jane binnion, founder, the growing club

MEET THE FOUNDER: JANE BINNION

The co-founder of The Growing Club, Jane Binnion, is a finalist for a Lifetime Achievement Award from She Inspires.

Here, Jane tells us a little about herself, her background and how she came to create a successful social enterprise to help women in business on all levels.

Tell us about some of your struggles in your childhood.

“After a tonsillectomy went wrong when I was four-years-old, I was left with a lifetime of speech and hearing problems. And yet now I stand in front of groups and talk about things that are important to people, including doing business differently and defining success on our own terms. Despite years of being in and out of hospital and speech therapy, it seems I was always meant to do this.


“I also grew up experiencing domestic violence, in a poor working class family. I left home at 16. Somehow, I put myself through sixth form, despite living alone in a 
bedsit. 

What happened after after college?

“In an interview at Essex University, they saw something in me and offered me an unconditional place to study sociology. That was my escape and I then spent the summer volunteering on a kibbutz.


“From there, I did postgraduate youth and community training and was a youth worker for 20 years in the more difficult and socially deprived areas of Birmingham and Lancashire.


“At 34 I became a single mum and raised an amazing daughter who came on fantastic adventures with me, including volunteering in a remote village in central Ghana.

You’ve experienced being on benefits as a single parent – what happened with that?


“Whilst employed as an advocate in a young men’s prison, a shoulder injury left me and my daughter just £80 a week Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to live on. I thought we were going to lose the house as my injury left me unable to drive. So I set up a business from home which, other than having my daughter, was the best thing I’ve ever done.

You’ve authored two books up to now. How did you start writing?

“At the age of 10, my daughter was diagnosed with dyspraxia. We then discovered I also was dyspraxic. That led me to write the first ever children’s storybook about Dyspraxia – a beautiful book called You’re So Clumsy, Charley. The emails I get from parents about the difference that the book has made to their children’s self-esteem is a huge reward to me.

“My next book was The Heart of Sales, an ethical sales skills book, as so many business owners struggle with the concept of sales and selling as part of a business.

How was The Growing Club created?

The Growing Club was an experiment I started through my own business – Ethical Business Training, as I saw a real gap in business training and support for women running micro-businesses. 

So back in 2016, myself and Rachel Holme invited women to work with us on a 12-month programme and the rest is history, as they say. 

We now have a thriving social enterprise and have already had more than 250 women go through our courses from all over North West England.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?

“Despite my disabilities and start in life, through working as a youth and community worker, women’s self-defence trainer and business trainer, I have given hundreds and hundreds of women the confidence to stand their ground, develop their skills and follow their dreams.”

What tips would you offer to women in business?

  1. Find or create a good support network.
  2. Self-care is essential – not a luxury.
  3. When you feel like quitting, rest and re-group.
  4. You can NOT do it all yourself.
roots and shoots, graduation, business support, north west

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS AND SHOOTS: BUSINESS START-UP TRAINING FOR LANCASHIRE’S WOMEN

Roots and Shoots

We’re delighted to announce the new course intake dates for the second delivery of Roots and Shoots – a funded start-up course for women who would like to start and grow a sustainable business. Could that be you? 

Beginning in June, our Roots and Shoots course runs over 12-months and has been specially created for those women who have a business idea and want to get started with it.

What is it?

The aims of the course are to take women through a systematic programme of starting and growing a solid sustainable business. We’ll show you the skills you need to run a small and successful business.

We’ll be by your side for the whole course, and we’ll surround you with a strong peer support network and our dedicated women-in-business trainers.

This course is the second wave of the start-up training, run by ourselves at our social enterprise, The Growing Club. We’re a creative business training organisation for women and we’ve has running for over three years in Lancashire. Our courses have seen over 60 women from across the north-west graduate from the business growth course and upwards of 200 women complete additional courses from our enterprise.

Funding available

Thanks to our friends at The National Lottery Fund, we’re able to offer Roots and Shoots as a fully funded course for women in receipt of benefits. If any women are not claiming benefits, we’ll ask for a donation towards the course fees, on a sliding scale which is based on your household income. Here at The Growing Club, no one will be excluded from accessing the course due to limited income. 

