Jane Binnion talks about a Pay-It-Forward grant scheme operating for Women in Business in Lancashire, to help startups and existing businesses.
The Growing Club ran their first 12-month course for 10 women running micro-businesses as an experiment back in January 2016, and we started our 11th cohort on October 12th this year.
The women gather for this fabulous programme once a month in Lancaster, and although we have been asked to run our programmes elsewhere, we simply didn’t have the resources to be travelling around the UK to do that.
Whilst we had women join us from all over the North West, the nature of women’s lives, coupled with chronic traffic issues means that face-to-face programmes aren’t for everyone.
And then, of course, came the pandemic lockdown, and we took the entirety of our work online within just one week. We learned that for some women, this made our work much more accessible to them.
So we had the crazy idea to spend a week in a recording studio and film all of the modules, for both the growth programme and the start-up programme, and condensing it into 6-months’ worth of bite-sized chunks.
We know the pitfalls of e-courses: you pay a lot of money thinking it will motivate you to do it, sign up and then never complete. We’ve all been there, but we really don’t want that to be how women experience our courses, so we have combined learn at your own pace with monthly group work for accountability and to break that isolation, combined with our highly effective buddy system.
Plus, like most of our work, being a social enterprise, the course is heavily subsidised. However, we also know that female-led businesses have had a particularly hard time during the pandemic and investing in a programme (even a brilliant one like this) can be a challenge, and so Boost – Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub – very generously provided a grant for Lancashire businesses who want to participate.
What is a Pay-It-Forward Grant?
This grant means that Boost pays your programme fees so you can participate and get your business healthy again and on a sustainable growth track. And then next year, when your bank balance is looking healthier, you pay-it-forward by paying for another woman to participate in a programme.
But, there is lots of free business support: why do we have to pay for this?
There is indeed lots of funded business support, but mostly that’s just 12-hours in total. Our experience suggests that women running micro-businesses need more than that at the best of times, but especially in this economic climate where so many women are very stressed and overwhelmed. Our programmes are run by and for women running micro-businesses, so we know what it’s like.
Also, we don’t get government funding for our startup and growth programmes, and we choose to pay our trainers a decent living wage, just like we want you to be paying yourself for all your hard work.
We trialled the e-programme last Autumn so that we could get feedback and tweak sections. Nikki Cookson took advantage of the Pay-It-Forward grant and joined the e-programme. You can read her experience of the programme here.
To apply for a place via the Boost Pay-It-Forward grant, please email Jane@thegrowingclub.co.uk