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Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) is a collaborative project funded by the European Union’s Interreg Programme to support women's entrepreneurship in the UK and France.

We're part of a network of organisations either side of the English Channel researching and delivering support to address the gender entrepreneurship imbalance through training and mentoring. Accelerating Women’s Enterprise is supported by the Interreg Programme, who are contributing €2,641,184.73 of European Regional Development Funds, to address economic and social issues in regions on either side of the Channel.

Through the AWE programme, we plan to help more female founders develop entrepreneurial skills and get support to set up and grow their businesses. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of new businesses launched in Portsmouth grew by 33%, making us the UK's most entrepreneurial city 2020 (Instant Offices). We want to make sure women are an integral part of the city's entrepreneurial growth in the future.

The AWE project aims to:

  • train 700 female entrepreneurs
  • recruit and train more than 160 mentors
  • help 134 women start new businesses

Free training programmes

We've launched 3 exciting new training programmes in June 2021. All our courses are completely free to attend as they're funded by the European Regional Development Fund. 

The courses run online and groups are small (no more than 15 people). 


If you're a woman who's running her own business, or thinking of setting up your own business, then you can sign up. You must have the right to work in the UK to join these courses.

AWE Business Builder

This course is specifically designed for pre and early-stage start-ups, or those that are struggling with balancing their business with their other commitments. 

The course is delivered by Sara Guiel, Founder and Director of 'My Networking Club',

Duration: 6 weeks

Dates: Wednesdays, 10.00am–1.00pm, starting 15 September 2021.

Topics you'll cover:

  • Personal Effectiveness & Self-Care
  • Time Management
  • Your Relationship with Money

Applications are now open and close on Monday 6 September. 

AWE Mastering Marketing

Are you in a muddle with your marketing? This 6-week course, delivered by Sara Guiel - Founder and Director of 'My Networking Club', will guide you through your first steps in successfully marketing your business.

From identifying your market and your ideal customer, through creating a core brand message, to nurturing leads and creating customer loyalty, we’ve got you covered.

Duration: 6 weeks

Dates: Wednesdays, 10.00am–1.00pm, starting 10 November 2021.

Topics you’ll cover:

  • Understanding the Market
  • Building Your Brand and Value
  • Marketing and Sales

Applications are open now and close on Monday 1 November.

Start my Social Enterprise

Are you looking to start a business that gives back to the local community or solves a social issue? Delivered in conjunction with HIVE Portsmouth, our 'Start my Social Enterprise' course can guide you through your first steps to social enterprise success. 

Duration: 6 Weeks

Dates: Thursdays, 10am – 1pm, starting 11 November

Topics you'll cover:

  • What’s my social purpose?
  • Develop a social enterprise business plan
  • Measuring Social Impact

Applications are now open and close on Thursday 28 October.

Become an AWE Mentor

Would you like to support a woman on her entrepreneurial journey? Through our mentor training programme we can train you to pass on your skills and experience to women and help them address their barriers to entrepreneurship.

Our first mentors were trained in May 2021 and we'll be running more mentor training soon.

To be a mentor you must:

  • have run a successful business for at least 3 years, either currently or in the past


  • be a professional with business-relevant skills (such as book-keeping, accounting, social media, risk management, etc)

If you have the experience to be a mentor, or you know someone who'd like to take part in the mentor training programme, please complete the form at the bottom of this page. 

Woman to talking to business mentor

Could you mentor a new entrepreneur?

Why are we involved in the AWE project?

By closing the gender gap between male and female entrepreneurs, up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy.

In March 2019, the Government-commissioned independent review of female entrepreneurship in the UK was published – the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. The review highlighted possible solutions to the barriers women face when starting and growing businesses, such as knowledge of and access to finance, caring responsibilities and a lack of relatable role models and mentors.

The UK is behind other countries, such as the US, which perform better for gender equality in entrepreneurship. The Government aims to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK by 50% by 2030. This is equivalent to 600,000 more entrepreneurs. The publication of the Alison Rose Review highlights why projects like Accelerating Women's Enterprise are so important.

Researching the entrepreneurial ecosystem

As part of the AWE project, we're researching the challenges women face when starting and growing a business. Our aim is to find out more about the current situation for female entrepreneurs so we can influence policy change at local, national and international levels.

As part of our research, we've interviewed women in England and France who are about to start-up, or who have already started, a business. We focused on women who face an additional barrier or disadvantage to setting up a business such as age, caring responsibilities, a health condition or disability. 

We also spoke to people who work for services that support start-ups, including:

  • banks and finance providers
  • education and training providers
  • business support and membership organisations
  • local Economic Partnerships (LEPS)

We’re currently writing up our findings and these will be published here soon. 

Follow the AWE project

You can keep in touch with this project in several ways. You can:

If you'd like to be notified about our next training and networking courses and events, or if you're interested in the mentoring scheme, please complete the form below.

If you have any other enquiries about the project, please email

Our team

Dr Zoe Dann is a Senior Lecturer in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, with a special interest in female entrepreneurship. Zoe is the Principal Investigator and project manager for the AWE project in Portsmouth.

View Zoe's research profile.

Dr Carol Ekinsmyth is an Economic Geographer and researcher of gender and entrepreneurship. A main responsibility for Carol on this project is the data capture and analysis of the England-based element of the research.

View Carol's research profile.

Dr Georgiana Busoi is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing. She is the lead on materials development for the University of Portsmouth in the training element of the project.

View Georgiana's staff profile.

Professor Johnstone is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Portsmouth. Professor Johnstone has a strong research interest in gender representation. In 2015 she was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences for her contribution to the study of gender equality.

View Karen's research profile

Dr Emily Yarrow is Senior Lecturer in international human resource management at the University of Portsmouth Business School. Emily is passionate about social justice in education and equality of opportunity in organisational life. She has a particular research interest in women’s career development and the power dynamics in organisations.

View Emily's research profile

Mrs Amy Doyle is the founder of the University of Portsmouth's Female Entrepreneurs Network. Amy is the Entrepreneur Liaison for the AWE project, providing a first point of contact for entrepreneurs and organisations interested in participating.

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