By brighton1973, Mar 11 2015 10:08AM
‘Make it happen’ was the theme of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2015 and according to Becky Shaw, Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council, who was a guest speaker at the Swift Project Celebration and Exhibition on 9th March, “that’s exactly what the women participants on the Swift Project have done.”
The Swift Project, supported self-employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for women by enhancing their digital skills and enabling them to take advantage of faster and more reliable broadband that ESCC are putting in place, particularly in rural areas. Over 40 women signed up to access the part-time training and support funded by the Government Equalities Office and run in partnership by ESCC, local charity - Sound Architect and MDHUB - a peer to peer business growth network for Managing Directors.
Since October 2014, the entrepreneurial women, some already running established businesses and some who wanted help and advice to get started, have been attending courses on digital skills such as social media, Powerpoint, Excel and web design, and business and personal development courses, for example, creating a business plan, marketing, time management and presentation skills. They also attended regular peer-to-peer groups to share knowledge and experience with the support of a business mentor.
Over 70 people gathered at the end of project celebration event at Buxted Park Hotel to view an exhibition of the Swift Participants’ business ideas, watch a film about the project and to hear from a range of guest speakers including Becky Shaw, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex - Peter Field, Frances Tobin of the Makers Atelier, Abi Kolliari from American Express, and Baroness Garden of Frognal.
Said Peter Field, “The energy that is buzzing around this room is fantastic and I want to congratulate everyone involved in the project. It’s absolutely vital that we expand the self-employed business sector and develop great ideas in a safe environment and that’s exactly what’s happened here.”
Baroness Garden, who was a member of the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee during 2014, said “It’s increasingly important to have good connectivity and the Government are making good progress, but women are under-represented in IT and an additional £2.6 billion a year could be created by involving more women in digital skills.”
Becky Shaw said, “If women started businesses at the same rate as men, then we would have a million more women in business. The most important thing that stops women from going into business is the risk of failure and this project recognised that by providing peer to peer sessions which have afforded a network of support going forward.”
According to Rachel Lewis, Chief Executive of Sound Architect, “This project has given women in East Sussex an amazing opportunity to develop their businesses; however, with the programme being heavily oversubscribed it is clear that there are many more women in the County that could benefit. We will continue to seek to capitalise on the success of the Swift Project and to help another cohort of entrepreneurial women contribute to the economy of East Sussex.”