Businesses from across Coventry and Warwickshire were given an insight into an inspirational expedition in temperatures as low as -56 degrees Celsius – while enjoying the summer sun at a networking event in Stratford.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s latest Women in Business Networking Lunch, at the Stratford Park Hotel & Golf Club, heard from three inspiring speakers, including Major Sandy Hennis, a reservist officer and part of the West Midland Reserve Forces & Cadets Association (WM RFCA).

Sandy told the audience about the trials and tribulations of the 1,704km Ice Maiden expedition across Antarctica, the first all-female crossing using muscle power alone, which she, and five colleagues, completed 14 days ahead of schedule, breaking three world records along the way.

Her presentation was preceded by motivating talks from Julie McGarrigle, Business Development Director at Alsters Kelley Solicitors, and Tina Costello, chief executive of the Heart of England Community Foundation.

Major Hennis said that some of the lessons learned in the harshest of conditions could be transferred into the business world.

She said: “Firstly, you have to know your team and understand what everyone’s different motivations are.

“Secondly, it’s important to be open and honest with each other and ensure that you are in a ‘psychologically safe’ environment to describe how you are feeling.

“Finally, you must all have a unity of purpose – that one goal that you are working towards together.”

Julie described how her career started in a bank and how she worked her way to becoming business development director at Alsters Kelley Solicitors, a regional law firm, despite not having any law qualifications.

She said that in business it was important to ‘expect the unexpected’ and to look closer to home when setting goals.

Tina told the audience how she had risen to lead the Heart of England Community Foundation, which under her leadership, now has £13 million in endowment and distributes funds to groups across Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands.

She said that businesses could work with the Foundation to ensure their charitable donations have the biggest impact in their communities.

Hazel Pilling, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We had three incredible speakers all from different sectors and different backgrounds but, actually, with many similarities.

“It was a truly inspiring event, which was designed to highlight great role models with fantastic stories to tell – and it really hit the mark.”

The lunch was sponsored by the West Midland Reserve Forces & Cadets Association.

Press picture: Back (left to right) – Major Sandy Hennis, Beverley Haynes (owner of The Stratford Park Hotel & Golf Club), Siamha Butt (WM RFCA). Front (left to right): Tina Costello, Hazel Pilling, Julie McGarrigle