A partnership between NatWest and the University of South Wales has helped support women entrepreneurs to start businesses and join a community of female founders.
The Developing Entrepreneurial Women Programme is a fully-funded series of masterclasses and events, delivered by the USW in partnership with NatWest Cymru.
From gaining financial and legal know-how, to developing a marketing strategy, the women on the programme have received technical knowledge to help to launch their start-up, as well as benefiting from a supportive community of business leaders.
The programme has helped 29 businesses to start, with 38 inspirational female founders delivering expert-led masterclasses and networking sessions. A total of 303 women actively engaged with the support offered by the programme, with 30 receiving the additional opportunity of business coaching and professional development sessions, addressing common barriers facing women entrepreneurs.
Nicola Morgan, Founder of The Welsh Facialist, was one of the women who took part in the programme.
Her company specialises in facials and skincare to create a bespoke offering.
She said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the programme and have felt highly supported by everyone involved.
"Being a hands-on service, Covid-19 has severely affected my business.
"Working on this programme with USW and NatWest offered me different options and showed me different ways of how I can communicate with my clients and continue to grow my business during an uncertain period.”
Cherie Arlett, Founder and Fashion Director of Shecan Closet, also took part. Shecan is a clothing line which aims to empower women.
Cherie said: “This economy is so up and down at the moment, especially starting a business in the middle of a world pandemic. It’s very volatile; you don’t know what’s going to happen. Trying to forecast how people will be spending now has been quite a challenge.
"You’ve got to be one step ahead with business anyway, but with this added pressure of the pandemic you need to be 20 steps ahead. The Developing Entrepreneurial Women programme helped by providing that support network of like-minded people to lean on during a difficult time. It also encouraged me to think of how the world is changing, and how I can adapt and market my business to keep up.
“My advice to other women entrepreneurs would be: keep that vision and passion, always keep it, no matter what you go through, and you’re going to go through some ups and downs. You’re going to get some heavy knock backs. But as long as you’ve got that passion and vision, nothing can stop you. Also be very realistic, you’re not going to be a millionaire overnight, or in a year. Don’t go into business thinking you’re going to get rich quick, go into business because it’s what you want to do and you believe in that. Lastly, don’t forget yourself. Get that balance, enjoy your life and don’t make your life all about business.”
Kimberley Thomas, Founder of Handy HR, also benefited from the programme. Handy HR is designed to make human resources less intimidating and more affordable for small businesses.
She added: “At the beginning of 2021, I had a business idea, but was unsure how I could turn it into reality. I lacked confidence, and had never really networked with others online before.
"Through the programme, I met some incredible women who were all facing the same obstacles as me. We supported each other with these barriers, including confidence, imposter syndrome, and how to stay motivated. The programme has definitely changed my mindset, allowing me to live a more positive, limitless life! Plus, I have met a fabulous bunch of women who I would now refer to as friends.
“If it wasn’t for USW and NatWest, my start up journey would have been a very isolated one. The programme gave me the chance to build relationships and learn from others. It also meant that I could build my connections across my social media platforms. This programme certainly helped me to become the person I am today. I would like to thank USW and NatWest for making this journey far from a lonely experience, and I believe the knowledge I have gained will continue to support me, on what I hope to be a fantastic, successful journey.”
Cheryl Gourlay, NatWest Cymru Board, said: “We are delighted with the overwhelming success of the Developing Entrepreneurial Women Programme in partnership with the University of South Wales. To have reached and empowered so many women is a hugely positive step forward. As a bank we have set ourselves the goal of helping create an additional 50,000 new businesses by 2023 and crucially 60% will be female-led. Grant funding of projects like this are important to us reaching more women and ensuring there are more female-led businesses throughout Wales.”