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What About Women Doing things differently

Local women join together to support Sheffield’s community of female entrepreneurs, business owners & leaders.

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It goes without saying that the pandemic has been a torrid time for business owners of all kinds, but it has also been a time for reflection and reimagination. A time to consider how we can collectivise to create a better future, for everyone. What About Women is the vision of Trudi Colman and three like-minded women who want to achieve equity for women in business. We chatted to Trudi to find out more.

How have you been spending lockdown and what inspired you to start your new venture, What About Women?

From 11 March 2020, our diaries at Percy & Lily’s and The Hide began to empty. Corporate clients that had scheduled events started cancelling, long before the government made the decision to lock us down. We only managed to run one wedding and one Sisterhood Social at our events space.

After the initial months of staying in and preserving and protecting our businesses in the best ways we could, we ventured into the summer with new ideas for delivering street food safely. With our tenants Smith Street Coffee, we created The Breakfast Club at The Hide to deliver a distanced, street food-style brunch. It was a big hit! We delivered two drive-in cinemas with the Village Screen and ran five street food events called Friday Night Live during July and August. We were able to pivot and adjust the businesses enough to survive to autumn when we hoped things would be different. But they weren’t.

So from September onwards, we began to think of new ways of doing things. Based on our experiences during the pandemic and the connections we had with other small and medium-sized enterprises, we explored the idea of a social enterprise that supported women in business in our region. We approached two other self-employed women and started to think about creating something meaningful. What About Women was the result.

Who else is involved in the project and where do you draw your experience from?

The four directors of our community interest company are myself and Justine Twigge, who are owners of Percy & Lily’s and The Hide and who were both teachers before our self-employment adventures; Bali Maman, owner of Fancy an Indian and freelance management consultant; and Janine Morton, who is the co-owner of Morton Bradley Accountants.

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Who do you want to help through What About Women, and how?

We want to achieve equity for women in business in the Sheffield City Region. We want to offer a community approach to this and build a What About Women community of entrepreneurs, self-employed women, female leaders, and women with skills and experience who can support other women.

We want to assist women with their businesses, with start-ups, growth and pivoting, or with an aspect of their business they may be struggling with. We are keen to help women that have fallen through the pre-existing nets of support offered by existing organisations, or who have never accessed any support because they simply didn’t know who to ask or felt they 'just needed to get on with it'.

Research into entrepreneurship has found that women often don't ask for help and don’t receive the financial support of their male counterparts. Women face many more cultural barriers that often prevent them from economic success. Covid-19 has adversely affected women in terms of job losses and redundancies in the heavily gendered industries of retail and hospitality. Women have largely, but not exclusively, taken on the additional responsibilities of childcare, homeschooling and care for 'parents' in the pandemic, which has, in turn, affected their economic wellbeing.

You've got a crowdfunder running until mid-February. What will you be spending the money on?

We will be using the crowdfunding money to set up our community network and membership services, a new coaching programme and a community exchange initiative for women in the SCR, called L.E.T.S Swap. Until we can start some projects and launch some services, to build up a track record of support, we are unlikely to secure any public funding.

And finally, how can folks get involved with What About Women?

Membership is free and we need as many women to sign up as members as possible. This is so easy, a few questions on our website www.whataboutwomen.org, click on the Become a Member button, and you’re on your way!

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