Photo of Jane Binnion

Jane Binnion

Jane Binnion has been nominated by Sophie Alkhaled, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University Management School. Sophie says “Jane is an absolute changemaker in the North West. Simply, she has set up an incredible social enterprise, The Growing Club CIC, just over three years ago. She has made an astonishing impact in supporting women from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

She has accomplished this while being a single mum, providing care work for her mother and taking on an EMBA at Lancaster University, where she also guest lectures regularly on a voluntary basis for my module on Gender and Entrepreneurship in a Global Context.

I ask Jane to attend many of our modules as one of our distinguished Entrepreneurs-in-Residence as she is inspirational and leaves the students completely mesmerised by her experiences and mission.”

Who has she helped/will she help?

“Jane’s social enterprise, The Growing Club, provides an alternative model for business training and coaching of women entrepreneurs living in urban and rural areas of Lancashire and Cumbria.

The programme is mainly designed for women from socially disadvantaged backgrounds due to circumstances such as being stuck in low paid work, living on benefits, struggling with a disability or primary care responsibilities, recovering from domestic violence, leaving prison and also women refugees.

They come from a range of socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and therefore, been struggling with building local networks and maximising business support services because they run their businesses ‘differently’ around their personal circumstances.

In the UK, women entrepreneurs continue to face discrimination when it comes to a number of issues. Issues include struggles for achieving financial support, joining the ‘old boys networks’, facing the glass ceiling and continue to carry the position of primary caregiver for children and elderly family members.

This discrimination leads to even more marginalisation when women come from disadvantaged social backgrounds, have a disability or come from an ethnic minority background. The aim of this initiative is to provide business-training and marketing tools to sustain the development of small entrepreneurship initiatives that the women can use both for returning actively into the local economy and for reducing their dependence on government subsidies.”

What’s worked?

“The establishment of this initiative by Jane has empowered over 200 women by getting them off benefits or out of an uneasy household, and provide them with economic independence and an increase in their self-esteem. The women who graduate from each programme continue to work with Jane is supporting other women on the programme, creating a fantastic feel of sisterhood and inclusivity – especially amongst refugee women who recently went on the course.”

What has she learnt? Any challenges?

“The nature of Jane’s incredible initiative is based on her selfless and morally responsible character. She is a giver, works around the clock and during her journey to help these women faced a number of challenges, which she did not allow to hinder her mission. Mainly, this form of work is largely dependent on grants, and whilst local councils and private sector fund women and social deprivation right now, it is extremely limiting. Furthermore, we cannot know the longer-term effects of austerity upon availability of funds particularly after Brexit.”

What’s next?

“The establishment of this initiative by Jane will help empower women by alleviating them from poverty and become independent from governmental subsidies thus improving the local economy and ensuring the social integration of vulnerable women and their families into society.

However, this cannot happen overnight – so continued support from the government and others in the community is needed to sustain this message. Jane is amazing and is already working on pushing forward policy changes to support women in enterprise with Lancaster City Council workers and the Federation for Small Businesses.”

What help, resources or contacts will help her?

“Support in getting funding and filling out applications for regional and EU funding and in running the courses and running the administrative tasks. Promotion of her work on a larger platform in order to continue running the project as “funded” rather than the women having to incur a cost of enrolling on it.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!