Women and Broadband

Awards event held to celebrate the successes of local women in business

Local enterprise agency, Wenta (link opens in new window), held a celebratory awards event for local business women in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes on Thursday 10 March at Putteridge Bury, Luton.

The event, held for the second year running, had a great turnout with over 50 people attending. Attendees gathered to celebrate the achievements of local women that have started or grown their business through the ‘Women and Broadband’ scheme – a project funded by the government (DCMS UK and Broadband Delivery UK) with the support of Luton, Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Councils, to support female entrepreneurs and increase their knowledge of social media and the internet.

The awards fell into five categories: Best Business (under 12 months), Best Business (over 12 months), Best Social Media, Best Website and Outstanding Achievement.

Winners were Adina Keeley of Fashion Show Live Academy, Tanya Butler of My Bugle Ltd, Allegonda Dekenah of Alle Interiors, Tabitha Wainwright of Tabitha Mary and Alex Falcon Huerta of Soaring Falcon Accountancy.

Since the start of the Women and Broadband programme, the scheme has helped over 290 local business women to grow their business through the knowledge and understanding of social media and the internet.

Sharon Gaffney, Head of Education at Wenta, said:

“Wenta are pleased to be involved with this great scheme once again to help local women start or grow their businesses. As a result of the support, many more business women are now embracing social media and using it to get new customers and drive their businesses forward.”

Trish Etheridge, Broadband Contract Manager at Central Bedfordshire Council, said:
“Following the positive results last year, we were so pleased to be able to run this scheme again. All of the councils are making substantial investments in superfast broadband across their regions, but we need to ensure we also give people the support they need to maximise the opportunities that this new technology will bring them. With more and more women starting up their own businesses, we need to ensure that they have the support and guidance they need to succeed.”

Women and Broadband programme

After the success of last year’s Women and Broadband programme, leading enterprise agency Wenta (link opens in new window), has launched a new business support programme for female entrepreneurs living in Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

The ‘Women and Broadband’ programme, which is funded by the Government Equalities Office, has been made available to help women start or grow their own business by improving their digital skills, getting them online and taking full advantage of all the opportunities that Superfast Broadband can bring to their business.

Executive Member for Corporate Resources at Central Bedfordshire Council, Cllr Richard Wenham, said:

"With our continued investment in extending superfast broadband availability and following the success of last year's Women and Broadband programme, where we were able to give support to hundreds of local businesswomen to improve their knowledge and use of the internet and social media to start and grow their businesses, the Councils are delighted to have been successful in securing additional government funding to support a new scheme for 2015 / 16. Wenta (link opens in new window), the leading local enterprise agency who ran our scheme last year, will once again provide a wide range of free business support, networking and training to help women who are looking to start up their own business as well as established local business women that want to maximise the opportunities from new technologies."

Whether in the start-up phase or growing an existing business, the programme offers a variety of support options, including one-to-one business advice via My Incubator Ventures (link opens in new window), Wenta’s live online business support portal, one-to-one mentoring, bite-sized training courses on topics such as social media and website development as well as a range of networking opportunities to encourage peer-to-peer support.

Barbara Ashby of Crystal Bridal Bouquets said of last year's programme, "I tell everyone about Women and Broadband because I am so passionate about my business and I know how much the courses and mentoring have helped me. I just need to pick up the phone and ask for help and it is there. When I have struggled, my advisor has helped me put a plan together and kept my sanity!"

Having been in business for many years, Sonia Sharman of Beauty Talk, sought help through last year’s Women and Broadband Scheme to get a better grip of social media. Sonia commented. “I now understand more about search engine optimisation, hash tags, blogging and why social media is crucial for my business. Following a meeting with my advisor, I went home and wrote a blog on permanent make-up. I posted it across all my social media accounts and linked back to my website. I got 6,000 views and received enquiries about my courses, a great result!”

Sharon Gaffney of Wenta said, “We’re excited to be delivering this programme once again for the Councils; we are aware that there are many women business owners out there that are doing a fantastic job but not necessarily using the internet or social media effectively. This scheme will help them to increase their knowledge of online developments and encourage them to embrace new digital technologies. We also hope that the programme will encourage and support female work returners who want to start their own businesses."

