A unique service designed to help female entrepreneurs with the specific challenges women face in preparing for rapid business growth has driven strong turnover growth among participating firms, while prompting many to target new markets and launch new products.
Women Scaling Up was launched last year by Two Zero, Lancashire County Council’s scaleup support service, in response to a landmark report commissioned by Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, about the barriers faced by women leading businesses in Lancashire.
The 12 women on the programme, which began in September 2022, received six months of support, including strategic planning, profiling, boardroom masterclasses on key aspects of scaleup, executive coaching and a resilience retreat.
An independent report on the success of the programme commissioned by Two Zero showed an average 63 per cent growth in turnover among businesses taking part.
The report also highlighted that half of the participants have introduced new products to market since joining the programme. In addition, four of the 12 businesses were entering new markets by the time the programme ended in early 2023.
One of those who has launched a new product since taking part in the programme is Suzi Wynne, managing director of Wynne Business, a retail sales consultancy that provides professional sales development and marketing support for SMEs looking to launch products into multiple retailers.
She recently launched Good Intent Gifts, a new venture designed to provide artisan gift packs for retailers, corporate and online customers. Good Intent Gifts enables smaller niche producers and local brands to collaborate within a gift pack to give customers something different from the usual alcohol and chocolate.
The website’s first gift product ‘Lancashire Gift Pack’, containing locally produced food and drink products, was unveiled shortly after Suzi completed the Women Scaling Up programme.
She said: “I set up Wynne Business to help SMEs launch their products into retailers. I have always provided a consultancy service, so my new venture is the first time I have dipped into selling products.
“I see it not only as providing an innovative gift, but also, for some of the brands included in the gift boxes, it provides a new route to market.
“Taking part in the Women Scaling Up programme provided real insight for me. Being among my female peers was instrumental in keeping me on track and believing in myself to stick with the idea. They helped me sort out the ‘what ifs’ along the way and were very encouraging.”
Delivered by Role, a Lancashire business growth consultancy, Women Scaling Up included tailored coaching and peer group sessions designed to build participants’ resilience and leadership skills.
Suzi added: “The Challenging Coaching module delivered by Katy Mason was particularly helpful. I work with SMEs and provide strategic sales planning and also sales coaching, so I found her guidance extremely valuable to improve how I structure sessions and brief the client before delivery.”
Suzi will be launching into new retailers over the coming months and has secured several new corporate clients for Christmas gifting.
Lisa Sourbutts, founder and managing director of CUBE HR, also participated in the Women Scaling Up programme. Cube HR provides businesses with specialist employment law and HR services and has grown its turnover by 27 per cent since Lisa participated in the programme.
Lisa said: “My greatest takeaway was the importance of accountability. I have now set up a board that includes an external advisor who attends our monthly board meetings.
“I have met some phenomenal businesswomen through the programme that I have called upon to sound out new ideas for the business. I’ve also joined several net-walks since the programme ended and we really enjoy the positive support we share.”
Amin Vepari, programme manager, Two Zero, said: “The Growing Women, Growing Lancashire report shone a light on the challenges faced by women in leadership roles and provided a set of recommendations to improve the business landscape for female business leaders in Lancashire.
“The Women Scaling Up programme was a direct response to this report.
“There is still a huge amount of work to be done both nationally and within Lancashire to ensure female business leaders have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. However, the feedback and outcomes of the Women Scaling Up programme highlight that as a county we are making progress in ensuring our business community supports everyone in achieving their ambitions.”
The Women Scaling Up programme is two thirds funded by Lancashire County Council through Two Zero. Two Zero is a business support service for scaleup business leaders in Lancashire, its mission is to help Lancashire’s scaleup leaders learn, grow their business 20 per cent and create jobs.