A new accelerator will help to kick-start the entrepreneurial careers of 100 women who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic by giving them access to the skills, self-belief and confidence to pursue their ambitions as a freelancer or start-up business.
The FreelanceHER 100 programme will specifically focus on women for whom COVID has resulted in a career break and now a catalyst to entrepreneurship as well mothers seeking to return to economic activity and will also encourage applicants from the BAME community.
Women from across the 10 Greater Manchester districts will have the opportunity to apply for the scheme, which will be delivered online ensuring there are no barriers to access while weekly sessions will also ensure flexibility around work and childcare commitments.
The fully-funded three-month accelerator has been developed by IN4.0 with The Landing, the MediaCityUK-based digital innovation hub, to empower women working in digital, creative, media and technology to meet their business needs and growth ambitions.
On successfully completing the programme, the 100 freelancers will be offered 12 months business co-working space at Arrive in MediaCityUK and innovation hub membership starting at £99 per month.
FreelanceHER 100 will support participants to test and build their business ideas or freelancer service as well as develop knowledge and skills in business modelling, product development, finance, communication, and business development.
The programme will work with specialist partners, female entrepreneurs and industry experts giving participants access to a wide range of networks and a supportive community of female founders and mentors.
IN4.0 with The Landing has appointed leading digital and tech stalwart Naomi Timperley, who will lead FreelanceHER 100 as programme director.
Naomi is well known in the UK’s tech scene as co-founder of Tech North Advocates, a support system for helping start-ups and scale-ups with promotion, investment, and new talent.
She was also named Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2020.
Naomi said: “This is a first of its kind groundbreaking accelerator for women and led by women, creating an opportunity for 100 female freelancers to thrive in these challenging times.
“We want to empower female freelancers to be strong leaders, to create powerful enterprises and to influence and shape the world through their companies, using collaboration, community, and innovation.”
During the practical and bespoke programme, participants will have access to weekly workshops and peer to peer mentoring led by experts including Tina Boden, co-founder of #MicroBizMatters Day & Micro Business Expert, and Sarah Townsend, author of Survival Skills for Freelancers.
FreelanceHER 100 ambassadors will include Rose Marley, CEO – Sharpe Futures & Cooperatives UK, Beena Puri, Innovation & Partnerships Lead at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and Annette Joseph, CEO of Diverse & Equal and former Co-op Digital Delivery Manager.
Naomi added: “We want to support diverse women who have the skills to launch and lead businesses in multiple markets from idea to validation to funding readiness.
“We will ensure they can do this in a safe environment that is flexible and authentic so that after 12 weeks they have the confidence and ability to build and grow their business.”
FreelanceHER 100 has been developed by IN4.0 with The Landing as national figures show how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women from the slowing down of the economy.
Research conducted by the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has shown that women are around one third more likely to work in a job sector that has been shut down due to the pandemic, such as the hair and beauty sector, retail and hospitality.
And according to new data from LinkedIn women were less likely to be hired during peak lockdown, with female hiring reaching its lowest point in April falling to 41.5%, before recovering to 45.2% in July. In 2019, women accounted for 45.6% of hires in the UK.
While the hiring of women is returning to levels seen before the pandemic, women were starting from a lower baseline and still need to make up for the loss of hires in April and May.
Findings of LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index also showed that women are feeling significantly less confident about their future work prospects in comparison to men, and that working mums are bearing the brunt of additional childcare responsibilities.
Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group said there was an urgent need to provide the right kind of support to a cross section of women who have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
He said: “We know that because of the pandemic there are women who are now out of employment but have ambitions to use their talents to do something for themselves and Covid has catalysed their career into entrepreneurship.
“Now they have an opportunity with us through FreelanceHER 100 to help support them as they embark on that initial journey.
“This is something that is going to be distinctive, something that’s meaningful and is a support intervention to help empower female entrepreneurs and female founders in Greater Manchester.
“We know that setting up as a freelancer can be challenging as it is a new world and there are many aspects that might not be familiar.
“By giving them access to a three-month accelerator and incubator programme led by Naomi Timperley, one of the UK’s leading growth and innovation consultants, to support those entrepreneurs in the digital creative and technology sector, is going to have a significant positive impact.”
He added: “Here at IN4.0 with The Landing we want to promote our shared values of diversity and help shape the exciting future of women in the region and this includes using our expertise and our network to work towards an inclusive entrepreneurial community where everyone can thrive.”
FreelanceHER 100 will launch on 8 January to coincide with #MicroBizMatters Day.
Entries are open from 24 November 2020. Deadline for application is 31 December 2020.