“A Lancaster club which boosts employment and business skills for women has been awarded £260,000 by the National Lottery.
Social enterprise The Growing Club, which has been providing employment skills training, business start-up and sustainable business growth programmes for women since 2016, will use The National Lottery Community Fund cash award to support their work over the next five years.
“To be chosen for this funding in these very difficult times is just amazing,” said Jane Binnion, MD and Co-Founder of The Growing Club.”
We are thrilled to announce that The Growing Club has been awarded funding from Rosa’s Voices From the Frontline to launch a research campaign focused on neurodivergent women. Our aim is to examine the impact of late diagnosis on neurodivergent women, and the barriers they face in education and employment.
On March 14th, out of the blue, we got a phone call from Clare Fallon of Channel 4 news. She had seen our film about women aged 50+ and asked if they could come and talk to a group of our women – the next day!
For the last 5 years we have been recruiting and training women in business as mentors for the women graduating from our start-up programme.
If you have been wondering about being a mentor, we thought you might like to read the view from both sides.
Firstly, Rebecca Young, a branding designer, and young woman who graduated from her cohort in the middle of the pandemic and completed her mentoring at Christmas 2022.
“I was so grateful for the opportunity to work with a mentor as part of the Growing Club’s Roots and Shoots programme. I was paired with a brilliant mentor who I had a strong connection with. Together we created a space where there were no wrong answers and no achievement was too small to celebrate. I felt deeply understood, even when I couldn’t always find the words to express myself. It was wonderful to talk through my ideas with someone who I knew without a doubt was on my side. I left each monthly session feeling energised and positive.
My mentor taught me several practical techniques for managing my time and structuring my work week. This has been an important step towards overcoming feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as I work towards my business goals. She also supported me as I worked through projects with clients, and it was really special to share those experiences with her and hear her perspective. I now have a much clearer idea of the services I want to offer and an understanding of what clients will expect from me.
Perhaps the most important thing I have gained is the momentum to keep moving forward, one step at a time, even if my journey takes longer than someone else’s. I was really moved to hear from my mentor in our last session together that she enjoyed the experience too and is proud of what we achieved together.”
Whilst most of our mentors are local to North Lancashire / South Lakeland, Favour Onabanjo is one of our mentors who zooms in from Surrey. She is now working with her second mentee.
Favour wrote; “I have been on the Growing Club mentoring scheme for over a year now. I really enjoyed it. Firstly, I love to offer help where I can; I also derive joy in helping others to be their best. That’s my motivator.
Being a business coach, I initially found it tricky to follow the mentoring model. I am used to coaching and handholding many of my paying clients. And one of my strengths which can sometimes turn into a weakness, is giving the DRIVE that my client needs to move ahead and succeed. So, the mentoring felt like, I wasn’t working in my best capacity, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. But once I got to the swing of things. I began to blend in. I realised I was here to encourage, listen, use examples to empower them, make suggestions etc.
How interesting a mentoring journey is will be determined mostly by your mentee. Whether they are ready to do the work to make the changes, they are looking to see. One of my mentees is supercharged. I always look forward to our meeting. She’s an action-taker and takes her personal development seriously.”
As you can see, two very different personality types, and that is why we take time to carefully match mentee and mentor for best fit. And furthermore, we hold bi-monthly mentor forum meetings for sharing and support. So we don’t just throw you in there and hope for the best!
As you may have seen, on the 30th of November we held our 2nd Angels’ Den event, an evening that gave some of our start-ups the opportunity to pitch to members of the local business community, for skills support that will help them on their journey.
The evening, hosted by the Health Innovation Centre, was a huge success which beautifully showcased the innovation and entrepreneurship that we see from women in our district. What’s more, the evening also exemplified the real sense of community and mutual support that we hold in such high regard here at The Growing Club.
Glyn Jones, who is the Partnership Development manager at the Health Innovation Campus, as well as one of our Angels, said:
“[Angels’ Den was] an inspiring celebration of the entrepreneurs (as previous ones have been). I also found it to be very “real” as in, no theories or officiousness, instead people building something positive and beneficial by virtue their own efforts and diligence with pragmatic support from The Growing Club community.”
We appreciate this feedback – the personal nature of The Growing Club is something we are incredibly proud of, and it is encouraging to hear that our approach of “it takes a village…” came across with the event.
Not only did our Angels value the event, but our pitchers did also.
Jenifer Ryder, of Model Club, said that whilst it was challenging, it was good for her – that the process has helped her to find the words to relate her business to an audience and that the help she was offered has already begun to propel her and her business forward.