Registration for the programme is free of charge and available to all females living in Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Luton or Milton Keynes.

Visit Wenta to sign up for the programme or read more information (link opens in new window)

Women and Broadband - Positive Action

The Women and Broadband project is aimed at encouraging women in business, female entrepreneurs who are under-represented in terms of entrepreneurial activity (just 20 per cent of SMEs are owned or majority owned by women), and female returners to the workforce who’s technology skills are out of date.

It is not discriminatory to target support on any group where there is evidence of disadvantage.
The Women and Broadband project is aimed at encouraging women entrepreneurs, as women are under-represented in terms of entrepreneurial activity.

The government has taken a number of steps to target enterprise support at women, e.g. investing £1.6m in rural growth networks to support women entrepreneurs in rural areas, so this is consistent with other government programmes.

Positive action can be taken when 3 conditions are met:

Number 1: You must reasonably think that a group of people who share a protected characteristic and who are, or who could be, using your services:

  • suffer a disadvantage linked to that characteristic
  • have a disproportionately low level of participation in this type of service or activity
  • need different things from this service from other groups

‘Reasonably think’ means that you can see the disadvantage, low level of participation or different needs.

Number 2: The action you take is intended to:

  • meet the group’s different needs
  • enable or encourage the group to overcome or minimise that disadvantage
  • enable or encourage the group to participate in that activity

Number 3: The action you take is a proportionate way to increase participation, meet different needs or overcome disadvantage. This means that the action is appropriate to that aim and that other action would be less effective in achieving this aim or likely to cause greater disadvantage to other groups.

The UK Broadband Impact Study identifies that the superfast broadband programme will enable a net annual GVA impact of £200,000 and net household savings of £45 million per annum by 2024 by extending teleworking. The opportunity to work flexibly from home will support women to participate in the workforce and in enterprise on a more equal basis. The potential GVA impact and net household savings identified in the UK Broadband Impact Study will only be achieved if women are encouraged to take up the opportunity presented by the superfast broadband rollout to improve their economic wellbeing.

The Women’s Business Council: findings and recommendations on enterprise, June 2013, found that equalising labour force participation rates of men and women, could increase economic growth by 0.5% per year, with a potential gain of 10% of GDP by 2030. In addition, there could be an extra 1 million female entrepreneurs if women started businesses at the same rate as men; and that there are over 2.4 million women who are not in work but want to work, and over 1.3 million women who want to work more hours.

The GEM 2013 Women’s Report (link opens in new window) further found that women are more likely to say that fear of failure is a barrier to enterprise than men. Just over two fifths of women (46.4 per cent) said fear of failure would stop them from starting a business compared with a third (40.5 per cent) of men.

The internet provides significant value to the UK economy. The Internet economy in the UK is worth 8.3% of GDP – more than any other G20 country and twice the G20 average – and is projected to grow to 12.4% by 2016 (Boston Consulting Group, March 2012). Faster broadband is estimated to add £17 billion to the UK’s economy by 2024 (SQW for DCMS, Nov 2013). The UK now leads the top five EU Member States for broadband and mobile coverage, take up, usage, choice and price (Ofcom European Broadband Scorecard 2014).

The Women and Broadband Challenge Fund provides an opportunity for women-led businesses and potential female entrepreneurs to take advantage of faster broadband to expand or set-up new businesses, including home-based. The Challenge Fund will support actions to encourage women’s enterprise in areas where the government's Superfast Broadband programme is being deployed, building on the investment in broadband by supporting women to develop the digital know-how and confidence to fully benefit from it.

Case studies of Women and Broadband success stories

Please read below a sample of the great success stories that the Women and Broadband scheme has produced in the past:

Laura Hunt (Teddy Bear Artist) (PDF 265.3KB)

Maggie Nicholls (Allergen-Free Home Baker) (PDF 155.4KB)

Hermine Hodson (Motivational Speaker) (PDF 130.4KB)

Yasmin Ali (Clay Jeweller) (PDF 153.7KB)

Sonia Sharman (Make-Up Artist) (PDF 196.1KB)

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