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Two Zero service begins in response to county-council report on barriers to women in business

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Female business owners and decision makers from 14 leading businesses in Lancashire have joined forces to take part in a six-month support programme backed by Lancashire County Council to help prepare their organisations for rapid growth. The programme, Women Scaling Up, was launched by Two Zero, Lancashire County Council’s scaleup support service, in response to a landmark report published in August about the barriers faced by women leading businesses in Lancashire.

Women Scaling Up includes tailored coaching and peer group sessions designed to build participants’ resilience and leadership skills, along with in-depth business acumen. Those taking part in the programme include business owners and directors from a range of businesses across Lancashire such as professional services, creative industries, and the manufacturing sector.

Kelly-Ann Groves is chief operating officer at Sundown Solutions, a cloud transformation and IT consultancy based in Accrington. Kelly-Ann is the only female in the firm’s leadership team.

She is taking part in the Women Scaling Up programme to broaden her business knowledge through female mentoring and is looking forward to meeting like-minded women in similar roles and listening to their stories.

She said: “The programme offers an opportunity for me to switch off and absorb the energy and enthusiasm from other professional women. Sundown has seen rapid growth in the past three years and my role has significantly changed in that time. To coin the popular phrase ‘imposter syndrome’, sometimes I think ‘am I really the right person for this job?’”

“I see the programme as part of my personal development as a business leader alongside studying an MBA. I know I can work and perform better; I just need that next level of input and confidence that I hope to gain from Women Scaling Up to become an even stronger businesswoman.”

The programme has been launched in response to Growing Women, Growing Lancashire, a report led by Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub which analysed the landscape for females leading businesses and Lancashire, and offered recommendations about the support needed, particularly from the public sector. Among the recommendations was improved funded business support offering for female owners and leaders of businesses.

Delivered by Role, a Lancashire business growth consultancy which also co-authored the Growing Women, Growing Lancashire report, the programme begins with an outdoor experiential half day with an emphasis on leadership skills, communications skills and goal setting.

Activities include the ‘leap of faith’ where delegates climb to the heights using wooden ladders and, summoning all their courage, leap and ‘high five’ an elevated ball, whilst team members cheer them on from below. The 14 participants on the programme receive six months of support, including strategic planning, profiling, boardroom masterclasses on key aspects of scaleup, executive coaching and a resilience retreat.

County councillor Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth, Lancashire County Council added: “As a county, we must support all types of diversity in our business community. There are so many success stories of female-led businesses in Lancashire but with the right support, the number of women leading Lancashire businesses can grow further.

“The Growing Women, Growing Lancashire report provided a set of recommendations for the whole Lancashire economy to improve the business landscape for our county’s female business leaders. Currently only 20 per cent of businesses in the county are led by a woman.

“Among those was the need for improved female-focused business support and I’m proud that through Two Zero, Lancashire County Council is providing funding to help accelerate the growth of the county’s fast-growing companies.”

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. Led by Lancashire County Council, its mission is to help Lancashire’s scaleup leaders learn, grow their business 20% and create jobs.

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