Build your business online: free government support for women

women internetWomen are being supported to start and grow businesses online with a £1 million training and development programme. The Government Superfast Broadband challenge is supporting women across England.  A network of delivery partners are offering free workshops, conferences and mentoring opportunities aimed at helping you and your business to get digital.

Many of those opportunities end in March 2015, so don’t delay sign-up now!  Scroll down to see what’s on offer in your area. If there is nothing in your area then tap into the online toolkit and videos which you can find at the end of this article.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Connecting Cambridgeshire’s new project plans to help women in business take advantage of digital technology.

Support available includes:

  • Challenge fund for business networks.
  • Training courses on digital subjects.
  • Online resources on using new and digital technology.
  • Bursaries to join business networks.

Click here for more information if you are based in Cambridgeshire or Peterborough.

Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Milton Keynes

The Women and Broadband Challenge fund supported by Central Bedfordshire,  Bedford and Milton Keynes Councils, has been made available to help women start or grow their own business by improving their digital skills, getting them online and taking full advantage of all the opportunities Superfast Broadband can bring to their businesses.

Wenta, one of the leading Enterprise Agencies in Beds and Bucks, are offering women who live in the Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Milton Keynes area free help and support to increase their knowledge and confidence in the internet through:

  • 1:1 business support via Wenta’s online business advice portal, My Incubator Ventures
  • 1:1 mentoring, business advice and planning
  • Bite-size training courses on all aspects of social media and website development
  • Networking opportunities to encourage peer-to-peer support and women and technology focused exhibitions

Click here for more information if you are based in Central Bedfordshire, Bedford or Milton Keynes.


Connecting Cheshire offers a FREE programme of support to entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to take advantage of the internet to start a business or grow an existing venture, across Cheshire, Warrington and Halton.

The Connecting Cheshire: Women in Business programme will be delivering 30 high impact events between October 2014 and March 2015 covering topics such as:

  • Starting an online business
  • Using the Internet to reach more customers
  • Social Media for Business

For more information, please see


Dorset Business Women go Digital will be offering a series of training courses and workshops, providing a supportive environment to help women across Dorset to improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in using technology to help them develop and grow their businesses.

We offer

  • start-up courses for new female entrepreneurs,
  • networking opportunities to learn from other Dorset women in business,
  • How to workshops to help women to use digital technology smarter so they can run their business while juggling other commitments or to catch up with the technological revolution

Click here for more information if you are based in Dorset.


Norfolk & Suffolk

Getting connected offers free help and support to women in Norfolk and Suffolk who want to increase their knowledge and confidence using social media and the internet.  This is your chance to hear to learn how to maximise your digital and online presence, and for you to engage in hands-on FREE training to get you up to speed. With sessions covering social media and search engines, plus further workshops on websites and how to be seen online, this is the essential event for women who mean business.

We’re offering the following FREE sessions:

•             Introduction training sessions – learn about using search engines and social media to benefit your business.

•             Follow up workshops to take you to the next level and improve your online presence/website and measure results.

•             1:1 mentoring and business advice, planning and help with business plan. All delegates will be offered up to one hour online or face to face support to help implement what they have learnt at the workshops.

For more information

Norfolk – please go to

Suffolk – please email Amanda Ankin,

All events are also listed on the New Anglia Growth Hub.​



Free Women into Business training sessions  Tap into a series of free training sessions designed to build confidence and skills and encourage women to take the first steps in setting up a business and take advantage of the opportunities broadband and the digital economy can bring.

The following workshops are being run through the libraries’ Enterprise Hubs around the county:

  • Effective websites for new businesses
  • Self-employment: Is it for me?
  • Social media for new businesses

Click here for more information if you are based in Northamptonshire.

Shropshire & Staffordshire

The Connecting Shropshire and Superfast Staffordshire broadband programmes have teamed up with Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) to support women in business with a programme of conferences, workshops and mentoring for women-led businesses and potential female entrepreneurs across the Shropshire Council and Staffordshire County Council areas.

The Challenge Fund encourages women’s enterprises to develop and increase their digital know-how; taking advantage of Superfast Broadband technology to increase skills and expand or set up a new business. One of the key strengths of the project is access to WiRE’s existing network of over 2,000 members; many of whom are involved in delivering the sessions or as mentors, using their skills and experience to deliver a targeted series of business support for women by women.

There are still many confidence issues around use of technology, but the programme has a policy of “no question is stupid” and the trainers have been specially selected to be jargon free and able to talk to ability levels. There is real evidence of on-going peer group support, the video delegates have a mini support group helping each other over hurdles and generally encouraging output and the project is featuring their videos on the WiRe YouTube Chanel.

Click here for more information if you are based in Shropshire or Staffordshire.

There’s also more digital support available in Shropshire and Staffordshire: The Optimising Business Broadband project (, which helps businesses access 1:1 support to learn how to benefit from fibre optic broadband runs to June 2015 and is open to eligible businesses in Shropshire and Staffordshire.


The Surrey WISE project is focused on helping women across Surrey to start their own business or to get back into work by giving them increased confidence in the use of  digital technology. To achieve this we recruited 10 Social Digital Experts ‘Digital Coaches’ in 10 areas across Surrey and have garnered access to a resource of young people through The Digital Youth Academy and its local Partners, our mutual desire is that during and after the training, any lady on the program can have their own website, confidence in using the key Social Digital channels and the ability to build an online brand, reputation and network.

Eligible ladies for this funded program are currently not working but have the desire to either start their own business, return to full or part time work, or have a small business that is not leveraging the internet for growth.

Click here for more information if you are based in Surrey.



Worcestershire Women2Web is a female enterprise support project. With partners, we have designed a package of support to help existing business owners and start up to develop their business ideas – with a focus on technology, superfast broadband and the new opportunities this can bring to business.

We have run a series of networking events which have had guest speakers and a technology focus, from social media, useful software options and blogging. Come January, we will be running some more networking but we will change focus to training and meeting the specific needs our women have requested.

All training is free, we can offer free child care and we are also offering a 1:1 mentor scheme with experienced business women.

Click here for more information if you are based in Worcestershire. 

Other areas

Other Women and Broadband Challenge partners are based in: Devon, East Sussex, Herefordshire, Kent, Newcastle, Somerset, Stockport. Please check local press or search the internet for updates.

Many of the projects are also developing online resources which you can tap into wherever you are based. See the Destination Digital toolkit. You can also join in by viewing videos where women on the programme share their experience:

Alice from Backstitch explains how she started her haberdashery online and was so successful she was able to expand by opening a shop

Sara Horsfall, founder of jobsharing website Ginibee, discusses flexible working and her favourite digital tools.

Founder of Born to be Beautiful, Sarah Glover set up her charity after a career break of over 15 years. She used free training, social media and a website to grow her global charity.

The videos are part of the Destination Digital Toolkit for Women, by Connecting Cambridgeshire. The Women and Broadband Challenge programme is funded and coordinated by the Government Equalities Office.

Image: Online woman via Shutterstock

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