Night for women who bother

Michelle Howie, standing, chair of the Waikato Women’s Fund and self-confessed “botherer”, with radio personality Camille Guzzwell (seated left) and Franny McInnes, founder of Breastmates (seated right) at the recent Inspirational Women’s Evening at Onyx.

Cambridge women enjoyed a fun night out recently, hearing inspirational stories of other women and contributing to the Waikato Women’s Fund in the process. The Inspirational Women’s Evening was hosted by radio personality Camille Guzzwell and featured four women and their stories.

First up was local businesswoman Franny McInnes, with the talk she delivered at the TEDx Ruakura recently about how she started her successful online business, Breastmates, as a way to work from home as a new mum. From sewing reusable breast pads on her sewing machine and selling them on TradeMe, Franny now designs and sells her own maternity clothing line and other ‘must-haves’ for pregnant women and new mums online.

Franny was followed by fellow TEDx Ruakura speaker Michelle Howie, the chair of the establishment group of the Waikato Women’s Fund. Like Franny, Michelle delivered her TEDx talk, which was centred around women who bother – those women who go out of their way to make a difference in the world. Michelle is one of those women, helping to establish the Waikato Women’s Fund – a new collective that centres around investing in the wellbeing of women and girls in the region. The fund is a new model that reflects the different way women give across their lifetimes.

“The Waikato Women’s Fund is not like other funds, where membership is only permitted with donations of a certain size, because ours is a collective, not a club,” Michelle explained. A donation of any size will gain entry to the collective, “even giving five dollars gets you in as a member”.

All money raised will help to grow the fund in the Waikato region, with members having a say in how the money is distributed to local organisations and groups working to improve outcomes here for women and girls.

Then, for a bit of light relief, a couple of volunteers from the audience strapped on fake pregnant bellies and modelled some of Franny’s summer line, which the former engineer designs and has made at hand-picked, ethically sound factories in China.

Next up were rowers Lucy Spoors and Ella Greenslade, Cambridge-based rowers who are both members of the New Zealand women’s rowing eight and have recently returned from the World Championships in Bulgaria. Lucy and Ella spoke about the challenges of competing at the highest level of sport, resilience, and the importance of making sure your “green light” was on before looking around at others who may not be performing up to par.

With all money raised going towards the Waikato Women’s Fund, the night proved to be entertaining, inspirational and interesting.

Visit to find out more about the Waikato Women’s Fund.

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