Helen Kerray and Morgana Loze-Doyle have received more than £10,000 to launch a new business that champions inspiring women.
They are the brains behind WomanKind North, a one-day female empowerment event taking place at Preston’s Ivory Tower on Sunday, March 7th, starting with registration from 9am. It will celebrate the diversity and determination of females from across the region.
Mum-of-two Helen, of Walton-le-Dale, said: "We're very passionate about what we do. There are so many Northern women doing amazing things but not many people are shining a light on it. We want to create a safe space for their stories to be shared, and hopefully it will spur others to make positive changes or continue on their exciting new path."
The 37-year-old left behind a career as a PE teacher after struggling to juggle work and family life. She then started a successful business helping mums make eco-friendly lifestyle choices.
Meanwhile, Morgana, originally from Blackpool, was a busy social worker who went on to become a blogger and social media coach. The mum-of-two also set up Coffee Work Sleep Creatives, a women's only network group.
Helen added: "We both had a passion and skill for bringing women together and giving them a space where they can be promoted and shouted about. Sometimes their stories are not spoken about and we want to showcase their amazing achievements."
The hard-working duo were able to make their dreams happen thanks to money from NatWest’s "Back Her Business", developed in partnership with Crowdfunder. The programme supports female entrepreneurs in a business' early stages and is part of a commitment to reduce the gender gap.
The pair raised £11,000, including a £5,000 bonus from NatWest for reaching their target, giving them the green light to launch a full-day festival that covers a range of sectors from charities to creative arts and business to leisure.
Commenting on the scale of the event, Helen added: "It's really important to us that we make the events diverse and represent women from all backgrounds because we believe you can't be something, unless you can see it. Everyone who attends can find examples they can relate to.
"One speaker, a Preston author, only began writing novels recently and she had a book published by Penguin aged 60. She's inspirational.
"We have another speaker who's been fighting cancer for the past five years. By sharing her story, she's making space for women and they can find comfort and strength in her tale. It's really powerful.
"Then we have a survivor of domestic abuse who's telling her story to offer warnings to others."
The event will open with a talk by Amanda Greenwood, the CEO of charity Lancashire Women. It will be followed by a panel on the theme of Your Body, Your Rules, which includes journalist L'Oréal Blackett, who is a weekly guest on BBC Radio Manchester's The Dead Good Show.
Interactive workshops will cover topics like creating vision boards, female desire and the impact of impostor syndrome, and the day will be topped off with live music, food, stand-up comedy and an indie market space.
The pair hope their funding success will embolden other women to explore alternative avenues of support.
"Many women wouldn't even think to book on the NatWest course. They don't think they are ready or good enough but can end up missing the boat. Sometimes they feel it's better to stay where they are and play it safe," said Helen.
Back Her Business launched last March following NatWest’s Rose Review, which revealed £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men. The Government-backed report also highlighted that only one in three entrepreneurs are female.
Helen added: "We pushed each other and set a deadline for applying on National Women's Day. We respect each other's boundaries and don't judge each other if we need to do other things but we hold each other to account.
"It's incredibly important that women support women. If we don't, who will? What is the point of being closed off? The motto of Morgan's business was collaboration over competition, and by working together, you help open more doors for everyone."
The event's theme, Take Your Space, Make More Space, says it all.
"Our speaker, L'Oreal, has to make herself as big as possible at work with things like her clothes because otherwise she won't get anywhere. And then she can make room for others.
"We're super thankful for the support we've been given and we're always trying to give back where possible by doing the same for others.
"Women already have so many barriers - so why hold each other back?"
To discover more about the event or to discuss sponsorship opportunities, visit www.womankindnorth.co.uk