Catherine Connor – Lovingly Artisan

Family business Lovingly Artisan is ran by a dynamic team headed by Aidan Monks and Catherine Connor. With the striking tagline of ‘Bread Made With Northern Soul’ this popular bakery business until recently was more focused on wholesale but since the outbreak of the pandemic, has successfully branched out into the retail market.

Catherine learnt about the Peer to Peer Networks from one of the Cumbria Growth Hub business advisers. “I immediately knew it was for me, although I had absolutely no idea what to expect I did have hopes of what I was anticipating it would offer.” Catherine described how she was eager for the network to offer her an opportunity to focus on her own self development as a business leader. “We were going through the hardest trading time we had ever experienced due to the effects of the pandemic. I was looking for encouragement, to increase my confidence, and to have challenging and enlightening conversations with other business leaders that could assist me to look at our business from a different perspective. And that is certainly what I found and much more.”

When queried about what she believed she gained the most from the Peer Networking groups she explained “The greatest value I got from the group was knowledge. And knowledge doesn’t expire. The knowledge that I received from the individuals on the group will be with me forever. It was such a wonderful opportunity, that came at perfectly the right time for our business, to connect significantly with other like-minded business leaders across Cumbria.” She continued that the participants from the Networking sessions had maintained their conversation with each other after the official Peer to Peer networking sessions had come to a conclusion. “With some of us it is not just keeping in touch, we are actually working and collaborating together on projects and business.” Catherine added that the participants of the group all contributed and triggered so many conversations and ideas that she carried back to her business. “Although it was myself physically turning up to the networking sessions- everything I gained from the group was carried into and shared with other members of the team.”

Catherine further added that she only had positive comments to make about the group facilitator, Julie. “In a very unassuming way she made you find the answers that were right for you, without giving them to you directly. She was a great listener but at the same time had a way of nudging us all forward using her action-learning facilitation skills and bonding us together as a cohesive unit at the same time.” Catherine was particularly impressed with Julie’s ability to bond the cohort even though the session was taking place online through Zoom. “Even though we weren’t sharing the same room, and she couldn’t physically feel the energy of the participants, she was able to navigate us and bring us together – so that we became so much more than a wall of faces on a computer screen.”

When asked whether she would recommend the Peer to Peer Networks to other Cumbrian businesses Catherine replied “Absolutely – because who ever you are, where ever you are in your business – even if you think you are on top of things- you can always benefit from knowing more.” She explained that participation in the group gives the members the opportunity to tap into and share the knowledge, wisdom and experiences of other businesses that are facing similar challenges and issues. “And knowledge is the one essential element that is going to get us through the difficult times we are in and the difficult times that are ahead.”