Jane Binnion from The Growing Club CIC gives an update on the work of the group, and the launch of the next cohort of the programme on 27th March.

In the aftermath of International Women’s Day and in the year we celebrate 100 years of women having the vote in the UK,  this felt like a good time to do an update on The Growing Club’s progress.

The Growing Club was started in 2016 in Lancaster as an extension of my business training business. Every woman who runs a business whilst juggling various domestic responsibilities will know that mainstream business education can be a bit lacking when it comes to understanding our challenges, and so The Growing Club was designed as an experiment to see what would happen if a group of 8 women in business worked together for a whole year. Ten women signed up back then and this month sees cohort 3 graduate, with cohort 5 starting their journey at the end of March.

In that short time we have had 42 women, from  all over the North West,  complete our female-focussed business growth programme.

Sowing Seeds.  In 2017 we went on to launch as a social enterprise, attracting funding to run enterprise programmes with socially disadvantaged women in the district. Over the last 6 months we have run  a pre-start up programme called The Sowing Club (can you see the theme?), funded by Awards for All.  We have run 4,  12 hour courses  across Lancaster and Morecambe inspiring  40 women stuck on benefits, or in low paid work, to re-engage with their skills and dreams to  create a better life for themselves and their children.  The women have very varied backgrounds, all ages from mid 20s to early 60s, women with disabilities, women refugees and women who have escaped domestic violence .

At the end of April, the Sowing Club women who are ready  to start a business  can join the comprehensive 12 month start-up programme. Those women will also be offered a long term mentor to support them through those tricky first 3 years .  We are running a free mentor training course this summer for anyone who would like to get involved that way.

In December we  set up the Women and Enterprise Hub here  in Lancaster, a fabulous space to deliver our programmes, offer occasional desk space to women who run their business from their kitchen table and run drop in sessions for start-ups.  We have the Hub warming party on March 15th and you are invited .

Why women?   Of course we get asked this a lot, so I usually let Kofi Annan  answer;

“When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.”
– Kofi Annan

In Lancaster many of our communities have been hit hard by austerity. In December 2017 we had 1,030 women claiming benefits in the district and an unknown number hidden from the statistics, but not economically active.  In addition, unemployment amongst women aged 50-64 had increased by 41% from 2011 (The commission on older women, 2013).

It is recognised globally that investing in women is a most effective way of tackling poverty and the associated community issues (Kabeer 2012)  but also this  government  has identified that if they could increase the rate of female led new business to 10%, to match male start-ups, that would contribute £180bn to the UK economy GVA by 2025 (Deloitte 2016, p.6)

 “to secure the recovery, we need to do more to maximise our competitiveness and harness female talent, both for the benefit of the UK economy and for the financial security of women and their families.”
– Maria Miller, 2013

There was in fact a significant increase in women starting out in business during the recession, however the figures actually began  falling again in 2012 and it has been identified that longevity rates for women start-ups is significantly lower than men’s  (Deloitte). This is what Jane witnessed, women putting their heart and soul into starting a business but then failing all too soon.  There are many reasons for that but the report by Deloitte identified 3 factors :

  • Lack of self belief
  • Perceived lack of key business skills
  • Lack of access to quality role models and mentors.

And this is what we address in The Growing Club, to ensure that women are running sustainable businesses – because the gig economy and zero hours contracts is not a long term solution.

What next for us?

There is just so much to do and more demand that we can manage with just Jane as the trainer, so like all small organisations we realised we need a bigger team to enable us to scale up. This year we are running a train the trainer programme and, working with a Boost Business Lancashire mentor, we will licence the programme for delivery  further afield.

If you would like to join the growth programme, The Growing Club, which starts on March 27th, visit http://thegrowingclub.co.uk/how-it-works/ or email me.

Want to Help?

As a small social enterprise we always need help and I have listed a few ideas here http://thegrowingclub.co.uk/want-to-help/.

To contact Jane Binnion email jane@thegrowingclub.co.uk or call 07521314926

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