What they said

Jo Bates, a recent graduate from Roots and Shoots, set up her own business in natural soap making, called Rhubarb. Jo said:

“I’ve learned a lot of things that I’d never have known anything about, particularly on the marketing side. Also about understanding the customer and what it is I want to achieve. I didn’t know where to start, so the course was really valuable to me. 

“It’s fantastic to know that you’ve got someone you can ask for support and advice anytime. It’s made a massive difference to my everyday wellbeing.”

Jane Binnion, one of The Growing Club’s business trainers, said:

“We set up The Growing Club because there wasn’t any specific business education for women. The government has an agenda where if we get more women start-ups, it will really boost the local and UK economy.

“It’s really important that if we want that to happen for the economy, if we want to get more women in business, we absolutely need to do more female-friendly business support.”

“The whole programme was about taking the women from a standing start – from just an idea – right through to navigating obstacles, building confidence and really understanding the issues for women in business, so that they are able to use their skills to earn their own living.”

Why not come to the introduction meeting? This is going to be held on Wednesday 12 June, at 10.00hrs until 12.00 midday. You’ll find us at The Women and Enterprise Hub, 6-0-5 Alston House, White Cross, Lancaster LA2 4XQ.

For more information on the The Growing Club, please contact Jane Binnion or Lisa Corkerry: admin@thegrowingclub.co.uk or call 07892 712417

We require an 80% course attendance rate. Find the course dates for Roots and Shoots below – all session times start at 10.00hrs and run until 12.30hrs:

  • 2 July, 23 July
  • 6 August, 27 August
  • 3 September, 24 September
  • 8 October, 22 October
  • 5 November, 26 November
  • 3 December, 12 December 
  • 14 January 2020
  • 11 February
  • 10 March
  • 14 April
  • 12 May (Course graduation)
katie birks, growing club trainer, bloom and grow, lancaster

Meet Your Trainer: Katie Birks

Introduce yourself, please!

My name is Katie Birks from Katie Birks Branding & Design. I spend my time doing all things creative, from website design, branding, book covers to hand lettering and map illustrations.

When I’m not perfecting one of my design projects, you might find me on the yoga mat, in front of the big screen (film and tv is one of my favourite ways to experience downtime or escape) or planning my next trip abroad.

With a background in photography and production, I’m often intrigued to visit local art or photography exhibitions, particularly if I’m out of town or on a business trip – it’s a great way to add some culture to my relaxation time.

Tell us a fascinating fact about yourself.

If it counts as being fascinating, I’ve ridden an ostrich?! Although, however much of an amazing experience it was, I wouldn’t do it again and would rather make sure these animals are looked after properly and in fair conditions, because you never know how they’re treated on the other side, away from the public.

What inspires you?

As usual with creatives, inspiration comes and goes. In fact, I often find it pops up where I least expect it… and it comes in a variety of forms. It’s often from other creatives or entrepreneurs, whether they are professional artists, online inspirations or local business women – they all offer different types of inspiration to me – sometimes in the form of advice, or sometimes from the outside looking in – you can gather and learn new ideas this way too. 

What I’m reminded at in these times is to always look ahead – to broaden my horizons, experiment with something new or different (however big or small) and remember, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

What made you decide to be a trainer for The Growing Club?

Building a successful business can be a very empowering experience – but it can also take over your life. Being able to sustain, develop and make a business into anything you want it to be and do it in a way that contributes or aligns with your personal life, is a different journey all of its own.

Building a sustainable business requires time, commitment and perseverance and often a subject that you are truly passionate about.

I believe that anyone who has the dream to build a business, deserves the opportunity to be supported through the process of building it – to be part of a community, a network and a support system, which helps them achieve their goals.

For me, The Growing Club gave me the space, community and support that a sustainable business venture needs to blossom – and I’d like to offer that to any other person who could benefit from such an experience.

What are some of the pitfalls for women in business that you’ve experienced?

