Pathways Fund backs successful pilot for aspiring female entrepreneurs

Pathways Fund backs successful pilot for aspiring female entrepreneurs

The E3f Moray group

More than 90% of participants who took part in a pilot scheme aiming to inspire female entrepreneurs have said they now feel ready to start their own businesses.

E3f, a six-week pilot programme, was run by Elevator – a social enterprise which supports entrepreneurship and employability across Scotland – and aimed to help women turn their business aspirations into a reality.

Funded by the Scottish Government through their Pathways Fund, E3f gave participants the chance to connect with like-minded women, sharing experiences and building lasting connections.

The project aimed to empower female entrepreneurs in Scotland by targeting three distinct communities: rural, socio-economic challenges, and black and ethnic minority women. E3f engaged with groups in Moray, Angus and South Glasgow who had business ideas to explore.

Interactive workshops helped participants enhance skills, boost their confidence and equip them for success. From idea generation to practical sessions, the free programme covered topics to propel them to success and self-discovery.

A digital platform offering continued support will provide access to resources and help nurture and consolidate connections made, continuing the journey with the support of the E3f community.

An independent evaluation of the programme was carried out by Margaret Gibson OBE, who has held senior roles in a number of organisations. She was a founding trustee of smartSTEMS, a charity inspiring young women into STEM careers, deputy chief executive of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust and a volunteer with Young Enterprise Scotland. Ms Gibson was also the first woman in Scotland to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion.

She summarised that this was “a well-conceived thought-out pilot programme delivered to a high standard. The targeted areas were chosen as three very different geographical locations with different concentrations of registered female-owned businesses”.

Pathways Fund backs successful pilot for aspiring female entrepreneurs

The E3f Glasgow cohort

Nearly 60 women joined the cohorts with 100% of respondents in the programme feedback stating they would go on to start a business, with over 90% feeling they are ready to do so now.

The flexibility of delivery methods between in-person and online left the women feeling empowered to say what worked best for them.

The key takeaways were:

  • The provision of women-only spaces was significant and successful in allowing participants the safe space to share personal experiences, vulnerabilities and challenges without judgement.
  • Transport and childcare issues continue to generally cause women more challenges than men.
  • There were issues relating to levels of IT skills and literacy; however, the coordinators supported the women to overcome some of these and find workable solutions.
  • The focus on women as individuals and concentration on ‘soft skills’ was key to success.
  • Challenges often existed around a lack of family / partner support for their business ideas.
  • The use of locally based female small business owners as facilitators was inspiring and relatable.

The programme was delivered by Lucy Steading, Cat Ward and Blessing Shamaki, who all have acclaimed backgrounds in business development and mentoring.

Rachel Ross, Elevator’s strengthening communities director, said: “The pilot feedback has been inspiring. So many participants have benefited from focusing on their own personal skills and the guidance given on how to overcome barriers that stop them from taking their business ideas to the next stage.

“Increased confidence, along with a newfound community of like-minded women providing a supportive network for each other, are major outcomes of the pilot.

“At Elevator, we are committed to provide opportunities to help women thrive in their entrepreneurial journey. Women in business, diversity and inclusion are critical to unlocking Scotland’s economic potential and we are delighted to play our part in providing positive change.”

The Scottish Government’s Pathways Fund was prompted by an independent review into women in entrepreneurship in Scotland, authored by Ana Stewart and Mark Logan. Based on data analysis and stakeholder engagement, the report’s recommendations sought to address the root causes of female under-participation in entrepreneurship.

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