By Olivia Preston
As the world shifts to an increasingly hybrid style of working, finding the balance between virtual and in-person interactions are essential for businesses to be productive and successful. Although working entirely online has its advantages, there is nothing like meeting colleagues or business partners face-to-face.
If the restrictions on social contact highlighted anything, it was that, despite all efforts, virtual interactions cannot replace physical ones. Without our usual routine of meeting loved ones and co-workers, the mental health of the nation worsened. In the UK, 1 in 6 adults experienced some form of depression in summer 2021 compared to just 1 in 10 the previous year.
Amid the darkness that lockdowns and uncertainty brought, new businesses headed by ingenious entrepreneurs began springing up to bridge the gap between online and in-person working and socialising. This is where Maureen Hefferman comes in.
With a background in communications and PR working for Bass PLC, a leading brewer, pub and hotel operator, Maureen has always had an ear to the ground of the hospitality sector understanding the trends to look out for next. As the owner of a thriving hospitality company since 2004, her vast experience in the industry helped her when taking the leap to create her second business.
Throughout the pandemic, as the location of where business was done shifted, so did the nature of the business itself. Maureen was one of many people who used the pandemic as a springboard to pursue a new venture despite the challenges to normal working conditions.
Maureen said, “The pandemic opened up a new avenue for me, I spotted an opportunity where people would be less likely to travel to work and would be based more locally.”
A resident of the picturesque southwest London town of Richmond for more than 25 years, Maureen saw an opportunity to change a wonderful property into something that had merely been an idea of hers. Understanding that people were unlikely to return to normal working in the short term and that they were craving socialisation, Maureen started work on what would soon be known as the Richmond Club.
Situated just a short walk away from the world-famous Royal Botanical Kew Gardens, the venue opened its doors to the public in December 2020. Providing an innovative space for locals to work, network and socialise, it has become the town’s first private member’s club.
Thousands of companies in towns and cities closed their doors temporarily or for good as the second and third waves of COVID-19 swept across the UK. Unsurprisingly, starting a business in the pandemic hasn’t been easy, especially not for Maureen who found the ordering and arranging works challenging.
Delays due to lockdowns and Brexit decisions made things difficult but she did not let this stop her. “I viewed every day as a new day, and a day closer to my goal,” Maureen said. Her winning mindset and determination was the driving force behind making the business into what it is today.
Reflecting on her favourite part of starting her business, Maureen explained that the planning and refurbishment of the premises were the most gratifying for her. “It was rewarding to inject some TLC into what was a beautiful yet neglected old building,” Maureen said, “Seeing the place transform into a stunning place to work, relax and unwind made me feel very proud.”
From gigs and family lunches to corporate meetings, the Richmond Club hosts an array of events. The club is also the new venue for the Global Woman Club’s networking breakfasts, with the first being on Monday 21st February. Hosted by CEO and founder, Mirela Sula, the event is a great opportunity to do business, connect, build meaningful relationships and create collaborations. Find out more here.
When asked why the venue fills a necessary gap missing from life as the world emerges and adapts to a new face of normality, Maureen said: “We are a social breed, there is nothing more satisfying than meeting people face-to-face. Human interaction and time for laughs and fun are so important for our mental health and self-esteem.”
Maureen’s message for any woman wanting to start their own business is simple: seize the moment and believe in yourself.
“Make sure you have done your research; spoken to friends, family and colleagues to see if there is a demand; have a plan in place and understand that cash is king to ensure you have enough cash flow to keep you from sleepless nights,” Maureen said.