One of the most common pitfalls or problems for women in business can be that the majority of start-ups founded by women are done without a team or support network, which creates a very lonely and often scary environment to start building a business from.

The Growing Club offers a range of courses for women at all stages of their business and with varying levels of commitment. All of which includes an excellent peer-support system, a place for women in business to talk, problem solve and learn from one another.

Having a community of like-minded women to bounce ideas off, ask for guidance or even just meet up with for a coffee, can make a massive difference in keeping their business, goals and mindset on track. 

How can The Growing Club help women to grow their businesses sustainably?

One of the biggest things I gained from The Growing Club was confidence. Confidence in myself, whether that was in realising I was the only one in control of my business, making decisions or knowing my ability both professionally and creatively was ‘good enough’. 

There is a certain phrase that you have to be ‘good enough’ to run your own business – but good enough compared to what?! Because there’s no point in comparing yourself to others when they’re not you. You are your only self, with your goals and your business – no one else can be you, so gaining the confidence to own my business in its truest sense couldn’t have benefited me or my business more. 

In addition to the mindset, there are some key skills and training that support creating a sustainable business – from finance to sales, to automation processes. After making some minor adjustments to my day-to-day, I gained big benefits, including a deeper awareness of how to use my time (both literally and in how much my time is worth), a clearer concept of how to meet my goals and what was important to me. I also developed a fuller awareness of what I did and didn’t want my business to look like.

All of these things have provided me with ongoing skills to maintain a sustainable business and grow at the rate I want to, on my own terms.

If you could offer one time-saving tip to a woman running her own business, what would it be?

My one tip is that: you can’t control other people, you can only control what you do, what you say and how you do it. There are times when we all have to work around other people, or make sacrifices for the greater good of the business – but running a business should always be pro-active and not reactive. Don’t let other people rule how you work and spend your time, or you’ll find that you don’t run your business, they run it.

Tell me about your training course in Lancaster? 

Along with my co-trainer, Nicola Garrett, we start the Lancaster, 12-month Growth Programme in 2 weeks on May 21st 9:30-12:00. The last few spaces are currently available, so contact me directly: business@katiebirks.co.uk or get in touch with The Growing Club: admin@thegrowingclub.co.uk or call 07892 712417

Anything else?

Just that I can’t wait to get started with a new group of wonderful business women and watch them smash their goals!

crafty women, the growing club, katie birks branding & design, branding workshop

Crafty Women Heading Back to Morecambe!

We’re delighted to announce, that in conjunction with The Smallwood Trust and Morecambe’s socially-conscious design brand, Textile Candy, we will once again be offering a popular craft and design skills training course held in Morecambe.

Beginning on the 12 April 2019, Crafty Women is an eight-session weekly course, providing a unique opportunity for women crafters and makers to develop the skills and confidence to start their own ventures, with support and guidance from business trainers and women already successfully running their own design and craft businesses.

Crafty Women is a fully-funded course for local women who are in receipt of benefits or low pay and is run over eight weekly sessions at Textile Candy.

Sessions will focus around market research, getting serious about money, marketing, sales, branding and will include workshops such as social media, photography and using global handmade online marketplace, Etsy, as a sales tool.

The Growing Club has been running for three years, and we’ve seen over 60 women from across the north west graduate from the business training course and upwards of 160 women taking part our courses, which also have expanded.

Through business training and research carried out by The Growing Club, our founder and  director, Jane Binnion, has discovered many inequalities and gaps for women in business, especially in start-ups. 

Jane says: 

“When starting out in business, women will largely focus on areas where they feel most comfortable, but with the right support, they will grow. There are more than 1,000 women on out-of-work benefits in the Lancaster district and an unrecorded number of women that do not show on the statistics. In this latter case, they tend to be women who are considered unavailable for work due to being, for example, carers.

“Our courses provide bespoke training to bridge gaps in business education for women, whilst providing a strong peer support network, enabling women to run sustainable businesses.”

Crafty Women_The Growing Club
Karen receiving her Crafty Women Graduation Certificate from business trainer, Jane Binnion.

