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Project number: 2015-1-IS01-KA204-013171


/April 2016/

2. » The FREE Project: a brief overview Focus on United Kingdom: 3. » FREE – kick off meeting 4. » Success Story of Enterprise CirclesTM 5. » Success Story: a need of extra income became a business which employs 20 people

6. » News & Events This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NEWSLETTER 01 /April 2016/

The FREE Project: a brief overview An increasing number of women from rural areas are interested in starting their own business. However, they are facing obstacles such as lack of support, poor infrastructure, lack of premises, a lack of engagement from some enterprise support services and training opportunities may not always be available to them. In response to this, 7 partners from Iceland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Croatia and Lithuania have joined together to launch the FREE project.

Our goal is to assist women from rural areas who have a business idea or have just started their business to become successful entrepreneurs. What do we do?

Women from rural areas in each partner country will be recruited as volunteers to start up and lead a local network group as a pilot. The network is based on the idea of "Community Driven Learning and Development" which gives the group a chance to develop and organize their learning in a new way. Each network will be coordinated by women local to that area. These women are volunteers but they will receive special training and support by the project partners. The aim is to swap knowledge and to provide support for each other in various ways. After the pilot a Network Leaders' guide will be produced as a guide and a tool for other women.

The “Rural Women’s Enterprise Academy” of project FREE will feature the following training resources: » E-learning modules on various topics to help develop hard skills for businesses such as marketing, finance and product development. » Virtual Enterprise Circles TM for Rural Women in Business. Accessing the online academy will be private using a username and password.

More information coming soon!

We offer women in rural areas online training, mentoring services and an opportunity to join and get support from a local network of like-minded women entrepreneurs.

Lead partner: The Directorate of Labour, Iceland Duration: 09/2015 – 02/2018


NEWSLETTER 01 /April 2016/

FREE Project: kick of meeting The kick off meeting of the FREE project was held on the 5th and 6th of October 2015 in the headquarters of Inova in Sheffield, the lively English industrial city in South Yorshire, UK. The city gained an international reputation in the industrial revolution in the 19th century for its steel production. The meetings goal was to introduce project partners and present their organizations, clarify the project and its work packages, share knowledge and plan the first steps. Thirteen participants attended the meeting from five countries that are participating in the project, Iceland, Bulgaria, England, Lithuania and Croatia, but there are seven partners in total in the consortium. After having a couple of icebreakers exercises from Gudrun Stella Gissurardóttir from Iceland, the project leader Asdis Guðmundsdóttir from The Directorate of Labour in Iceland presented the agenda, aim of the project and management, ground rules in the project and how communication and meetings would be organized. Among the things discussed was the Memorandum of Understanding and the financial side of the project.

5th-6th October 2015 Sheffield, UK The managers of each work package presented the main points in each package. The discussions between the partners were lively and useful to clarify the details. The Icelandic Regional Development Institute, leads the work package Needs Analysis of Needs of Women in Rural Areas for setting up and developing enterprise. BICC Sandanski in Bulgaria leads the work package Development of Online Rural Women‘s Enterprise Academy; Inova, UK, leads the work packages of Development of Virtual Enterprise Circles and Piloting the Training Package with women in rural areas; WIRE, UK, leads the work package Development of Rural Business Women's Networks and Leader Guide; CESI in Croatia leads the work packages

A Guide for Policy Makers and Quality Assurance and Evaluation; Kaunas STP in Lithuania leads the work package Dissemination and The Directorate of Labour leads the work package Management. The next meeting will be held in Croatia in May 2016, but until then the partners will meet monthly on online meetings. Partners are now working on the first tasks of the FREE project that is a desk research and a needs analysis of female entrepreneurs for support and training in rural areas. It was the overall opinion of the participants that the meeting was effective to form good relationship among partners and a clarification of tasks which is important for the work ahead and a successful project.

„We are here to promote women in rural areas to become self-employed particularly in areas that have been weak due to monotonous industries and faced negative regional development“ – the members of prject FREE say.


NEWSLETTER 01 /April 2016/

Success Story of Enterprise CirclesTM As part of FREE, Enterprise CirclesTM will be adapted from successful use with other groups such as the long term unemployed and young people wanting to start up in business, to suit the needs of rural women in business. An exciting development of this methodology originally devised by the UK partner Inova in 2001, will be transferring FREE’s Enterprise CirclesTM online, to test out whether the same benefits of group support and motivation occur when the group meets virtually.

The Enterprise4All project (Oct 2013 – Sept 2015) aimed at the long term unemployed, young people and 45+ was an example of success in action for Enterprise CirclesTM. Feedback from participants showed that TM Enterprise Circles had a profound impact on participants, helping them to develop their soft skills significantly. All participants were very satisfied with the programme: “Before I started I felt lost and unsure, but now I know what I want to do and I have the tools to do it.” “Everybody was great, the The main aims of Enterprise participants and most of all the mentors. I have learnt and CirclesTM are to: motivated myself to carry on my » foster self-confidence; business.”

