RGU female entrepreneurship programme to be rolled-out nationwide

Left to Right: Candace Elson and participant Leticia Gaidon Bradford

ROBERT Gordon University (RGU) has been awarded government funding to pilot the roll-out of one of its nationally award-winning entrepreneurial programmes across two regions, anchored in two other Scottish universities.

Led by RGU, the three universities will receive over £83,000 from the Pathways Pre-start Fund to extend the reach of RGU’s successful Women in Business initiative, partnering with the University of Stirling and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) to commence delivery in several new local authority areas to support women with parental responsibilities to start new ventures.

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Having launched in 2021 in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, the programme has so far supported 69 women who are considering starting their own business venture or entering self-employment while simultaneously supporting their parental needs. Earlier in 2023 the programme won the Outstanding Business Engagement award at The Herald Higher Education Scotland Awards.

Through online, interactive workshops over a seven-week period, it takes participants through the necessary steps to create a feasible and viable business, focused on the needs of the customer. 

Chris Moule, Head of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Robert Gordon University, said: “Women in Business is a shining example of how RGU continues to instil a vibrant and enterprising culture both on-campus and across our wider University community. It’s innovative, inclusive, and offers women with children a viable first step into entrepreneurship through flexible and tailored learning, creating a safe space for them to build their ideas and develop the supportive community.

“Following on from the recent Entrepreneurial Campus Blueprint and the Ana Stewart report we are delighted to be working with university partners on this new pilot. RGU is committed to stimulating economic growth throughout Scotland and this exciting new partnership with both the University of Stirling and the University of the West of Scotland is great testament to that.”

The funding, of which both University of Stirling and UWS are also recipients, will enable the knowledge and learnings of Women in Business to be effectively taught in a ‘train the trainer’ way, building capacity and sharing knowledge and expertise across the institutions.

The Pathways Pre-start Fund was lunched on the back of a ground-breaking report by Ana Stewart and Mark Logan, Pathways: a new approach for women in entrepreneurship, which highlighted the continuing gender-gap in entrepreneurial participation in Scotland.

Mark Logan, Scotland’s first Chief Entrepreneur, said: “I’m delighted to see this initiative move forward. It brings together three of Scotland’s most entrepreneurially-minded universities in a collaboration that will significantly expand the help available to women who are considering starting a business. And it’s an exemplar for how we can bring the Pathways Review’s recommendations to life within Scotland’s business community.” 

Candace Elson, Innovation Manager (Regional) at RGU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, has led Women in Business since its launch. She said: “This development is really exciting and means that our programme that started rurally in Aberdeenshire is now growing and reaching people across Scotland. 

“To know that more mums are going to get access to this support is a great triumph. I have very much enjoyed meeting the women and hearing their stories and I am sure those who deliver it in new areas will find it just as rewarding.”

Dr Sasha Saunders, Enterprise Programme Manager at the University of Stirling, said: “It’s a privilege for the University of Stirling’s Enterprise Team to work with Robert Gordon University and the University of the West of Scotland to scale delivery of the successful Women in Business programme.

“We are excited to see how this support can empower mothers, and women with parenting responsibilities, in Stirling and Clackmannanshire and are thrilled to be working collaboratively with RGU and UWS to extend the initiative across the Higher Education sector.”

Lorraine Quinn – Head of Division (Marketing, Innovation, Tourism & Events) School of Business and Creative Industries at UWS, said: “UWS is delighted to be part of this exciting project, reaching women in the Renfrewshire area, providing them with an accessible route, which both supports and enables their creativity building towards a viable business.”

Phase one of the project will begin imminently before a seven-week pilot programme launches from the University of Stirling and UWS in the New Year. Running alongside it will be RGU’s seventh Women in Business cohort.

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