Applications open for women in business mentoring programme

Businesses of all sectors and sizes are encouraged to join the scheme, which is being run by Santander, and aims to match over 200 entrepreneurs with inspiring mentors

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Santander UK has today launched the ‘Santander Breakthrough Women Business Leaders’ mentoring programme, designed to support women in business across the UK.

The mentoring programme will pair budding female entrepreneurs with established business leaders across all sectors, business sizes and geographies. Santander expects to pair over 200 mentors and mentees.

As in the past two years, the bank will run the programme remotely, due to the Covid pandemic. Covid-permitting, there will also be the opportunity for some face to face meet ups later in the year.

The deadline for applications is 14 February 2022. The bank is calling on all businesswomen – as well as both male and female business owners interested in becoming a mentor – to sign up quickly to the programme, as the remote spaces are expected to fill up fast.

Vicky Whiter, Owner at Peters’ Cleaners Ltd, was on the 2021 programme and said: “The changes in me have been dramatic. In January and February 2021, the question was “Do I close?” Now I have a marketing director, a board, money in the bank and I’m sitting in a room about to go and talk about venture capital funding.”

Reversing the impact of Covid-19

Female employment has undergone a marked change as a result of the pandemic.

Recent data has revealed that the impact of the pandemic has been far greater on women in work than men in the UK. HMRC statistics show that in most countries and regions, more women than men were furloughed.

Last year, we reported on the female entrepreneur ‘funding gap’, which means women are less likely to feel they can afford to start a business than men.

It’s suspected that this discrepancy is due to women who start a business typically doing so following a career break, or while working part-time. In comparison, male entrepreneurs are more likely to start a business on firmer financial footing and while in full-time work.

Louise Robinson, Head of Breakthrough, Santander said: “The impacts of the pandemic on the UK labour market are stark. What’s clear is that women are taking a greater role at work and there’s never been a more crucial time for us to be supporting them with tailored business mentoring. SMEs are crucial to the UK’s economic recovery and having strong, female business leaders at the helm of these companies will help them to not only revive but to thrive.”

How does the mentorship programme work?

The programme will cover a wide range of challenges faced by SMEs and entrepreneurs – from finding the right work/life balance, to entering new growth phases and even exporting products or services internationally.

As part of the initiative, Santander will provide each of the partnerships with tailored business support, through facilitated peer to peer sessions at the participant’s request.

They’ll also become part of the Santander Breakthrough team, a large peer-to-peer network that provides knowledge-sharing as well as a safe environment where business owners can reflect on challenges and successes.

How can you apply?

To be eligible for the programme, you must:

  • Be the owner or majority shareholder of a business
  • Have been trading for at least one year
  • Be capable of scaling up the business and boosting local employment with a turnover up to £6.5m.

Prospective mentors and mentees can apply online. The deadline for applications is 14 February 2022.

The programme itself will start at the end of March, once the mentors and mentees have been matched, and will run throughout the year.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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