Members of the Devon Work Hub network have been joining forces to host a coworking day for women.
For the past three years the Devon Business and IP Centre (BIPC) has run a Women in Business Course designed to help women to start and grow businesses. The free 12-week course is delivered by Devon-based businesswomen for Devon-based businesswomen.
It offers a mixture of core business skills, digital skills, how-to guides for finding resources, and mindset and coaching skills. The aim is to provide everything women need to feel confident and competent in starting and running their own business.
One of the women who helps to deliver some of the training for BIPC Women in Business course is Stacey Sheppard who is the founder of Devon’s first female coworking space, The Tribe, in Totnes.
As The Tribe is part of the Devon Work Hub network, Stacey knows all too well the power of sharing knowledge, experience, expertise and resources and the mantra of her business values is that “we are stronger together”.
So, when she pitched a collaboration between The Tribe, BIPC Devon, Libraries Unlimited and Devon Work Hubs, she knew it would be a win-win situation for all involved.
She says, “I knew that the workspace at Teignmouth Library was a perfect location to host a coworking day for local women. I wanted to bring together women from the BIPC course, from my own community and from Teignmouth so that they could experience the magic of coworking and the natural networking that can occur at a work hub. I also wanted them to discover the brilliant facilities that are on offer from Teignmouth Library.”
Richard Love is BIPC Manager and oversees the Women in Business Course. He says, “Many of the attendees to Women in Business wanted more opportunities to meet like-minded female entrepreneurs, and the partnership with The Tribe and Work:Space to offer a coworking and networking day in Teignmouth was the perfect way to do that. Stacey Sheppard’s Tribe is a brilliant example of a welcoming coworking space, fostering friendships and collaboration, which really helps when starting out on your business journey.”
Also present on the day was Rachel Payne, Business Development and Fundraising Manager for Libraries Unlimited. Rachel says, “It was fantastic to see so many different women come together to use our coworking space in Teignmouth. To hear everyone’s stories, struggles and ambitions and working collectively to support each other is exactly what these spaces were designed to do. We have coworking spaces in our libraries in both Newton Abbot and Teignmouth which offer the perfect place for people to come and develop their business networks, to work alongside other freelancers, remote workers and entrepreneurs in a friendly and modern workspace.”
But these kinds of flexible workspaces aren’t just limited to our local libraries. Devon Work Hubs is a network of 24 individual work hubs and coworking spaces across Devon where people can go to tap into their local business network.
Stacey’s multi-award-winning coworking space, The Tribe, opened in 2020 as a direct response to the findings of the NatWest Rose Review a year earlier.
Back in 2019, the UK Treasury commissioned Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest and the first woman to run a major UK bank, to conduct a review of female entrepreneurship in the UK. The resulting Rose Review found that up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as UK men.
However, the report also identified five main obstacles that prevent women from doing so. These are: low access and awareness of capital; greater risk awareness; perceived missing skills and experience; disproportionate primary care responsibilities; and a lack of relatable sponsor, mentors, role models and professional support networks.
The 2023 progress report shows that significant headway has been made. In 2022, women in the UK established over 150,000 new companies – more than twice as many as in 2018, before the Rose Review was launched.
However, there is still much to be done to fully tap into the power of female entrepreneurship. Luckily, organisations here in Devon are coming together to do their bit to help support local women in business and female entrepreneurs.
Stacey says: “Throughout my career, I had experienced all five of the barriers outlined in the Rose Review and I knew many other women had too. I decided to open a coworking space to help provide ongoing support for women in Devon to overcome these barriers to starting and growing businesses. Over the past three and a half years, I have built an incredible community of female entrepreneurs and women in business across Devon.”
“Coworking is really under-rated,” adds Stacey. “The work hubs and coworking spaces in Devon are so much more than an office with a desk and wi-fi. They provide an opportunity to meet and work with other people from all kinds of industries and backgrounds. The entrepreneurial journey can be quite isolating so finding somewhere to go to meet with, work alongside and network with others is just priceless and will support your business success in ways you cannot even imagine if you haven’t tried coworking.”
Rachel agrees that coworking and networking is extremely important for those starting out on their business journey. She says, “At BIPC Devon we know the power that networking has in supporting small businesses to thrive. It’s more than making contacts and securing contracts, it’s finding that kindred spirit or cheerleader to help you feel less alone as a small business owner or entrepreneur. Each coworking event, talk, or conversation can open your mind to new ideas, strategies, and solutions. Our business courses always contain an element of networking for exactly this reason.”
The coworking day in Teignmouth received such good feedback that the attendees have requested the collaboration continue on a regular basis. Award-winning PR author, expert and mentor Natalie Trice attended the event. She says, “Networking and coworking with other female business owners at Teignmouth Library was fantastic. As someone who often works alone at home all week, it reminded me of the value of connecting with like-minded women who are driven to succeed but also support. During the session we formed friendships, shared knowledge, ideas, and resources, and inspired each other to keep moving forwards. It reinforced the belief that collaboration and community-building are key to our collective growth and empowerment as women entrepreneurs.”
Jo Ellicott is an executive and self-development coach who lives in Teignmouth and attended the coworking day. She says, “The female coworking event held at Teignmouth library was excellent, the space was perfect and lent itself well to connections and collaborations. The first time I heard about a coworking space dedicated to females in business, I was so excited. It was a new concept to me but as soon as I heard about it, I realised how much it was needed. There is an absolute comradery that happens when a group of like-minded females get together; there is a genuine desire to listen, learn and support each other.”
Stacey says she is excited to see how this collaboration may develop in the future to ensure that female entrepreneurs and businesswomen in Devon can find ongoing support.
You can sign up to BIPC Devon events and courses at https://bipc.librariesunlimited.org.uk/ and find more about Libraries Unlimited Work:Spaces and room hire at https://www.librariesunlimited.org.uk/workspace/
"A fabulously stylish space which smacks of contemporary creative muses, coupled with all the comforts an office should have - coffee, tea, fridge, WiFi and a working printer. Its a warm, light space in a delightful part of the village with plenty of space in the car parks and very easy to travel to."