The first Crafty Womencourse concluded at the end of March 2019, and was a positive experience for everyone who attended. Feedback from the training highlighted significant benefits from women who completed the course, ranging from improvement in their health and wellbeing after attending the training, to improving self-employment outlook.

One course attendee had previously felt alienated from the world of work, due to being a woman over 50. Following the training, she talked about her experience:

“I really enjoyed taking part in the Crafty Women course. I hadn’t worked for some time because of health problems and as part of my rehabilitation from illness, I took up sewing, which really helped my recovery.

“I didn’t want to go back to the same work area, so I decided to take part in the Crafty Women training course.

“I found the course was comprehensive and covered so much in the way of content. From branding, costings, photography, right through to how social media can be applied to maximise sales – the training was broken down into achievable tasks and I learned so much. 

“I have gained confidence and skills, alongside reassurance from women who are already running their own successful businesses. It was incredibly encouraging to receive support at this level. 

“I previously I felt there would be limitedpotential for women over 50 in the workplace, due to society’s views on older workers. This course has given me hope and self-value and I’d highly recommend it.”

Some women who completed the course have progressed to join the social enterprise’s women in micro-manufacturing group and one woman has also enrolled in The Growing Club’s business growth programme.  

Places are still available for this exceptional training opportunity. Applications are particularly welcomed from the the west end of Morecambe area.

If you’d like more information on the The Growing Club and how to register, please contact us on either admin@thegrowingclub.co.uk or call 07892 712417.

The course dates for Crafty Womenare:

Friday April 12th
Tuesday April 16th (not the Friday as it’s a holiday)
Friday April 26th
Friday May 3rd
Friday May 10th
Friday May 17th
Friday May 24th
Friday May 31st

*Please note this course is now full: spaces are available for the next course – Crafty Women 3, beginning in June*

The session times run from 10.00hrs to 12.30hrs

*Main image courtesy of Ginny Koppenhol Photography.

judith loughlin, growing club trainer, preston

Meet Your Trainer: Judith Loughlin

Introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Judith and I’m a seamstress based in Preston. I specialise in manufacturing baby slings for some of the UK’s top brands.

I also provide education and support to families who wish to use slings.

A combination of my passion for textiles, traditional crafts and babywearing led me to growing this business.  I have a busy household, with a partner, four school-age children and two guinea pigs to take care of.

Currently most of our time is spent on planning the renovation of our home, which we bought last year, but there’s always time for a nice cup of tea and a sit down with my knitting.

What inspires you?

The thing that most inspires me is to always be learning and learning from other people. I am the sort of person who constantly seeks out information and great detail about everything I become interested in.

Connecting with others to hear their experiences and knowledge is  what makes me tick. I’m not into ‘small talk’ – I love conversations to be big and exciting and truthful about stuff that really matters!

Making sense of everything I learn and how it fits together is what sparks new ideas and innovation for me.

What made you decide to be a trainer for The Growing Club?

When I did the Growing Club programme, I travelled from Preston up to Lancaster to take part. I fell in love with the GC ethos and way of working. I wanted to bring that supportive community vibe into Preston to make what the GC offers, available here.

Being part of the GC will also give me the opportunity to meet, connect with and learn from the amazing women in Preston who I don’t know yet. That’s the beauty of the non-hierarchical/peer-support element of Growing Club courses. It’s an ongoing cycle of connection, support and learning. 

What are some of the pitfalls for women in business that you’ve experienced?

I think the biggest problem for many women in business is fear. Before joining the GC, I had a pathological fear of asking questions and putting myself out there.

The month spent working on ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts’ really helped me identify unhelpful patterns of belief. I could then challenge them so I could get rid of that baggage and take a more balanced view.

If, like me, you are sensitive to rejection, that fear can be hard to shake, but fears that hold us back need to be faced if we’re to grow. 

How can The Growing Club help women to grow their businesses sustainably?

