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Prince names WiRE Director as countryside heroine

Posted 13 November 2013

The kind of businesses our members run are becoming more important in keeping traditional ways of life going. It would be wonderful if all rural areas could have their own WiRE group, so that every businesswoman feels part of an important community.”

Business booster Polly Gibb, Director of Women in Rural Enterprise.

The director of a Harper Adams-based organisation that unites and supports rural businesswomen has been named as one of HRH The Prince of Wales’s countryside heroes.

On the eve of his 65th birthday, Prince Charles guest edits an edition of Country Life magazine and nominates the men and women he feels deserve our applause as guardians of the countryside.

Women in Rural Enterprise Director Polly Gibb is listed as ‘The Business Booster’ and writes: “Scratch the surface of any rural landscape, and you’ll find that it’s alive with enterprise. WiRE came out of research at Harper Adams University in Shropshire into farm diversification, which found that, in 90 per cent of cases, it was the women on farms who were driving the new businesses forward. But most of these women were isolated and often lacked confidence, so we decided to organise a conference so they could make contact with each other.

“Five hundred people came, which we weren’t expecting. Word spread, and the Prince became aware of our work and he recently invited us to work with the many women who are running businesses on Duchy of Cornwall farms.

“The kind of businesses our members run are becoming more important in keeping traditional ways of life going. It would be wonderful if all rural areas could have their own WiRE group, so that every businesswoman feels part of an important community.” 

Now, the Duchy of Cornwall has joined forces with Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) to create a new initiative to support female entrepreneurs in its Eastern District. Duchy Women in Rural Enterprise will deliver a series of workshops focused specifically on social media and marketing for rural business, and how to improve leadership skills and to build a business. 

The initiative has the full backing of HRH The Prince of Wales. As Duke of Cornwall, His Royal Highness is keen to ensure that as many women as possible benefit from the new partnership. In addition to financing the project, the Duchy of Cornwall is also offering women in business across the Duchy Estates a 50% discount on the current WiRE annual subscription charge which gives members access to a network of business support and promotional opportunities.

The first programme is already underway in Bath/Blagdon where 15 Duchy women running or thinking about starting a business attended a workshop earlier this month to learn about why the web works and what you need to do to engage customers, culminating in an action plan for using the best social media tools for their business.

WiRE business manager, Fiona Davies, said: “There are some fantastic and diverse businesses being run by women across the Duchy Estates and this initiative is a great opportunity for them to not only grow their businesses, but to tap into the expertise that already exists and support each other as their businesses grow. The first event was energetic and noisy with the attendees committing to make changes in their business as a result of the newly learned skills.”

WiRE was set up in 1996 when research conducted by senior lecturer Izzy Warren-Smith at Harper Adams University identified a significant number of farm diversifications were established by women. Having started and supported many thousands women in rural businesses across the UK, WiRE will use tried and tested methods to support Duchy businesses.

The Prince of Wales’s edition of Country Life magazine is on sale today, November 13, and was previewed in The Telegraph at the weekend. 

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