On Wednesday 16th November, I was invited to attend a special reception to celebrate the contribution of small business to the UK economy, by HM King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.
I have been honoured to partner with Small Business Britain for a few years now, as a Small Business Champion for the UK. Part of this role is hosting webinars on how small businesses can use LInkedIn, but locally in N.Ireland, I also host in-person meetups.
Whether it is via the Small Business Britain netwalks (held monthly in Belfast – find out more here) or my own events such as the Belfast Beehive Networking, I love getting together with other small business owners.
How did I end up meeting the King?
I received an email from the offices of the King back in October. I actually thought it was possibly a spam emaiol so I went into fact-finding mode. I looked up the person who wrote the email (a real person, yes!) on LinkedIn and found we had a connectino in common. I messaged my connection and asked if the named person was actually working with Buckingham Palace. At the same time, I posted into my small business network and asked if anyone else had received a very special invitation. Very cryptic…
Both got results. My LinkedIn connection confirmed the emailer was a real person, and in my small business network, Michelle of SBB replied and said she would email me.
So it was REAL!
I replied to the email and said I was over the moon. I was, quite possibly, one of the most enthusiastic responders to the invitation. The actual cream embossed email came in the post and because we were away I asked my mum to make sure to check the post and not let it sit outside in case it got wet. It now sits in a lovely frame behind my desk.
For the actual event, we had a lot of detail – including for me, a parking slip to allow me to park INSIDE Buckingham Palace grounds. I am not sure everyone gets that and I was really tempted to borrow a friends’ car in London to be able to say I had driven inside the grounds…. but sense prevailed.
We arrived at night, inthe rain. Huge excitement from everyone in the queue. You have to bring ID – I had my passport – and get checked at the gate by the guards. We were not supposed to take photos but were far too excited not to try…
Inside the Palace, we had a cloakroom and had to hand in our phones. They were placed inside little gold bags with Buckingham Palace on them (plastic…. not real gold!) and upstairs we headed.
This is where the excitement continued. When I went to get my name badge, it was nowhere to be found. At this stage my heart sank and I though – aha – I knew this was too good to be true. I am not meant to be here.
One of the team (the staff working at Buckingham Palace are the most friendly professional people I think I have ever come across in 30 years of working life) said, oh yes, my colleague over here has your badge.