Rosemary Cunningham, 52, runs the Winning Women Essex group. The group, which has just celebrated its first anniversary, is a social and business support network for women from all backgrounds in the county who run their own company or even have an idea they want to get off the ground. It’s gone from strength to strength in its first year. We grilled Rosemary, who lives in Leigh – and who has run her own complementary therapy practice in the town for 22 years – about her mission to help the women of Essex make it big in business…

Can you tell us more about your involvement with the Winning Women Essex group. What made you want to start it up?

“I started Winning women Essex in October last year. I It’s a community for women at any stage of business. People come along if they have an idea for a business or a very small business that they want to grow.

“I’ve had my own complementary therapy and coaching business since 1993 and it can be very lonely at home by yourself, doing everything from the social media to the IT then seeing clients on top! You can almost forget why you came into business in the first place which for most of us is to have an independent, satisfying work life doing something we like that also makes a difference to other people’s lives.

“We call this heart-centred business. It's not just about making money.”

What is your ambition now you have had success building up your own company?

“My main business now is to help other women have happy, successful lives and businesses.

“I attract clients who are women at a crossroads, often needing to feel good about themselves and their place in the world after a big transition such as a relationship break-up or even being widowed.

“I help them find out who they really are and what they want to bring into the world.

“I also help women have a happy, healthy relationship with money, something that is essential to run your own business. Without that we can lose it all, give it all away or struggle to charge what we are worth.”

Who is your female business icon or mentor?

“I have a mentor called Jennifer Maclean in America. She spent 27 years working in corporate America launching companies like Yahoo Canada. Like me, she is also a healer and therapist and she brings both qualities and strengths into her work, I used to be a nurse then became a therapist so I'm a nurturer by nature. I also have a business degree and have studied with some amazing entrepreneurs.

“I like to think I’m grounded but can dream big too and make it happen, hence the development of the Essex Business Women’s Experience with the help of an amazing business partner, Beccy Mae- Rose and great team too of amazing women.”

For many women taking the first step into starting their own business could be scary, do you find this a lot?

“People often come to my group as total newcomers to the world of business and completely new to networking and really anxious.

“I make them so welcome and ensure they feel looked after and cared for. This takes the fear away, people can be themselves.

There is a lot of pretence in business and I believe the more we are our authentic selves, the more people will accept us and ultimately build firmer relationships which good business can be built on.”

Do you think women have it easier than they ever have to start their own business or are there still a lot of hurdles in the way?

“There’s a lot of help out there, free training and lots of supportive groups to give you the community of like-minded business people around you.

“However, it's a big task and we often try to do everything ourselves as help can seem expensive. At Winning Women, we hold mini workshops for each other and sharing our skills generously.”

What message would you have for a woman thinking of starting her own business but has no idea how to go about it?

“Do your research. Is the idea viable? Come along to a group like Winning Women or join our Facebook site and ask others what they think.

“Use the talent of others before investing in website, logos and leaving the day job. Never be ashamed of getting a job to pay your way while your business is growing. Your business is like a newborn baby and to expect it to pay your mortgage straight away is usually just too much pressure.”

What do you think about programmes like The Apprentice? Do you think they portray business women as power hungry and even nasty sometimes?

“ I can't even watch the Apprentice. It makes me squirm!”

You recently held your first ever Women in Business Experience, in Leigh. How did it go?

“It was fantastic and we were thrilled that MP Sir David Amess was able to come along to open the event. At the event, Essex women got to learn everything from how to speak confidently to blogging to skyrocket their business. It was also an outlet to make new friends and leave inspired.”

Your group has done a lot to support women in Zambia to start up their own businesses too. What kind of pressures and hurdles do women in Zambia face when it comes to trying to be their own boss?

“I was in Zambia with our Winning Women for two weeks in September. They, like us often have no money to invest and what we have done had helped them buy seeds and give them education in organic farming and chickens, goats,fencing.

“We are so excited the three goats they bought with our donation at our launch a year ago are now nine goats! They have not eaten their investment and their 12 chickens are now maybe a hundred wandering the village!”

 For more details about how to get involved with the group visit www.globalwinning