The reality is that being in business for women is a different experience than it is for men. Social and cultural expectations, stereotypes of women, stories we tell ourselves and the day-to-day practicalities of how we live our lives all impact our ability to grow our businesses. The Growing Club recognises this.  

The year’s programme covers the nuts and bolts essentials of running any business, through business skills workshops. But skills training alone isn’t enough for women when the laundry is piling up, the school run is looming, we need to look in on an elderly relative and cook the tea – growing our business can drop to the bottom of the list no matter how many practical skills we have.

The second element of the course focuses on putting personal and business growth to the top of our agenda: self-care, valuing ourselves and our time, undoing unhelpful patterns of thinking and learning to think BIG! 

The final element is the peer network for support and accountability – you’re not going it alone. With GC, you’re in a cohort of 10 women, with whom you will buddy up with for mutual support in between the monthly sessions. 

If you could offer one time-saving tip to a woman running her own business, what would it be?

My best time saving tip is to avoid double-handling. This is logistics-speak for ‘don’t do the same job twice’. Planning and being pro-active is what helps me to approach things in a logical order. This means that time isn’t wasted clearing up problems later that I’ve created for myself by avoiding tasks or doing half a job in the first place.

Being pro-active saves time and reduces stress – and when we’re stressed, we’re even more prone to making mistakes!

Tell me about your training course in Preston?

The Growth Programme will run in Preston from 15th May 2019 on the third Wednesday of each month for a year.  We will be meeting at the Intact Centre, Whitby Drive, Ingol PR2 3YP.

We meet monthly for workshops on different topics, starting with Goal Setting and taking you through a year of business growth. Throughout the year you will pair up with other members of the group for a monthly ‘buddy session’ for accountability and support.

Anything else?

If you’re a woman running a business in the Central Lancashire area you can join our Facebook group ‘Growing Together – Central Lancashire Women’s Enterprise Network‘ for local networking and support. 


the growing club, trainers, bloom and grow, growth, women and enterprise hub, lancashire, cumbria

North West Women in Business: Do you need us?!

The Growing Club is growing once more! From Spring 2019, we’re delighted to be able to offer our business growth training course in additional locations.

Women in business! Are you looking to grow your businesses in a sustainable way, complete with peer-support and a full programme of unique training methods?

If so, you can now access our growth programme in three locations: Preston, Lancaster and Kendal.

The Growing Club is an award-winning, 12-month business growth programme, created especially for women who are running their own small businesses.

Unusually, The Growing Club benefits from being highly subsidised, which means you can access this programme for a reduced cost to yourself – just £395 for a year instead of the full price of £1200.

Benefits of Training with The Growing Club

• A supportive network of 10 women business owners
• Monthly facilitated sessions
• Regular inspiring guest speakers
• Accountability partners
• Action-based learning
• Peer support
• 1:1 coaching session
• Systematic process of growth
• Emotional support
• Confidence building
• Confidential space
• Workbook

Now you can access this unique business growth opportunity in three locations, starting in Spring 2019.

Why not try before you buy? We have created a short taster session in each location, where you can see what we have to offer you and your business, as well as taking part in a seminar on 6 of The Best Ways we Sabotage Ourselves in Business and how The Growing Club programme addresses these issues with real solutions.

Preston

Our Preston programme is run by Judith Loughlin and Jane Binnion. Their taster course will be held on Tuesday 5 March 2019, 10.00-12.00hrs, The Larder in Preston. You can book tickets here.

Lancaster

The programme in Lancaster is facilitated by Katie Birks and Nicola Garrett. The taster session is on Wednesday 6 March at 13.30-15.00hrs at The Women and Enterprise Hub, White Cross. Book your ticket here. For more information, call 07892 712417.

South Lakes

The South Lakes growth programme is run by Jennie Edmondson. She’s holding a taster session on Thursday 14 March 2019, 10.00-11.30hrs, at Castle Street Community Centre in Kendal. You can book a ticket here.

Any questions? We’d love to talk to you about The Growing Club and how it can help you grow your business. Drop us an email at admin@thegrowingclub.co.uk or fill in the contact form here and we’ll get back to you.