Over 100 female entrepreneurs in the retail sector affected by the pandemic were supported by MK Council in 2021 in partnership with the Love Local Hub. A co-founder of the hub, Samantha Poole, created a Business Bootcamp course to increase the chances of small businesses succeeding.

The Hub located in Centre:MK gave business owners the opportunity to use a space temporarily to showcase their products or services.  Along with the space, entrepreneurs were given mentoring so they could regain their confidence and bounce back after a difficult 15 months.

There have been over 90 businesses supported so far, with many operating online and in the hub, with the goal of soon opening their own locations. We have one last bootcamp in October 2022 for the remaining 10 places and hopefully will run more in 2023 with the council’s support.

As part of its £2.25m COVID Economic Recovery Plan, MK Council has invested £90,000 to support the programme over the past year. Space in the shop for two months, an eight-week business bootcamp, regular engagement through a Facebook Support Group for retail business growth, and ongoing support.

2023 looks set to continue to support local entrepreneurs under the new training and development Community Interest Company – Incubation Nation.

Working in partnership with Milton Keynes Council is part of the council’s commitment to helping women get back into work, as research suggests they’ve been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are almost twice as likely to lose their jobs as men.

A new start-up based in MK, Carly’s Candle Company, sold £1400 worth of handmade candles in one week thanks to the Hub opportunity. To help Carly grow her business, Incubation Nation now offers her 1:2:1 business support.

Our Vision is to empower every female entrepreneur to grow and sustain a successful business. We want every business owner to have the tools they need to grow a strong, secure and profitable business, and to have a hub of affordable business services around them to support them as they grow.

The course covers all aspects of business planning, social media training, branding, financial planning, including budgeting and marketing.

Deputy Leader of MK Council, Cllr Robin Bradburn said: “Incubation Nation has been fantastic in helping new businesses get up on their own feet and I’m delighted that we’re strengthening our partnership with them through this new funding.

“The pandemic has left many people struggling and we know women, and particularly those in the retail sector, have had it the toughest.  It’s partnerships like these that will help us deliver a fair and prosperous recovery.  I’d strongly encourage new businesses to get in touch to see how their Business Bootcamps might be able to help them.”

Founder Samantha Poole said: “As a single mum with a start-up and a scale up business I know first-hand how hard it is to set up a business with limited or no business support.  Returning to work was not an option for me due to high childcare fees and having two children who need extra care and support.  Hearing how the course and the Love Local Hub shop is helping our small businesses and women in business, is making me do a happy dance most days.  We all need a great mentor and if we want more than two out of ten small businesses to survive beyond three years, then we need to hold many more of our Business Bootcamp’s for our local small businesses.”