Inspiring Women in Business – Abby Smith & Helen Hoile

Pioneers of successful networking group The Collective, Abby and Helen are always on the go. In addition to running The Collective, the pair both have respective family businesses, children to look after and are often involved in collaborations with local businesses – ourselves included. Here we chat to the pair about all they have achieved so far, their plans for the future, and just how they manage to fit it all in…!

Can You Tell Us about The Collective?
Firstly, thank you Rachel for the opportunity! The Collective is a CiiC ass business community offering innovative, aspirational and unique meet ups (minus those awkward old school networking bits)!

Our Collective events are changing the face of networking by offering much more than just an opportunity to connect. We seek out aspirational, independent venues, leading expert speakers and unique ways to connect to bring you innovative, game-changing Mingles and Coffee Catch-Ups. Our shared ethos and approach to life of support and collaboration lie at the heart of The Collective. Our desire is to redefine networking, both face to face and online. We want to build a thriving, supportive community of like-minded business owners and freelancers. A community that can Connect, Inspire, Inform and Collaborate as well as Celebrate themselves and their business.

Why Did We Launch The Collective?
Helen: The Collective was born out of my feelings of isolation working as a professional photographer and the overwhelm of trying to be an “expert” in everything in order to run my own business. Finding a balance between work and life is hard. It’s all too easy to become consumed by your business and to neglect physical and mental wellbeing.

When I suggested the idea of The Collective to my super friend and exercise partner Abby she said “Let’s Do It”. Abby’s background in PR and Marketing and her lovely caring nature meant that our ethos of friendship, support and warmth was there right from the beginning and was a bit of a no brainer for us.

You often give advice on Imposter Syndrome, is this something you both experienced when launching The Collective?
Abby: Yes, most definitely. There are so many inspiring, incredible people and businesses out there that it is so easy to start believing you’re not good enough. At The Collective we try to talk a lot about authenticity and being the real YOU.

In a social media driven world we are constantly bombarded with images of amazing lives and experiences. Everyone seems to be doing more and doing it better. Ignore this, this isn’t your life and it also isn’t their life, not really. Living with authenticity is the only way to be truly happy and truly real. The way you choose to live must align with your own personal beliefs to create happiness, you need to decide what is important to you and what you really want. Take the actions that align you with these beliefs and have confidence in yourself. Step away from people who don’t allow you to be the real you and get closer to those who do.

Living authentically will bring true joy, creativity, self-esteem, inner peace and love. Forming real friendships within The Collective has been amazing in helping us and hopefully our members with this.

What does a typical working day look like for you?
AWe always meet on a Monday from 7am til about 3pm to #boshit as we say! Helen is a full time Wedding Photographer and Abby has a family business plus we both have 2 young children so finding the time needed is always tricky but our Mondays always help us to stay on top of things and delegate tasks for the rest of the week.

We try to dedicate each Monday in a month to something different so all areas of the business are covered. For example the first Monday of the month is always social media planning and events. We are pretty good at putting our heads down on Mondays, brainstorming and getting stuff done and the fact that we pretty much always see eye to eye is a bonus too! It makes decision making pretty easy!

What is your message to young female professionals and entrepreneurs making their way in the world?
We would say to know your vision and stick to it. If you have passion and a vision everything else should fall into place. Our feeling behind starting The Collective so quickly at the beginning was “what’s the worst that could happen?” It was only ever going to be our egos that suffered. In that respect follow Nike’s advice and JUST DO IT! If you have an idea chances are someone else might be thinking of something similar so crack on as soon as you can and get it out there. Perfection can come later and you can fine tune your ideas as you go. The time is now as they say.

Lastly, practice resilience and always have people around you to be your sounding boards and shoulders to cry on! Having each other has proved invaluable to us as we grow our business and we don’t underestimate how hard it would be alone. There will always be haters and people telling you how to do things better. We find it’s always a good idea to say “ I better discuss that with Abby” or vice versa or “we’ll have to get back to you on this” rather than committing to anything anyone suggests straight away. This way we have always remained true to our ethos and vision, which is absolutely core to every business.

What does the future hold for The Collective?
Well, this is a huge question as we constantly have so many ideas! At the moment we are really trying to consolidate our offering in Chichester, Southsea and Worthing and work on making sure we are constantly delivering game changing events and opportunities to connect for our members. Our members are at the heart of everything we do so ensuring we are giving them value for money, even amidst global pandemics, is paramount!

We are currently trying to fine tune our online offering, believing we have a platform and an idea that could go beyond a geographical location. Our online membership is growing and, at just £7.99, we truly believe it to be amazing value. Our new monthly online summits and virtual Coffee Catch Ups have made us realise that although we truly value the importance of face to face interactions we do now have the technology to take our business online in a way that remains true to our core values.

Find out more about how to join The Collective community here.


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