Case Study: Mums into Business

Shared by Kirsty Frankland, CREATE

Name of Organisation/Project

PROJECT: Tasting Change / Mums into Business.

Funding/Partners Involved

Mums into Business is based at and supported by WHALE Arts. It has been established through Tasting Change, a multi-agency partnership project set up to tackle issues of food insecurity in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. WHALE Arts is a founding member in the Tasting Change project along with Prospect Housing, The Health Agency, SCOREscotland and CHAI.

Mums into Business has developed close links with Business Gateway and JobCentre Plus. Yvonne Bostock, a business consultant and industry expert who came to us through Business Gateway, is now working in partnership with us. Lorna Robertson an employability adviser from JobCentrePlus has also been working closely with us and we are seeking to develop this into an effective working partnership.

Background Information

The project was set up in June 2018 in direct response to the needs and aspirations of a group of local mothers. The women wanted to start their own businesses and needed highly flexible, creative and tailored business support in a setting that could accommodate both them and their young children.

The initial group members are all immigrants to Scotland from ethnic minority groups. Their primary motivation for wanting to start their own businesses is to secure a better future for their children. Currently, 80% of group members are from ethnic minority groups.

The aim of the project is to enable a group of mothers in Wester Hailes, to develop their skills, confidence and self-belief to a level where they are able to run their own successful and sustainable businesses. This includes working with these mothers in a highly flexible and responsive way to find creative solutions and enable them to overcome the many barriers to employment they face.

We’ve adopted a highly flexible approach, embedding creativity as a means of empowerment, building social capital, developing resourcefulness and resilience. Already we are seeing evidence of increased confidence and skills development.

There are many challenges to overcome. Please see the section on Challenges Encountered for more details.

Inclusive Growth Outcomes sought

The primary inclusive growth outcomes sought are participation and people.

In line with government approaches to poverty prevention and tackling the root causes we are directly addressing issues of inequality. We are working with mothers to develop workable solutions to issues such as the lack of affordable childcare, barriers to employment, educational disadvantage and discrimination.

We are enabling mothers to create fulfilling and secure employment opportunities by helping them set up and run their own successful sustainable businesses. Through extensive work on skills development and confidence building, we are helping each of them to maximise their potential.

We are working exclusively with women living in Wester Hailes, an area facing many challenges relating to health, employment, access to services, crime and housing. It falls in the 6% most deprived areas on the SIMD whose figures put the employment rate at 25%, well below the national average of 74%.

By creating economic opportunities for women in this area our actions are helping to lower poverty levels.

Actions Taken

We have set up a free creche so mums can bring their kids with them when they come to the group.

We run weekly sessions which are tailored to match the capacity of the women involved and include a mix of bite-sized segments on a range of key business skills, creative activities and experiential learning opportunities.

Experiential learning and opportunities to test products and ideas on the market are a key component of our approach. Already these have proved instrumental in building the women’s confidence, self-esteem and developing skills. We enabled some members to participate in a Christmas Market where they were all successful in selling their products and making new connections.

We have two more market days coming up, one in February and one in April and we are exploring the possibility of developing a cafe and pop up shop at WHALE Arts to offer further opportunities for the women to develop their business ideas.

Challenges Encountered & How Overcome

The project was set up to help a group of mothers to overcome some of the challenges faced by many women across Britain who want to go back to work after having children. These include a lack of affordable childcare, low confidence and educational disadvantage. For women on low incomes and from ethnic minorities theses challenges are even greater and include language barriers, the devaluation of qualifications and discrimination.

We have taken significant steps to overcome these challenges by setting up a free creche, adopting a completely inclusive attitude and developing a highly flexible and tailored approach which allows us to accommodate wide-ranging levels of capacity, confidence and needs. Through the delivery of a range of experiential learning opportunities, we are already seeing a dramatic improvement on the women’s self-esteem.

Another major challenge we are facing is how increased income will affect benefits payments, which most of the group rely on. The fear of losing their only source of income or being penalised for earning a little more is a huge barrier and is preventing some of the women from fulling engaging in the project.

The recent rollout of Univeral Credit is adding further complications and in some cases is compounding the problem. We are working closely with Lorna Robertson from Jobcentre Plus to explore and clarify how increased income will affect various benefits payments.

The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is a government scheme set up to help people on benefits to start their own businesses. Having explored this scheme within the group, together with Yvonne Bostock and Lorna Robertson, it became clear that there are many drawbacks and the majority of group members would either not qualify or be any better off by engaging with the scheme.

Under the NEA scheme, you would have to give up all other benefits, rely on £66 per week for 13 weeks and then £33 per week for the following 13 weeks, by which time you would have to be making enough profit from your new business to support yourself and family. For the women in our group – many of them single mothers, this wholly unrealistic with the potential to plunge them further into poverty and have a detrimental effect on both their physical and mental wellbeing and that of their children.

We believe that people should be better off both, physically, emotionally and financially through engaging in fulfilling employment which includes running their own successful sustainable businesses. For mothers on low incomes, the challenges of getting to that point at times seem insurmountable. Mums into Business is taking a unique, holistic and truly innovative approach. Working in partnership we see a huge opportunity to develop this approach into a model which could work alongside and complement schemes like the NEA with the potential to be rolled out across other parts of Scotland.

Assessment of Impact & Future Opportunities

Our primary objectives are for group members to demonstrate increased confidence and self-belief, that group members will develop new skills and that at least 30% of group members will set up their own businesses with a further 20% will have the confidence and necessary skills to do so in the near future.

Many successful female entrepreneurs cite confidence as one of the key traits that are crucial for success. Research has shown that women’s lack of confidence can and often does impact on their ability to succeed. We are already seeing evidence of increased levels of confidence, self-belief and skills development.

“When your a stay at home mum you lose confidence and sense of self. This group is like a bridge to getting your confidence back.” (P group member)

In line with government approaches to poverty prevention and tackling the root causes, we are addressing educational disadvantage, attitudes perceptions and values. We are improving employability, providing childcare and supporting positive well-being and resilience.

The project which started in June 2018, is currently funded until April 2019. We are seeking funding to continue the project beyond April.

The women currently are being supported and up-skilled by partners from Business Gateway and Jobcentre Plus. With future funding, we expect to engage with increasing numbers of partners enabling us to impart a far greater range of skills and knowledge.

Sustainability is key to the success of the project. In line with WHALE Arts approach we are continually scanning for opportunities which will strengthen our economic sustainability. At WHALE Arts we have a co-working space which can be rented by the day or the month, we plan to develop a pay-it-forward model for local residents, for whom cost is a barrier, enabling us to provide a work space and childcare at no or low cost. We are also working on plans to develop a cafe and pop-up shop at Whale Arts which could potentially be run by Mums into Business members.

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