Our experience and research showed that Plymouth’s workplace is problematic for women wanting fairly paid, flexible work. Many women were taking matters into their own hands to find solutions. We could see that there was a need for tailored, flexible, expert support and advice for women in Plymouth starting their own business, social enterprise, charity or community group. Thanks to the generous support of The Rank Foundation and Livewell Southwest, who have jointly funded the project, we have just delivered our first four months of SHE Plymouth, and realised we had NO IDEA just how great the need really was!
We set ourselves what we thought was an ambitious target of supporting 60 women during the first year of SHE Plymouth. So far, we’ve had 63 women sign up within four months of launching (two or three of whom had registered before we had officially launched the project at all!). At this point we are secretly hoping someone wants to set up an ethical cloning business, as we clearly need three of Jo, our brilliant Business Adviser who is supporting all these women!
After an initial avalanche of registrations, our band of ‘SHE-las’ continues to grow at a steady pace. Participants access the type of support they need, as and when they need it, including 1:1s with advisers, group workshops, events, email check-ins, online courses, and peer support. Their knowledge, skills, confidence and their fledgling organisations are growing too: business and marketing plans have been created; the often-dreaded social media marketing is developing; funding bids are being written; our first CIC has been registered; launch events are being planned; learning put into practice and, importantly, support networks are building.
One somewhat unscientific but very satisfying method of measuring progress has been to watch the development of our dedicated Facebook Group. All our SHE-las are invited to join, if they wish, and we introduce it as a safe space where they can support each other, share ideas and knowledge, ask each other questions and try things out with other women on a similar journey. It took a while but, eventually, a few women began responding to our posts, then commenting and one or two even began to post themselves. Fast forward and now our SHE-las are asking each other for advice, giving recommendations, sharing their experiences, testing each other’s feedback and market-research surveys, promoting their events, products and services, and even organising their own meet ups and potential co-working groups. It’s been an absolute privilege and joy to watch this blossom.
One highlights of the project so far has been our SHE Social - an informal, family-friendly, fun, cake-fuelled networking and peer support event, hosted upstairs at Moments Cafe and Dementia Hub. After the initial, inevitable awkwardness, our SHE-las began (with a bit of nudging) to step outside of their comfort zones and just talk to each other. This is when the magic really happened - conversations were sparked, connections were made, cake was devoured, support offered and the peer support network began to really flourish (as you can see from our lovely film below ).
Suffice it to say that we are immensely proud of the SHE Plymouth project. We are thankful to our Marketing Lead, Chelsea Batt, for crafting and sharing the message so beautifully and to Aja Cooke for her beautiful film-making. We are blown away by our new Business Adviser, Jo Dench-Owens, for delivering her support with such passion, empathy, energy and all-round awesomeness.
Most of all, we are inspired by the women of Plymouth, our incredible SHE-las, for having the entrepreneurial spirit, passion, creativity, dedication, determination and courage to take charge of their own destinies and crack on with making the world a better place. Every city needs its own SHE Project - imagine what all those amazing women could achieve…