TWO North West sisters have turned their hands to women's business mentoring programme after their firm was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

Nichola Howard, founder of Wigan-based Launch Events NW which operated across Lancashire and the wider North West, lost 60 per cent of her business overnight as the UK went into lockdown last year.

Ms Howard's firm had worked with some of the biggest business events in the region including the Blackpool Business Expo, Business Expo Wigan and Business Expo Leigh before the pandemic hit.

She said: “We were on target for our fastest rate of growth last year,” said Nichola, who is also vice chair of the Wigan Chamber of Commerce.

“We had sold all the sponsorships; we had the best start to 2020 that we could have hoped for and then the pandemic hit and overnight we lost most of our business as events were cancelled.

“It was devastating at the time and I thought we had lost everything.

"We did manage to get the grants which kept the bills paid but we knew we had to do something to survive.”

In response Ms Howard, who runs the business alongside sister and marketing director Jo Leigh, decided to change direction and offering digital marketing services to other businesses.

Fortunately for them, this was exactly as the IN4.0 run programme FreelanceHER 100, which aims to close the gender gap in business by offering mentoring services to female entrepreneurs was starting up.

The programme aims to kick start women's careers across the North West and will focus on women for whom the coronavirus crisis has resulted in a career break, freelancers who want to grow their business, mothers seeking to return to work as well as applicants from black and minority ethnic communities.

The sisters are currently preparing a new website and are looking forward to doing what they can to help guide other women in business.

Nichola Howard said: “I want to show women this is what we’ve done, we thought we were going to lose the business, but we’ve come back with a bang and this is what we’ve learnt, and I want to help other women to do the same.

"If it has worked for us it can work for you too.

“If you’re a freelancer then sign up to this programme and get the best advice and support from women who have done it all before.”

FreelanceHER100 meanwhile is happy to make use of such expertise.

Programme director Naomi Timperley said: “I'm looking forward to Nichola sharing her experiences as a freelancer on the programme.

“FreelanceHER100 is offering women a unique opportunity to launch their careers during these challenging times with the help and support of some amazing women from across the region.”

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