The Queen of Networking | An interview with Hayley Southwood

Hi Hayley, welcome to our Journal. We are so proud to feature you. Now, we know you from the Hub and know firsthand how incredible it is. For our readers, tell us all about Southwood Social Hub.

SSH is the most incredible online networking community. We attract women from every walk of life and every industry. The thing we all have in common is that we run our businesses with creativity.

We love networking, getting to know other entrepreneurs, and creating an online family for support. Why do you think networking is so important?

Building genuine relationships helps us grow ourselves as well as our businesses. I have watched so many women join SSH and grow in confidence, develop new skills and form beautiful collaborations. This type of authentic networking helps us to reach more people, be seen, and builds trust within our industries.

Not only do you provide a Hub for female entrepreneurs to support one another, but you host weekly events [online and in-person]. Tell us more about these.

We host four online events every single week. We want our members to be able to access the community with ease whenever they need it. SSH offers different things to our members at every stage of their business. 

We also host monthly real-life meet-ups all across the UK at various locations.

You have come so far with your brand, what was the initial inspiration to launch your own?

I’m 46 and have been self-employed for 21 years. I have worked really hard over the years to create businesses that allow me to use my personal strengths and passions, creating a happy work life and create purposeful solutions to my clients and customers.

Do you feel that social media has had a crucially positive impact on your journey?

I have loved using social media to market all my businesses over the years. I adore community and connecting with like-minded souls.

Now, you’re not only the Queen of networking, but you also own Southwood Living. How did it begin?

SL was born out of my love for retail and interiors. I started with £1000 worth of stock 10 years ago. When I launched, there weren’t that many online-only retailers. It was very tricky to find wholesalers to take me seriously at the beginning as we didn’t have a brick-and-mortar store but 10 years on retail is unrecognisable! 

My online store has evolved with me over the years. We now stock lots of Norfolk artists and makers echoing my love for slow processes and authenticity.

Everyone’s toolbox when decorating a house is so different, how do you find it best to go about deciding on the final idea?

I always have a plan and a clear vision of what I am trying to create. Interiors are all about ‘feeling’ to me.

Your style is so elegant and beautifully minimalistic, have you always had an eye for home decor and final details?

I have loved interiors for as long as I can remember. My parents were a huge influence. My dad is a builder and my mum was always obsessed with interiors too. I think it’s in the veins, to be honest!

When can we come and stay!?

We’ve just launched our own little Norfolk stay – you can book via Instagram.

As we both know, the Design world is forever evolving – how do you stay on top of the latest trends?

I am not sure that I do stay on top of trends, I lean into what makes me feel good. But I do read a lot of magazines, and interior books, I love social media too and gain lots of inspiration from trips and days out.

The world’s most recent events have caused us to adapt and become more ‘digital’ with our own businesses, how did you find time at home?

In a way, the world pandemic was good for my business. It pushed me to take my business online more than ever. I gained newfound confidence around Zoom which was totally alien to me. I discovered that my energy was just as contagious online as it is in a real-life setting.

What were your productivity hacks?

Panic and survival were at the forefront of my mind during the pandemic but as the days passed I lent into holistic practices more and more. I wanted to support my community in the best way I could. Our members became my absolute driving force!

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in business? 

Being self employed has been an absolute rollercoaster. I have owned several businesses over the years and problem solving has become part of the ride that I learnt to love.

Any advice for an inspiring entrepreneur?

Never give up on your dreams, dream bigger than you can even imagine! 

Mindset is *everything*.

Do what feels good.

Try and solve problems for your clients and customers. 

Protect your boundaries.

Be careful who you spend your time with!

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