Female owned or managed businesses are at the forefront of helping Cumbria’s economy – after it was revealed that they Women made up more than half of those taking part in a successful support project.
Cumbria’s pioneering LEAD programme is celebrating a year of success in helping small businesses across the county face their challenges.
The LEAD (Leading Enterprise and Development) course is aimed at micro-businesses with less than 50 staff.
In the North West the percentage of female business ownership and management is around 30 per cent and falls even lower in the rural areas of Cumbria.
However, Rachael Sterrett, LEAD project manager at the University of Cumbria Business School, said: “Here in Cumbria more than 50 per cent of those who have attended LEAD are women, a figure we are delighted with.”
The programme also received widespread acclaim earlier this year for helping small business tackle the challenges thrown up by the floods that devastated the west of the county.
The figures also show that in its first year the project has helped almost 40 companies from across the county, employing more than 300 people.
The LEAD programme has been designed in conjunction with small business. It concentrates on the business itself and the personal development of owner-managers.
It is being rolled out by the University of Cumbria Business School as part of a £9.5 million plan by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) to boost small businesses in the county and across the North West.
Professor Steve Kempster, Head of the University of Cumbria Business School, said: “LEAD gives owner-managers the opportunity to focus on the growth, profitability and success of their business and will be a great help to many SMEs across the Cumbrian economy.”
Jane Maggs, who runs Wigton-based Wild and Fruitful, which makes pickles, jams and marmalade, is among the businesswoman who has attended LEAD. She is full of praise for the help it has given her in developing her business.
She said: “There wasn’t one single thing that made me think, eureka! It was more a question of ideas and suggestions seeping in gradually; things that made a huge and lasting difference to how I viewed the business.
“The sessions that were particularly helpful were the problem-sharing workshops and discussions.”
The LEAD programme is running in five locations across Cumbria over a three year period: Workington, Carlisle, Penrith, Ambleside and Furness. Recruiting for the next cohort is underway.