Walking into the IoD’s headquarters in London recently, I was struck by the buzz about the place. Everywhere I could see people of all ages side by side, working on their laptops or holding meetings. There are now a range of companies providing co-working spaces across the city, but in many ways the IoD was the first, opening the Directors Rooms on Pall Mall nearly 40 years ago. We may be known for our beautiful historical building, but there is nothing stuffy about the IoD. Our appeal is very broad, reaching across the UK and including companies of every type, and gets broader every month. As many people know, I have made it one of my highest priorities to open our doors wider to women and to grow the diversity of our members.
The impressive thing about this particular day was the number of young people who were happily chatting and working, wearing no ties and informal clothes, and looking completely at home in our elegant surroundings. As some of you may remember, one of my other highest priorities when I became chairman was to involve more young people in the IoD, and that is being accomplished as we speak.
Some time ago, the IoD began a specific initiative called “IoD 99” to attract young members. This group started in 2015 and today has grown to over 1,400. Membership is open to anyone aged 18-40 who is a founder or co-founder of business which has an annual turnover of less than £3 million and has been established for 5 years or less. To date we have over 1,400 members of which 900 came on board in 2016. So far 350 new members have joined in 2017.
The IoD 99 holds excellent events within various communities across the country. Some are held in partnership with tech companies, and others are stand-alone events by the IoD.
For International Women’s Day, we did an event with speeches from Debbie Wosskow and Sarah Wood, who are leading lights of female entrepreneurship. Indeed, one of the best attributes of IoD 99 from my point of view is that its membership is approximately 40% women, a figure I would be keen to see across our entire membership base.
I personally recommended a number of young entrepreneurs to join this impressive group. Accordingly, I have heard first-hand how much value they feel they have received from being part of this community. These young entrepreneurs can call our information and advisory services to get help with market research and our legal and tax hotlines to assist the establishment of their new ventures. Additionally, the networking events have provided the basis for new partnerships, joint ventures and other kinds of alliances. This is all particularly gratifying,
What I had originally hoped for was that the IoD would become a hotbed of entrepreneurship, and it looks like we soon may be labelled the “Shoreditch of Central London.”
To see for yourself the benefits and be part of this truly inspiring network, you can join the IoD 99 here.
Lady Barbara Judge CBE