Cash for networking

Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan has announced £50,000 of new funding to create new networking opportunities for women nationwide.

Aspiring businesswomen are being given the unique opportunity to gain advice and support from experienced female entrepreneurs at a new series of networking events.

The sessions, run by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, are designed to introduce businesswomen to potential advisers.

This year’s programme of events follows the huge success of last year’s, which saw more than 800 people register.

More than four-fifths of attendees formed a mentoring relationship, and it is estimated this could lead to about 5,000 hours of mentoring time.

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “Women now run 20 per cent of our SMEs — a total of 1 million businesses — and we want to support even more to showcase their talent through entrepreneurship.

“We know many women still feel less confident in their business skills than men. Mentoring can bring huge benefits by boosting confidence and building know-how and that’s why I am delighted to announce new funding for these excellent events today.”

The events will kick off in Newcastle on 22 September, with further events taking place in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.

The Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop is marking the announcement with a visit to Glasgow today, where he is meeting Alex Feechan, who has benefited from mentoring in her cycling clothing business, Findra.

The government has also recruited over 15,000 small business mentors under the ‘Get Mentoring’ project, 42 per cent of whom were women.

Mentoring forms part of a package of government support for female entrepreneurs, including an online tool to help female entrepreneurs assess their business skills and find training and support to fill any gaps.

Women play a vital role in the British economy and equalising women’s productivity and employment to the same levels as men’s could add almost £600 billion to our economy. This could clear a third of our national debt.

Ruth Lowbridge, Executive Chair of the UK Sector Skills Body for Enterprise (SFEDI) and the IOEE said: “Every day we help business owners source mentoring support through our events, programmes and online business community, and it is evident to us that this form of support is absolutely critical in boosting confidence and enabling women owned businesses to achieve their potential.

“Following the success of the last Meet a Mentor events, which supported over 500 women led businesses, we’re hugely excited about our five new events, which will make a real difference to the start-up and success rates of those businesswomen attending.”

Nichola English runs The Wardrobe Provocateur, a Newcastle based business providing style and life coaching. She attended a previous Meet a Mentor event in the city, and succeeded in finding valuable mentoring support:

“I went along to the Meet a Mentor event in February. I wanted to meet somebody who had been in business, who could steer me in the right direction, give me some support and help me stay motivated. Sometimes it’s very hard on your own. That’s where I met my mentor. She helped me set out my business objectives and get myself out there, market myself more and not be afraid to show people who I am and what I do.”

Businesswomen seeking mentors and those wanting to share their knowledge and experience can sign up for the events free of charge at www.ioee.eventbrite.co.uk