Karen Belton from Two Tiny Makes said that the whole experience was extremely rewarding, and went on to say “I really do think that it is wonderful that local businesses want to reach out as Angels and support new businesses. I can’t wait to meet up with my Angel in the New Year as I think it’s going to be a good jumping springboard to make my 2023 a success!” – once again highlighting the value of community-based support for businesses, which we try to foster through our work, both specifically through Angels’ Den and through our work in general.
Jane Twyman of Hedgepigs found the experience of pitching to be very affirming for her business, and alongside winning the “outstanding support” from our Angels, she also gained new contacts and customers!
We at the Growing Club also agree that it was an amazing evening, and we want to extend a huge thank you once again to everyone involved – our Angels, our pitchers, and to everyone who came to support on the evening too. Special thanks to Joanne Barlow of Access to Finance Lancashire for coaching and training our pitchers, Kelly Ann Sharp from Voice Work for providing vocal coaching beforehand and supporting on the night itself, and to Costal and Co for providing a low-carbon supper.
We look forward to holding more events like this in the future – with the success we have seen with this second event, we plan to host these every 18-months or so in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for the next opportunity!
If you would like to discuss how The Growing Club can help you, please contact us on 01524 383846
At The Growing Club we have always worked holistically with women, whether that’s women wondering “What Next?”, or starting, or growing their business, because we know how much women juggle in their life and how much they are impacted by external conditions. And I don’t need to tell you that we have gone from pandemic to winter crisis without an opportunity to catch our breath.
It was identified that during the pandemic women were hit the hardest, and we are seeing the same again. That means we all have to look out for each other right now. With the combined effects of a rising cost of heating a home, flus, COVID-19, we want to provide programmes for our women which will help to protect you this winter.
And that’s why it may look like we gone off piste with our new projects, but we know it’s all part of the support women need. And so, we are very pleased to share that, this winter, we have funding for 2 additional programmes this winter, to keep you warm, healthy and connected, and to make sure you have all the skills to understand your bills and make informed choices this winter.
Firstly, Winter Survival Programme
1. Extended Drop-in Service
Georgina Sommerville from Green Rose CIC will be at Thursday drop-in each week to discuss your own personal situation and what support you can get to reduce your household bills.
And she won’t just tell you and send you on your way.
Anyone on benefits or with a household income of £31k or under is eligible for a home visit. She is able to offer so much, so please come down and find out what you’re really eligible for.
So, if you’re struggling with high bills, a cold home, energy debt, or you’re looking to find out how to drop bills and increase comfort with simple measures, join us during our drop in service at our offices in White Cross on Thursdays. The kettle will be on, and Georgina will be able to talk through some advice and guidance to keeping warm and healthy this winter.
2. Practical makers workshops
Gabriella from The Artisan Bazaar will be coordinating makers workshops as well. These will be a warm, sociable, and practical space to learn how to simple bits which will help you to keep your home warmer and cut electrical costs out of second-hand items; draught excluders and nonelectric cook bags. We will be alternating week on week, one week doing draught excluders (a simple, but super effective tool for keeping a room warm), and the next week doing cook bags to reduce cooking expenses. These are bags which you can place a boiled pan into, and leave for a couple of hours. It will continue cooking to perfection.
And all of the equipment will be provided for you, along with hot drinks, snacks and soups!
That these will mostly be in our training room in Lancaster. Please note we can pay your bus fare, as we know it can be super expensive, especially traveling in from rural areas.
Secondly, Women and Numbers
Alongside all that we are running a comprehensive Women and Numbers programme, primarily aimed at women in Lancashire who haven’t got GCSE grade C level 4. But if any of you are struggling with any numeracy issues, including understanding your bills, please do join us. Between now and the end of February we are running 2, 4-session courses (via zoom), one-to-one support and a pricing workshop to help you work out properly what you need to be charging for your products and services – a big issue for many women in business.
This will be run by Ebony Rebecca, from RoseTintedFinancial Services. We ran a Women and Numbers workshop in the past, it was very positive so we are delighted to be running it again, and taking it further. So, watch out for that in January.
In addition, we are providinga warm working space.
You can come to our training room Mondays and Fridays for free. Our only ask is that you ring up to check that there is space. It’ll be a warm space for you to go and to get on with your admin, and save on your own energy bills. We have to pay ours anyway, so you may as well benefit from it too. If you need any help over the winter, or if there’s anything more we can do please email us. Megan, in our office, will be coordinating this project so drop her a line if you have any questions about this initiative!
At The Growing Club we work with women who want to make a change to their work situation. We have seen that, regardless of their skills and experience, many women in caring roles, myself included, end up in low paid work as the only way to balance all the demands.
Fellow Galgator, Emma Drummond, decided to retrain and join the well paid, but male dominated world of tech’. Here’s her journey :
I was on a career-type route through my twenties, which I very much enjoyed. I like to put my all into my work, so I felt I couldn’t promise that consistency once I had my children and I took low-pay roles for over a decade. Now, however, I am beginning a new career by moving into the ‘tech’ industry.