» prevent isolation; » build softs skills; » get people connected with other entrepreneurs; » increase their knowledge of self-employment.

“The Circles™ have been invaluable. I have felt supported and I have been so productive I would recommend them to anyone.” As a result of the support they received in the Enterprise CirclesTM, one participant won the second prize for the University of Sheffield’s Evolve Competition and built her confidence to the extent that she is now thinking about taking part in Dragon’s Den (UK TV programme supporting entrepreneurship). Similarly, another participant won funding from Sheffield Hallam Students' Union's Innovation Award for their business idea. To register your interest in taking part in FREE’s Enterprise Circles TM please contact your Country Coordinator.

Feedback from participants showed that Enterprise CirclesTM had a profound impact on participants, helping them to develop their soft skills significantly.


NEWSLETTER 01 /April 2016/

SUCCESS STORY Sally started the business in 2002 when the diary farm, located in Lancashire (Northern England) on which she lives with her family needed some extra income. Looking around for a gap in the market, Sally decided upon the idea of producing a range of lingerie which would cater to larger women usually ignored by standard retail. ‘There isn’t a particular interest in lingerie’ says Sally, ‘we just thought it would work.’ Initially interested in the idea of lingerie from a business perspective, Sally has become increasingly absorbed by her product and is delighted by the fact that none of her customers are predictable. ‘Who knows what people wear under their clothes?’ laughs Sally, ‘we have young stuff, which we quite often sell to the over seventies because they still want something pretty.’ With such a relaxed attitude, Sally has found the experience of running Ample Bosom very satisfying. ‘We’re always striving to be better’ says Sally, who recently moved offices and acquired a new warehouse. ‘We’ve got more products. We’re slicker than we used to be,’ she explains. Based on a farm, Ample Bosom was originally a diversification project and Sally is realistic about the effort needed to run a successful business. ‘The minute I get any money I put it into the stock, or computers and the investment is beginning to show,’ Sally explains. ‘Diversification and starting your own business isn’t a quick fix answer.’ Ample Bosom now employs 20 people, some part-time, and these are valuable jobs in this very rural area. Sally has been a WiRE (WiRE has worked with female led rural businesses for over 10 years and it has 60 WiRE Network Groups across rural areas of the UK) member for over 10 year.

A Need of Extra Income Became a Business which Employs 20 People ‘Who knows what people wear under their clothes?’ laughs Sally, ‘we have young stuff, which we quite often sell to the over seventies because they still want something pretty.’

*** However, as well as the challenges presented from running her own business, Sally never fails to be surprised by the experience, viewing Ample Bosom with a certain maternal pride.

‘Having a business is like having children. You think you know what you’re doing then they surprise you with something,’ she explains, ‘you can try to steer it but then it goes off in another direction.’ Selling underwear to all ages and all shapes, including a range of maternity wear, Sally enjoys feedback from the customers. ‘I like satisfied customers. You get emails that say this is the best bra I’ve had and this is wonderful’ she says, ‘the people you meet and the challenges it brings are all interesting.’

Sally‘s farm is surrounded by a beautiful landscape

Entrepreneur: Sally Robinson Business Name: Ample Bosom Business field: a mail order lingerie business, primarily for the larger women Location: United Kingdom (Lancashire (Northern England) Founding date: 2002 5 Visit:

NEWSLETTER 01 /April 2016/

Meetings & Events

2nd partnership meeting in Zagreb (Croatia)

17-18 may, 2016

Spread the Word Group Location & time country specific

The second project FREE meeting will be held in Zagreb (Croatia). The host of the meeting will be the Center for Education, Counselling and Research (CESI). CESI is feminist organization that advocates for advancement of women in our society and realization of gender equality, and for full implementation of all laws and international mechanisms for the protection of human rights. During the meeting project consortium will discuss the training framework for rural women‘s network leaders, will be thoroughly introduced to Mentoring CirclesTM. “Spread the Word Groups” aims to spread the word about the project and the networks being built across rural communities. Each partner will held such events every 5 month approximately in their country. Events will promote project FREE and share findings of the research and provide the key results of the project to the direct and indirect target groups. For more information contact representatives of the project FREE in you country. Find contacts details below.

Contact Details: The Directorate of Labour, IS Phone: +354 51 558 00 web:

BICC – Sandansk, BG Phone: +359 746 30549 e-mail: web:

Inova Consultancy ltd., UK Phone: +44 (0)114 279 9091 e-mail: web:

Harper Adams University, UK Phone: +441952815237 e-mail: web:

Icelandic Regional Development Institute, IS Phone: +354 455 5400 e-mail: web: Kaunas STP, LT Phone: +370 37 33 30 36 e-mail: web:

CESI, CR Phone: +385 1 2422 800 e-mail:, web:

The FREE website www.ruralwomeninbusiness will be available from May 2016 In the meantime you can reach & follow us on: /femaleruralenterpriseempowerment




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Free newsletter no. 1  

The first newsletter in our project FREE

Free newsletter no. 1  

The first newsletter in our project FREE