the hotel.
“I always say I didn’t know the difference between a chorus line and a bottom line,” she says, recalling the days when she was a member of the celebrated Tiller Girls dancing troupe, famous for their high-kicking routine, performing at the London Palladium alongside the like of Judy Garland, Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth.
Avril had to borrow heavily from the bank to update the premises: “It was a bit like Fawlty Towers in its d├ęcor – my late husband didn’t believe in en suite bathrooms or TVs in the rooms although I knew this was what people would want,” she says.
The investment paid off – the Cloud’s profits increased by 800 per cent and Avril became Hampshire Businesswoman of the Year in 1995.
“I attended business seminars and got proper training,” and she was eventually asked to join the prestigious Everywoman network.
She also founded the Wessex Women’s Network and in 2008 was awarded the MBE.
Now in her 70s and still running the hotel and her network.
“When I started our busiest time was the months of July and August, when people would come for their main summer holiday,” she says. “Now we’re a top destination for short breaks and the main season extends from March to October, you can drive here from London, or come on the train and be here in time for a walk before lunch,” she says.
Cllr Alison Hoare said at the event, “Avril is the most inspiring woman I have ever met. She is a woman who when the worst thing possible happened, rolled up her sleeves and turned the Cloud into the wonderful, award winning hotel it is today. She has raised incredible amounts of money for MacMillan Cancer charity and even found the time to write a book in 2007, ‘Delighting Your Customers’. Avril epitomises the values of the New Forest and the special unique qualities of the people who live here, success through hard work, but finding the time and commitment to help and inspire others.”
Anthony Climpson has known Avril for thirty of her forty years at the hotel and describes her as, “the inspirational hotel proprietor who is one of the New Forest’s greatest advocates.”