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 Enterprise target at risk as crisis hits women’s advice

U.K. Government hopes that women will run one in five businesses by 2006 are in serious doubt after a new report revealed support services are embroiled in a financial crisis.

Whilst Small business in Gwynedd are left reeling in the wake of the Antur Dwyryd Llyn fiasco, a new report just out shows a U.K. wide problem as key sources of revenue, such as European structural funds, tail off.

More than a year after the Department for Trade and Industry’s Small Business Service launched its strategic framework for women’s enterprise, little progress has been made and some support agencies could go bust. (should read -will continue to go bust).

Key figures from the women’s enterprise support sector have warned irrevocable damage could be caused unless action is taken quickly. The stark warning comes in Show us the money, a report launched on Monday by small business minister Nigel Griffiths.

Written by Prowess, a UK-wide network promoting women’s enterprise, it calls on the government and regional development agencies to back up the framework with a long-term funding strategy.

With RDAs due to take over Business Links from the SBS next year, they will soon hold the majority of available resources. But Erika Watson, executive director of Prowess, said RDAs were not yet up to speed and further delays could leave the sector having to ‘start from scratch’.

While some, such as East Midlands Development Agency (Emda), had made women’s enterprise a priority, progress on the whole was too slow, she said. ‘Women are a very big part of the economy and it’s something that ought to be higher up agencies’ priorities. It’s potentially quite an easy win for them.’

While the SBS has set a target of 18-20% of businesses being run by women in two years’ time, the figure currently stands at between 12% and 14%. In Wales it's worse- Out of the 140,000 or so businesses in Wales, only around 2,000 women owned businesses , reach the VAT turnover threshold.


The report calls for support for women to become a core service of Business Links and for a ‘securely funded’ national network of women’s business centres.

Despite the combined £Billions of the Welsh organisations such as ELWa, WDA, whose remits are to assist businesses,and, develop the Welsh skill base. Welsh Women Owned Businesses, are just not offered "flexible quality training, and, support to allow them to conduct business online, and ,compete within the market place" .

Jean Bartlett, Director, The Bag Lady says- "...When the WDA secures funding and, in access of £4 Million is poured into one e-commerce programme, and, that programme is managed by a WDA employee with no e-commerce skills, not the best of consultants recruited. Then it is, little wonder that yet again, another WDA programme was unsuccessful. It is therefore no surprise that many small businesses continue to sit on the sidelines when it comes to e-commerce.

However, major concerns must be that with around half of all self-employed people in the UK earning less than £10,000 a year, with growing proportion of the self-employed relying on their own personal skills for their income, 'developing their skill base, and, having availability of affordable quality training is paramount' to them.

With 875,000 "women" in self employment in the UK, and, considering that working women with young children are having to set aside up to two thirds of their earnings just to pay for childcare, then, they have very little if at all, money, to invest in training courses to develop their 'skills'.

It is these women who are heavily reliant on government agencies, the likes of the Welsh WDA, ELWa, and, the universities getting it right. As it is, it is these organisations which more often than not, have easy access to EU and, central government funding, and, which can offer 'Free, or heavily subsidised courses, and, assistance to businesses.

They must get it right, if many women in business, particularly those who are "the sole income providers in their households". It should not be acceptable to see valuable funding wasted, on offering courses, business programmes, that are out-dated, and, that leaves businesses no better off. Moreso courses which simply do not assist in developing their skill base to increase productive, sales,and, ultimately 'profitability', and, incomes..."

Alison McFarlane, chief executive of Norfolk-based Women’s Employment, Enterprise and Training Unit, said: ‘We need core funding. We can’t meet demand and are having to put people on waiting lists. This isn’t a money-grabbing issue. We are the organisations that are delivering and can help the RDAs and the DTI reach their targets.’

A spokesperson for Emda, which is launching the UK’s first directory of business support for women this week, said: ‘We recognise that there is a tremendous source of untapped energy and potential among our women entrepreneurs and are already developing specific programmes aimed at encouraging them to start their own businesses.’

Sources- prowess, emda, prweb.com, Newstart, bagladyit.com.



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