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Online network supports rural businesswomen through COVID-19 crisis

Published: 04/05/2020

An online business network set up to support female entrepreneurs in rural Argyll is proving particularly valuable during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Rachel MacNeill of Islay Whisky Academy

W-Power was established in 2018 by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of the Northern Periphery Arctic (NPA) programme.

The network aims to overcome the challenges of remoteness and rurality faced by women-led businesses in sparsely populated areas.

Many of the 50-plus member businesses have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and are either on hold or working creatively to find new ways of trading, particularly online.

The W-Power network is helping them stay connected, share information and ideas about how to get through the challenges, as well as providing moral support to each another. 

There are three live online catch-up sessions every week and a programme of webinars and interactive sessions with experts to help develop key skills.

Tailored online training sessions, meanwhile, are helping to meet demand for new skills development, particularly around social media and taking business online.

Cathy Higginson, W-Power project manager with HIE, said:

“The online nature of the W-Power network is proving extremely valuable in supporting members across Argyll.

“The ethos of mutual support and collaboration is a particular source of strength and moral support to businesswomen as the region faces unprecedented challenges.

“We’re very pleased that W-Power is able to play an important role during this extremely difficult period and would like to thank all our members for keeping the network active and supporting each other.”

W-Power network member, Rachel MacNeill of Islay Whisky Academy, has had to halt her bespoke face-to-face whisky experiences on Islay. She has branched out instead into a new online whisky course (‘WHISKY AFFINITY’) delivered via e-books and webinars, as well as creating bespoke video tours to maintain engagement with customers during travel restrictions. She said:

 “The W-Power network has been a lifeline, before and since the COVID lockdown. It has helped me develop my approach to social media and online marketing. I do it all from home and it works around me.”

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