By Paula Fitzsimons - National Director for Going For Growth
In every European Member State, there are more men than women starting new businesses. Given the economic, social and personal benefits that can flow from entrepreneurship, this gender gap represents a lost resource. But this is only part of the challenge, because enterprises created by female entrepreneurs mostly stay as one person, or very small micro businesses. Accordingly, the entrepreneurial effort of many female entrepreneurs has a lower return than that of their male counterparts. This has economic, social and equality implications. I designed Going for Growth to address this challenge by encouraging female owner managers to be ambitious for their business; and helping them learn the entrepreneurial skills to achieve their growth goals.
My approach nurtures growth aspiration and achievement among female entrepreneurs by combining role models; facilitated group learning with a focus on goals and milestones; and the development of networks. To achieve these results, Going for Growth harnesses the volunteer efforts of successful and high profile entrepreneurs and business women to facilitate peer learning and collaboration. These are referred to as ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’ underlining the fact that the initiative is based on entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs.
I am very happy to report that Going for Growth is now in its seventh cycle. Over 400 ambitious female entrepreneurs have been supported to enhance their capability in order to achieve significant business growth. Participant testimonials attest to the benefits gained. .
The results of the latest cycle indicate that 71% of participants experienced a growth in sales (average 15%) over the six month period. During this period, 645 existing jobs were strengthened and an additional 88 individuals were employed, (+13%). In addition, 10 interns were engaged. The number of exporters also increased (22%).
Moreover, 93% of participants reported that they felt nearer to achieving their growth ambitions; 95% indicated that the round table sessions translated into practical change in their businesses; 100% intended to stay in contact with the other participants in their group; and 100% would recommend the programme to others.
Since the pilot, Going for Growth has been recognised for its excellence. It was included by the European Commission in the 2009 selection of Good Practices and voted into the top ten of those initiatives as being most beneficial to implement. It was also highlighted by the OECD and the EU as an “inspiring practice” in a report entitled “The Missing Entrepreneurs” (2013) and accorded Good Practice by the European Institute of Gender Equality (2014), following a competitive process.
My plans for future expansion are advancing well. A pilot was successfully implemented in Finland in 2014 and active discussions are taking place to bring the initiative to other European countries so that ambitious women entrepreneurs can network, learn from each other and do business together.
To learn more about the initiative please visit the website www.goingforgrowth.com.