Press release

Jo Swinson champions speed mentoring for Scottish businesswomen

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Minister Jo Swinson joined female entrepreneurs as they pitched their businesses to established entrepreneurs in the search for mentors.

The ‘Meet a Mentor’ event in Glasgow yesterday (29 January 2015) was part of a series around the UK funded by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and run by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE).

The events connect businesswomen to more experienced entrepreneurs through speed mentoring, providing delegates with valuable advice on their business ventures as well as the opportunity to meet potential long-term mentors. Delegates are encouraged to speed mentor with at least 5 other businesswomen, as well as learning how to get the most out of these relationships and networking with other delegates.

The events are part of a package of support from the government for female entrepreneurs, including information on the Business is Great Britain website: women in enterprise with key information and advice for women setting up their own businesses.

According to Women’s Enterprise Scotland, who were partners for this event, 43% of Scottish businesswomen have used a mentor, and 90% of them found it to be a helpful experience.

Three successful events have already been held in locations across the UK, with 4 more scheduled in Southampton, Leeds, Cardiff and Birmingham. Registrations are welcome from both businesswomen who would like to mentor (who will receive training and resources) and those wanting to be mentored.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

More than a fifth of Scottish SMEs are majority owned by women and they contribute more than £5 billion to the Scottish economy. Impressively, over 80% of them have ambitions to grow their businesses over the next couple of years. And we want even more women to join them.

Mentoring is key to this. It helps to build confidence, develop key business skills and provides a network of contacts for those starting out or seeking to expand their business.

Ruth Lowbridge, Executive Chair of the UK Sector Skills Body for Enterprise (SFEDI) and the IOEE said:

Businesses that have the support of a mentor have been shown to be more likely to grow their workforce and increase their turnover when compared to non-mentored businesses. Running your own business can be extremely isolating, but a mentor can act as a valuable sounding board and be someone that you can turn to for clarity on your ideas.

One Scottish businesswoman already benefiting from mentoring is Claire Murray of Dunnet Bay Distillers, a gin distillery in Caithness. Her mentor, James Knowles, has more than 40 years’ experience in business, including leading economic development for Aberdeenshire council and heading up Grampian initiatives. Winning an award at the 2014 Mentorsme Awards for Excellence in Women’s Enterprise Mentoring, Claire said about her mentoring experience:

I cannot express in words how good this has been for me and the business. Jim has been full of ideas which he has shared with us, asking fundamental questions on things that seem obvious now but that we didn’t notice or think about in the same way, as we are so close to the day-to-day business. Mentoring has been absolutely invaluable. It’s been the best thing that I’ve done.

The IOEE is the first learning institute dedicated to developing and recognising the skills of enterprising people. It supports enterprise professionals in developing their skills and knowledge to a high standard to provide outstanding enterprise support.

The national roadshow of ‘Meet A Mentor’ events has received £150,000 of funding from the GEO. Support for the events was announced by Business Minister Jo Swinson at the 2014 Mentorsme Awards for Excellence in Women’s Enterprise mentoring event on 18 November 2014, in advance of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on 19 November 2014.

The events build on the success of the government’s ‘Get Mentoring’ project, delivered by the SFEDI, which successfully recruited and trained over 15,000 volunteers from the small business community, including over 6,000 mentors who were trained to specifically support female entrepreneurs.

To find out more information about the ‘Meet a Mentor’ events around the country, please visit the IOEE website.

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