Argyll hosts international event for women entrepreneurs

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Around 50 women from six countries gathered in Argyll last week to explore the challenges facing female entrepreuneurs in sparsely populated areas and how these can be overcome.

Delegates from rural parts of Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Canada and Scotland attended the three-day W-Power seminar.

The event was organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme supported by the European Regional Development Programme (ERDF).

It took place at Portavadie Marina and Inveraray Inn and included visits to women-led businesses, including Benmore Cafe, Beinn an Tuirc Distillery and Argyll Coffee Roasters.

The itinerary also included presentations on using tools such as virtual networking and digital marketing in tackling some of the challenges of doing business in sparsely populated areas.

Accessing finance, peer learning and gender-aware business coaching were also discussed.

A networking and learning session featured real-life stories about the opportunities and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and information about support available through the W-Power programme.

Cathy Higginson, HIE’s W-Power project manager, said: ‘It’s great to be hosting this important international event in Argyll. The seminar focuses on growing the contribution female entrepreneurs make to the rural economy.

‘Encouraging the creation of more women-led businesses and helping existing ones to expand will not only bring fresh and creative ideas but will empower women in society and create new sources of prosperity and jobs.

‘The Highlands and Islands region is home to many vibrant, ambitious, innovation-driven business women. For Scotland, this event represents an opportunity to engage with stakeholders across the northern and Arctic communities and discuss ways to help retain and develop skills in more rural areas.’

Eve MacFarlane, founder of Argyll Coffee Roasters, said: ‘W-Power offers small, rural businesses some great opportunities for networking and business skills development. We’re absolutely delighted to be involved in the project and really look forward to sharing our experiences, as well as our hand-roasted speciality coffee with the W-Power team when they visit our new roastery in Kames.’

Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen, international lead for the W-Power project from North Karelia, Finland, said: ‘Highlands and Islands Enterprise is a valued partner in the W-Power project. We are very excited to be spending time in Argyll visiting female-led businesses and seeing at first hand the opportunities W-Power is creating here.

‘By working together across national boundaries, W-Power helps us share ideas and good practice. Together we can test out new types of gender-aware business support, and empower business women across the region to develop and grow their businesses.’