City Cruises

5 pieces of advice from a female CEO


There are 5 things a female CEO wishes she knew when she started out as an entrepreneur. The CEO is Samantha Gilchrist, the owner of the Gilchrist Collection, started building her wedding venue empire in 2017 after 15 years of being a wedding photographer. She’s keen to share her story to help women who are climbing the career ladder with their sights on the top positions. We cover inspirational stories of amazing women, such as Samantha, throughout March to mark Women’s History Month.

Samantha was raised by a single mum who encouraged her to aim high. That certainly bore fruit as  Samantha now oversees 12 venues, including three in America. Samantha however, is not just curating dreamy spaces—she’s a spirited businesswoman weaving dreams for couples and providing guidance for employees who want to make their own way in the world of weddings. 

“I have an open door (and open DM) policy in my office” said Samantha. “I want every employee to feel they can find support and guidance if they need it from me.” 

“When I first started purchasing wedding venues seven years ago, neither myself nor my business partner had any experience in running a wedding venue. The bank laughed at us saying they wouldn’t help us and I had to navigate building a business from nothing whilst trying to convince the bank I could have a mortgage! Going from one to two venues in different county’s  then to twelve over two continents brought huge challenges, trust me, I made mistakes!” 

Encouraging younger women is important

“On top of that being a woman in business comes with its own set of challenges, but I’m not ashamed or scared to make sure my voice is heard and I like to instil this mindset into the junior staff, in particular the younger women across the Gilchrist Collection.

“I have thought long and hard about what advice I wish I had known 7 years ago before I bought my first wedding venue, in the hope it can help other women achieve their goals or feel motivated to start their own business.

My 5 pieces of advice from a female CEO point of view aim to motivate and inspire others

1.Trust me – you do have the experience

“It’s easy to sit there and think ‘What do i know’ however its important to realise that most skills are transferable. I had spent 15 years as a wedding photographer and often thought ‘what do i know about running a venue.” In fact I knew exactly what couples wanted from their wedding venue. I was aware of what they looked for in terms of hospitality for their guests and knew what they didn’t want from overhearing complaints in between wedding photos! Make a list of the skills you have and what you are good at. I’m sure it’s a longer list than you think!” 

2. Beat that imposter syndrome

“Most people experience some doubt in their expertise and women (72%) are in fact more likely to experience imposter syndrome in the workplace than men (63%). Why do we doubt ourselves so much?

Realising that most people worry about their own expertise can be a comforting thought. You’re not alone, however it is important not to stand in your own way and let your fears prevent you from dreaming big. I often worried people wouldn’t think I had what it took to run a wedding venue business. Well if they ever did, I made it my mission to prove them wrong!”

3. Surround yourself with support

“The people you surround yourself with are crucial to your success. When you are first starting your new business the only employee may be just yourself, however other industry professionals and people in your networking circles can offer great support and advice. Be sure to return this guidance when needed. I am incredibly lucky that every person I work with at the Gilchrist Collection is exceptional at what they do and really help to grow the business and build a positive place to work”

4. Celebrate your successes

“In my opinion business is no place for false modesty! You have to be proud and shout about your successes. Allow yourself to celebrate everything you achieve. You didn’t achieve your accomplishments by chance, you did it through hard work and sheer determination. So get that braggy post up on LinkedIn and make sure your networking circle is aware of all the targets you have hit.”

5. Build up the next generation

“It’s no secret that women in business have faced a glass ceiling and we still have a long way to go. However, I aim to make it easier for the women of younger generations to achieve their goals after me. At the Gilchrist Collection I often take on the role of ‘mentor’ to members of the team.

One team member in particular I am proud of is Katie Comber, the Senior Coordinator at The Ravenswood venue. I took her under my wing when she unfortunately didn’t get the results she needed in her A Levels for her chosen career path. She has since gone on to win awards and take on a senior position at the age of 20 with an incredible future ahead of her. Women in business should be aware that they are paving the way for the next set of female entrepreneurs and it’s something to be mindful of from the day you start your business.” 

“I am truly dedicated to helping other women achieve their goals by providing strategic guidance, mentorship, and resources to help them overcome challenges and achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations. As I mentioned my DM’s are always open so feel free to drop me a message any time!” 

Here you can see the Gilchrist Collection’s full list of venues and to find out more about Samantha Gilchrist.