Sisters doing it for themselves...

Sharon Hodgson, Bridget Phillipson and Julie Elliott with SES' Kevin Marquis
Sharon Hodgson, Bridget Phillipson and Julie Elliott with SES' Kevin Marquis
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WEARSIDE’S MPs have been given an insight into the increasing role played by women in starting up new businesses and social enterprises.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson, Sunderland Central’s Julie Elliott and Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, visited Sunderland-based business support agency Sustainable Enterprise Strategies (SES) to hear about its work.

SES director Mark Heskett-Saddington said: “It’s amazing – 14 per cent of traditional enterprises are started by women but it’s 32 per cent at SES.

“It’s even better with social enterprises. Last year 52 per cent were started by women and this year it’s 56 per cent.

“Why we are so successful here is face-to-face work, eye contact, getting your hands dirty and doing the business. Women and people from unemployed backgrounds like the hands-on approach. We offer that.”

The agency, which has been running for 29 years and now has offices in Sunderland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, supported the start of 313 traditional businesses in 2010-11, with a projected turnover of more than £6million.

SES helped 27 social enterprises get off the ground last year.

The number of social enterprises started with SES help stood at 27 last year.

People were becoming more interested in starting not-for-profit social enterprises, which form a cornerstone of the Coalition Government’s plans to provide some services currently carried out by the state, said Mark:

“We’ve always delivered social enterprises – old-fashioned co-operatives, credit unions, that sort of thing,” he said.

“Last year, there was an upturn – maybe because of the change of Government, the Big Society concept. Maybe when things change, things get refreshed and reinvigorated.”

SES now supports 163 social enterprises, with a combined turnover of more than £27.5million, employing 1,430 staff.