As part of the celebrations for International Women’s Day 2022, we spoke with four women who took part in the first-ever cohort of The Growing Club CIC’s business training course in 2016. The programme is now called Bloom and Grow, helping women who are running their own businesses to do it sustainably and with strong peer support.
Connect with Ginny
Ginny Koppenhol is a portrait photographer from Lancaster. Ginny took part in the first Growing Club course for women in business.
You were part of the first-ever cohort of The Growing Club! What led you to take part?
It was fantastic to be part of the very first Growing Club cohort back in 2015. It came along at just the right time for me, shortly after I had left my 14-year career as a therapist in the NHS to start my own photography business.
I was in need of practical advice, but also the kind of support that comes from a group of women coming together to journey along together for a while. I am still in touch with many of the women now, so that initial 12-month journey has turned into something much longer which is wonderful.
What happened after you completed the course?
I am still in business and loving it! My work these days, is a combination of photo sessions and delivering photography courses and workshops, often with a mental health focus.
Of course, the challenging days do come along, but not as often these days I am happy to say. I think that comes from my growing confidence and my ability to say no quickly, to things that simply aren’t my bag. When you start out in business it’s important to say ‘yes’ to work that comes along, partly to get the money coming in, to get known, and to gain skills and knowledge.
Any tips for women in business?
My big tip is to stay mindful and reflect often. Acknowledge the things you love to do and those jobs you don’t, and if you can, do lots more of the former!
Connect with Leah
Leah Dalby is a specialist physiotherapist, covering various locations in the UK. Leah took part in the first Growing Club course for women in business.
Tell us about some of the empowering parts of the course?
The commitment to attending monthly teaching sessions and buddy support times gave us a strong commitment to one another as well as the actual learning.
I loved learning new business skills to support my businesses, having people to ask, such a variety of experiences within and without the group, people to cry with and to celebrate the many triumphs – whatever their magnitude! We were able to share ourselves as well as our businesses.
How did The Growing Club help you to grow your business?
The Growing Club helped me be profitable and gave me skills I am using again now as I relaunch my businesses after some unchosen changes in my personal circumstances. The legacy so far is a rich and wonderful balance of skills, techniques, knowledge, and deep, committed friendships.
Connect with Tamsin
Tamsin Coxhill owns Firespiral – a company that produces woven baby slings, handmade in Lancashire.
What made you decide to take part in The Growing Club?
When I signed up for the Growing Club taster session, I was in a massive state of overwhelm and looking back, I realise that I was near to breakdown/burnout.
Something about how it was advertised felt like it was possibly the lifeline that I needed.
The cartoon image that was shown during the session of a woman juggling work, baby, ironing and cooking really resonated with me and I knew that I needed to sign-up.
What benefits did you feel you gained from being part of the programme?
The main thing that I gained from the course was a massive improvement in my mental wellbeing. I met other amazing women and we were all experiencing the same feelings – it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.
They became a real support network for me and even though I am much more sorted now, I know that I could reach out to them all these years later, and be welcomed.
I also learnt some valuable practical business skills that I still apply to my business today, and feel much more confident in my skills and abilities as a result of the skills and support that I was given.
Are there any tips you would offer to other women in business?
My tip for any woman in business is to get herself a peer-mentor or listening partner (or both!). A regular splurge of what is going on both personally and professionally in a safe, non-judgmental space is totally amazing and has helped me to grow so much confidence and sense of self which in turn has benefitted my business and personal relationships. Both my peer mentoring and listening partners were from Growing Club courses that I attended.
Connect with Amanda
Amanda Gallagher owns Tinbox Angel, where she designs and creates beautiful handmade leather bags .
So almost six years on after your Growing Club business training programme – what are you up to?
So much has happened since working from my little caravan in the back garden! I’m now working from my city-centre workshop based in Lancaster, where I focus on creating my range of handmade leather products.
I completed my Level 3 Adult Learning qualification back in March 2020 (training which was accessed via The Growing Club) and I now host sneaker-making workshops, where individuals or groups can create their own pair of sneakers, using the fabulous leathers that I stock. Doing the training gave me the confidence to teach my skills to the public and I hope to roll out more themed workshops during 2022.
I’m also rolling out a full range of B2B products and I’ve been working with an incredible student from Lancaster University – Agne Ramanauskaite. We’re hoping to work with like-minded, conscientious small businesses who appreciate handcrafted products to be used in their businesses.
My husband joined the business in January 2020 and still works part-time for Tinbox Angel, along with a part-time student, who focuses on our social media presence. Will Camacho is another student who worked so hard on the sustainability side of our business, and I’m also working alongside a team of students who are researching the potential of reaching a younger market.
What do you feel you gained from The Growing Club training course?
I’m passionate about The Growing Club and without them, I don’t feel like I would have found my pathway to today’s business. I have so much to thank this organisation for, and the amazing women I have met along the way. I always sing from the rooftops about the benefits of seeking help from The Growing Club. They really are an incredible asset to Lancaster.
What are your future plans for Tinbox Angel?
The pandemic has been a terrible time for many small businesses, but we are still here, and people are slowly finding us and are loving finding such a unique and traditional business in such a modern world. We have plans to continue our growth but really want to consolidate the business now after such a difficult time both personally and professionally.
We really embrace the slow fashion movement, and we give people an insight into the care and attention that goes into a handmade product. People feel like they are walking back in time when they visit our small workshop, which is tucked away in The Covered Yard in Lancaster. We were very lucky to secure this wonderful, creative space which allows us to be a little incognito but still with access to the footfall that a city-centre location brings.
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