FEMALE entrepreneurs who want to boost economic growth in Yorkshire are being encouraged to join a support group for the owners of fast growing firms.
Sophie Patton, the new chief operating officer at Connect Yorkshire, is seeking more female business leaders who are willing to provide mentoring and guidance for small firms with big plans.
Leeds-based Connect Yorkshire is a not-for-profit support group for entrepreneurs running high growth businesses in the region.
It can already draw on the talents of 85 entrepreneurs in residence who can pass on tips to anyone who wants to follow in their footsteps.
Connect Yorkshire also holds business events with partners including Premier League football club Huddersfield Town.
Ms Patton, who became COO at Connect Yorkshire last month, is keen to increase the numbers of female entrepreneurs who are committed to working with the group, Only around 20 per cent of the current entrepreneurs in residence are female, she said.
Ms Patton said: “We’re a platform that connects everybody. I want to bring in some younger entrepreneurs in residence.“
“We’re having a massive push on a recruitment drive for female entrepreneurs in residence.”
Connect Yorkshire recently announced that Rana Harvey, the managing director of the retail business Monster Group and Rachel Kay, the managing director of Green-Tech had joined the list of entrepreneurs in residence.
Ms Patton added: “We need to have a constant feed of people who can help the businesses.
“That’s why we launched Ladies Lunches because we realised some of our members could help each other.
“We just needed to push them on to a platform where they were confident to speak to people and didn’t necessarily see a sea of suits.
“We help introduce people, rather than just leaving you on your own, to walk into a room of 100 people and find your own way.
“We really want to gain more members. We want to bring in smaller businesses and connect them to the entrepreneurs in residence.
“The most important thing is learning off somebody who has been there and done it, because they can talk at our events.
“The entrepreneurs talk about all the mistakes they have made, Our smaller business owners are sitting there and thinking, ‘I’m going through all of that.’
“It gives them the confidence to put it into practice in their business.
“A lot of them are business owners who have grown their business to the next level and don’t know how to manage it, which is where our entrepreneurs come in.”
Connect Yorkshire has spread the word about its work with help from Huddersfield Town, which has created its own “Huddersfield Hundred” of commercial partners.
Ms Patton said: “We network everywhere at every event that is possible.
“We partner with people like Huddersfield Town; we do a big business event there where we bring three of our entrepreneurs in residence and they invite their business contacts and we also invite our members.
“That’s a good networking event and we gain lots of clients from that.
“Sean Jarvis (Huddersfield Town’s commercial director) has been brilliant with the Huddersfield Hundred .
“We started this four years ago and it continues to work well for us.”
“Some of our entrepreneurs in residence have got real stories to tell. It’s really inspirational because everybody I am around has done something great.
“It’s nice being not for profit, and knowing that we are helping people.”
She said recruitment problems were one of the biggest factors holding businesses back, with many millennials expecting greater flexibility in their working lives.
Ms Patton, who was previously Connect Yorkshire’s operations director, is also a member of the board of directors, which includes Nick Butler, the CEO and Jacqui Hall, the chief executive of CNG.
Connect Yorkshire was founded in 2002 by a group of professional service providers in Leeds and Sheffield with the aim of helping Yorkshire companies to grow. Over the following nine years Connect Yorkshire was supported by 40 of the county’s top professional service providers and by Yorkshire Forward.
Today Connect Yorkshire is a company limited by guarantee so any profits are retained in the company and not distributed.
It helps those “rich in ideas but poor in time” with mentoring, support and advice.