Moving into tech is a measured risk as I’ve turned my analytical approach on myself and explored aspects of the varied roles I’ve held. When I looked back, data analytical work was a driving passion throughout. Several administration roles left me time to look at the information I accumulated, from course feedback scores to employment statistics, and a very repetitive day pattern was perfected to add a research project in the gaps.
The pay of jobs in tech is astounding and I can expect to earn considerably more than I have ever as a PCR technician or administration assistant. However, joining a supportive team will be my priority as I juggle family with a more demanding and satisfying role. The tech industry is not known for its softer side, but I have met several employers recruiting “returning mums” as they have more potential and motivation. Simply by being older than the usual freshly graduated applicant means I bring many extra skills and experiences, and a greater knowledge of myself.
In a practical sense, I’ve been preparing for the career move for a few years by undertaking a project creating computer codes which predict patterns in genes. I’d looked at a few projects but getting an extensive grounding in R and Python was the reason I chose the project. Working at a distance, including through the pandemic, was a real challenge as I had to not only self-motivate but also solve many problems independently. This was both a boost for my confidence and evidence of my abilities for future employers.
The pandemic lockdown home-schooling taught me that I was stronger than I thought and that I needed to generalise my skills and make connections. I’m currently broadening my coding skills at an intense, government-funded, coding boot-camp, CODE Lancashire. The course is built around the needs of local businesses for coders confident with languages, like SQL, HTML and Python, which guarantees my employability and usefulness.
So, Angels’ Den is finally back! The event you’ve been waiting for, and the event we are so excited to put on again.
The premise of the event is much like the popular show Dragons’ Den, budding entrepreneurs have a few minutes to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of businesspeople. The twist here is everyone will be a winner. On the night, entrepreneurs from The Growing Club’s start-up programme, Roots and Shoots, will have a few minutes to pitch their start-up ideas to our panel of business “Angels”.
After all the pitchers have gone, the angels will discuss between them who can best support each woman. Everyone will be coming away with something, and it’s a great opportunity for businesses in the local area to support entrepreneurs, as what could be a small thing for one business could make all the difference to a start-up.
On the evening there will be fine company, an opportunity for networking, along with a buffet and some mulled wine, juice or hot drinks.
In the next few weeks, we will be announcing our angels. We have some familiar faces, welcoming back the support of the Chamber of Commerce, and some new faces as well. The offers from Angels are ranging from website design, accountancy, to business development and marketing strategies. So, make sure you keep your eyes on our social media accounts for these announcements, where you can follow these angels and see what there is on offer.
This event really encapsulates what we value here at The Growing Club, community, and mutual support. Mandy Blackwell, who organised the last Angels’ Den event back in 2018, said it was so special to her to have been involved in the organisation of the last event, and to be a part of an entrepreneur’s journey of starting out with an idea and seeing that idea come to life. For her now, it’s great to see years later that there are women who pitched and have businesses which are still trading.
It’s an amazing opportunity to get that confidence boost which allows an entrepreneur to go self-employed. Wendy Jones was pitched at our last Angels Den event and said that having the support from her Angel gave her that confidence to take that step and go fully self-employed. Also, having only 3 minutes made her home in on what it was she wanted.
So, this is why you should come along to this event. The evening will be celebrating mutual support and be a great night of showcasing the amazing entrepreneurship and creativity which is here in Lancaster. It’ll be a special opportunity to be a part of a woman’s step towards realising her entrepreneurial dreams.
Our successful mentor training programme is running again, aiming to train existing women in business to support other women who are beginning their business journey with their own startup, after they complete their Roots and Shoots programme.
If you have received support from The Growing Club CIC in the past, or maybe you just like what we do, we need your help so we can help other women to succeed through our Auction of Promises.
You may know that the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) ended in December, meaning people on benefits no longer receive financial or practical support from the Department of Work and Pensions to start a small business. That means many women who would have liked to use their skills and experience to become self-employed, now face a further hurdle, and if we don’t address this, starting a business will now only be an option for those with capital.
On May 20th, we are holding an Auction of Promises to build a seed fund to support women in hardship with their basic business start-up costs.
So where do you come in?
There are 4 things you can do to help us…
1. Offer a promise that people can bid for. That can be anything from offering your professional services, homemade baked goods or even a night away. Some promises we’ve already received include:
On the 20th May 2022, The Growing Club CIC are organising a fundraising event – an Auction of Promises – where donated promises are auctioned off, with money raised to create a Seed Fund to support women’s business start-up costs.
07892 712417 or 01524 383846
The Women and Enterprise Hub, 7-4-3 Cameron House, White Cross Business Park, Lancaster, LA1 4XQ
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