Female business leaders’ coronavirus resilience an ‘inspiration’

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The resilience of a group of fast-growing Lancashire companies throughout the coronavirus crisis has been hailed as an ‘inspiration’ to the county’s economic recovery by business leaders.

Working with Lancashire County Council’s Two Zero Female programme, the seven businesses have avoided redundancies, been awarded Government contracts and secured growth funding to support their future expansion during recent months.

The programme began in early 2020 and was delivered by Groundswell Innovation and Northern Power Women. It was originally dedicated to giving female leaders of fast-growing firms the tools to continue to scale up quickly but shifted its focus as Lancashire was hit by the effects of lockdown.

After receiving expert support and coaching to build short-term resilience and stay focused on their long-term future, all the companies are now considering external funding to support their future high-growth and several have already secured finance since engaging with the programme.

Becky Toal is managing director of Chorley based environmental consultancy Crowberry Consulting, one of the firms to take part in the programme.

She said: “The programme encouraged us to scrutinise our growth ambitions for the coming years and develop a high-quality plan to reach them. It also helped us to fully understand the types of external funding that a scaling businesses can access, and the confidence and mindset to secure them.”

Since taking part in the programme, Crowberry Consulting has been awarded a significant Government contract in partnership with global consultancy Arup, consulting the UK Government to deliver a sustainable UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next year by implementing ISO 20121 Sustainable Events Standard.

The company has also secured a £5,000 enterprise grant from Enterprise Nation to support its future growth ambitions through investment in online training platform Teachable, and now offers three ISO courses on this platform.

Becky added: “The plan from here is to grow, grow, grow. We will be looking to recruit before the end of the year and we are also considering accessing venture capital funding in future.”

The support delivered by Two Zero Female included high-performance leadership coaching using video conferencing and virtual Dragon’s Den style pitching sessions to improve the visibility of the companies in the equity funding market.

Another company which has benefited from Two Zero Female is Fresh Perspective Resourcing. After securing a £35,000 Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) loan using CBILS backing in April, the company has since secured another £35,000 CBILS loan.

The loans have helped the company to diversify through the crisis by offering online coaching for candidates and online webinars during lockdown and enable the company to push on with growing the team. Director Laura Leyland says this will position the business for sustainable growth over the coming years.

Amin Vepari, programme manager, Two Zero, said: “The resilience these companies have shown and their commitment to long-term growth plans despite the huge short-term challenges is an inspiration to all Lancashire businesses.

“We believe giving fast-growing Lancashire businesses the tools to realise their ambitions benefits the whole county and these companies have proven this through their dedication to retaining, and even looking to grow their staff base to allow them to capitalise on new markets during a difficult period.

“Figures show that female-led businesses struggle to access growth funding opportunities and the fact all of these businesses are now actively assessing external funding options is a testament to the success of Groundswell Innovation, Northern Power Women and the Two Zero Female programme.”

The businesses which benefitted from the Two Zero Female programme were: Fresh Perspective, Brilliant Trees Media, Crowberry Consulting, Education Business Partnership North West, Pie Mezzanae, Flavourfresh Salads, Hotfoot Design.

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