A regional programme designed to help women develop their digital skills and improve business practice, has culminated with a conference in Exeter.
And fittingly, the Love Digital event took place at Exeter Library on Tuesday - International Women’s Day.
The Love Digital programme was funded by the Women and Broadband Challenge fund and supported by the Government Equalities Office. The programme is a part of Connecting Devon and Somerset and has been delivered by Cosmic, Peninsula Enterprise and Westward Pathfinder.
Julie Hawker, CEO of Cosmic, said: ‘Cosmic has been working in partnership to deliver this exciting project. We developed a bespoke programme which gave support to a group of women through a blend of face to face and virtual mentoring, workshops and events.
‘It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, both for the women taking part and for the mentors. We have seen people make giant leaps in their use of technology, bringing real benefits to their businesses.’
Love Digital was delivered over two phases, the first phase consisted of free workshops and training sessions for women in Devon and Somerset. The second phase, which finishes at the end of March, involved supporting 30 women from across the region with a direct mentoring programme.
Around 80 women attended the conference, which was held over one day at the library. It featured case studies from women who had taken part in the programme, a series of masterclasses and a chance to look at the services offered by the library’s fab lab.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy, Growth and Cabinet Liaison for Exeter said: ‘We were delighted to have won the funding to deliver this innovative project on behalf of the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme. Love Digital supports women across Devon and Somerset to develop their digital skills and drive their businesses forward.”
Joanne Manville, who runs her own Virtual Assistance business, took part in the programme and received mentoring from a member of the Cosmic team.
She said: ‘After working for ten years as an Executive Personal Assistant, I set up my own company in October 2015 providing PA and business support services to small businesses who need help but are not in a position yet to employ help full time staff.
‘I really felt that I needed to learn how to use digital resources from a business perspective, and that it was important that I had a good understanding of a lot of the technology available to increase my knowledge base and enable me to make informed recommendations to my clients.
She added: ‘I’m now almost fully booked now so it’s going to be even more important to make sure I keep up all the best practice that I’ve learned.’
Rachel, Goymer, owner of Tiddler & Fox, a new online business selling upcycled vintage furniture and homewares and handmade crafts, also received one-to-one mentoring through the programme.
She said: ‘I have some fairly tall ambitions for my business and know that with my newly found confidence in digital this will be achievable. I am also pushing my business in other directions and I have just taken on space at a local emporium and sales are starting to take off and I will be moving into another successful emporium in Dorset next week.
‘Meeting all these amazing business women has definitely been one of the highlights of this programme, I am bowled over by the talent that I have encountered and it also gives me great hope for my business as it starts to take off - I know that I have a great foundation to work on now and feel confident that it will be a success.’