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Business / Support programme for female entrepreneurs gets positive feedback

AN ONLINE coaching pilot offering female entrepreneurs in Shetland a virtual programme of business support over a six-month period has proved a big success.

The W-Power Project, organised through the Unst based Pure Energy Centre and Business Gateway, identified that there was a gap in the market for extra support for female entrepreneurs.

The ‘Realise’ pilot in Shetland, delivered by Fiona Smith from Niteo Development from Orkney, comprised monthly two-hour virtual group coaching calls.

A second pilot for Orkney is now getting underway.

The sessions covered several themes and allowed time for participants to discuss solutions to entrepreneurial challenges.

The Realise programme ran from October 2020 with a mixed group of Shetland businesswomen.

There was a 100 per cent attendance rate across all six sessions.

The group continues to provide support to each other via a social media group.

The W-Power Project works with women entrepreneurs in sparsely populated areas across North and Arctic Communities encouraging them to set-up, develop and grow their businesses.

The project is funded by the Northern and Arctic Programme 2014-2021.

Those behind the project said gender issues often have a negative impact on female entrepreneurs and can limit their potential achievements.

Elizabeth Johnson from the Pure Energy Centre said: “Although our main area of business is sustainable energy, this project was one that I felt we should be involved in, given that we have strived to work in a remote rural area in an industry that was traditionally dominated by males.

“We wanted to ensure that Shetlanders and Orcadians benefitted from the project and that it delivered splendid outcomes for all involved.

“There was a gap in the market for the Realise Coaching concept and it was really humbling and exciting to see how the entrepreneurs involved felt real benefits from being involved.

“The Realise Coaching has ensured that the W-Power Project has left a lasting legacy and has an afterlife once the project has finished.”

One of the entrepreneurs, Emma Miller of Réalta Events Management, said: “Taking part in the Realise programme with fellow female entrepreneurs has helped me see that we are all facing the same challenges in setting up and trying to develop our businesses.

“Some of us are at different stages and have different experiences, and being able to share my own experience to help others, or seek support from group members has been helpful, practical and inspiring.”

It is anticipated that Business Gateway Shetland will introduce these coaching sessions as part of their ongoing support to businesses.

Business Gateway’s Kirsten Nicolson said: “We have been delighted by the uptake and success of the pilot offered to local women in business, and the excellent feedback, especially in terms of how the programme positively impacted their business development.

“We should not underestimate the power of networking, and this programme has provided the foundation for our local women entrepreneurs to support each other – which has been even more important over the past year due to the pandemic.”