Ann Hawkins

LinkedInFor ten years, Ann Hawkins ran one of the most successful networking groups in Cambridgeshire.

She founded The Inspired Group in 2005 and ran meetings every month until 2015, attracting between 40 and 70 people to each event. One memorable evening brought together over 200 networkers and raised over £10,000 for charity.

Ann attributes the success of The Inspired Group to the mixture of on-line and off-line networking and she became an expert in building and blending both types of communities. As a natural introvert who had to over come her own reluctance, there isn’t much she doesn’t know about networking!

The Inspired Group became a peer learning group for business owners, and Ann now runs workshops, MasterMind Groups, and on-line learning programmes to help business owners to create profitable enterprises, with the focus on having fun as well as making money. Ann uses her understanding of psychology to help business owners find the solutions that best fit their personalities. The Business Hub, The Inspired Group and The Social Media Show logos

Ann revels in helping business owners to shine.The a-Z of Business Success Logo

She co-founded and presented The Business Hub radio show for five years and interviewed hundreds of people about their businesses. The A-Z of Business Success series drew on the experience of many of the business owners in her network.

Ann started her first business in 1986, training people in interpersonal skills and helping them to communicate better in every medium. An early adopter of social networking, Ann has been blogging consistently since 2005, joined LinkedIn in 2008 and Twitter in 2009.  It took a little longer for her to be convinced about Facebook but she now runs several successful Facebook Groups. From 2013 – 2015 Ann presented The Social Media Show, interviewing major players about best practice in this fast moving world.

Network for life, not just for business

Having created a large and very diverse on-line as well as face to face network, Ann’s current mission is to help people to join the dots and make networking a holistic experience, not just for business, but for life. As a jazz, art and literature fan she consistently finds people who share her interests and happily dives into the latest technology to explore new possibilities for connecting and communicating.


In 2014 Ann wrote New Business Next Steps with co-author Ed Goodman, published by Pearson in 2015, and followed this with an on-line programme called Work Smart Not Hard (How to build a better business with less effort).

Ann’s most recent project was to help re-build Pitch for People, a free platform that helps people with projects find the talent they need to make them fly and supports the freelance community.

Ann is an egalitarian and has been an active champion of equal rights for over 30 years. She is particularly proud of her Pecha Kucha talk – a six minute presentation on “Disabling Labelling” that has been viewed by over 3,000 people world wide.

You can get free advice on Ann’s blog, connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin and take part in wide ranging discussions with over 650 business owners on Facebook. She swears a bit and laughs a lot but her business advice is always 100% practical and laser-sharp.

Why did you decide to start Drive?

“Networking has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Tools like Eventbrite and MeetUp and the whole social networking phenomenon make it easy to start groups and I see a lot of people doing this because they want something different but then they struggle to keep them going. I want to help people not only create successful networking groups that meet their own needs but to have access to support, training and resources that make them really effective for their members.

Every area has a different culture, a different mix of businesses and different needs, and  I see Drive as a way to provide a framework that encourages flexibility and co-operation with other networking groups. The aim is for every group to have an individual, local flavour but with all the benefits of a national organisation with support for training, marketing, running events, and finding speakers.

More than anything, I want people who run the groups to share in the profits rather than do it for nothing, which a lot of organisers end up doing – often to the detriment of their own businesses.

Too may people have had bad experiences of networking and missed out on the fun, the friendship and the support for growing their businesses that I know good networking can provide.

There are over 5 million small businesses in this country and most of them don’t get the best support that is available, which is from their peer group, and Drive is a way to help change all that.”

Ann Hawkins Business Mentor compilation of photos