Bringing local, grassroots projects into the light
In our series on new LEP Board members and their hopes for the Sheffield City Region, we talk to Laura Bennett.
Laura spent four years working with women’s weaving co-operatives in Peru, helping them find international markets. Returning to the UK, she spent some time with Tech North in a community engagement role across Yorkshire & Humber, and developed a peer-to-peer learning programme for early-stage entrepreneurs across the North. Now she hopes to bring that passion for connecting people to the Sheffield City Region.
“I’ve always been involved in grassroots initiatives, in Sheffield and elsewhere, and the opportunity to be a Board member felt like an opportunity to step that up. I want to find out how the Sheffield City Region supports businesses and, hopefully, bring some of those local and grassroots projects into the light a bit more.
“There are two projects that are close to my heart: the Sheffield Social Enterprise Network (SSEN) and Sheffield Soup. I volunteer on the management committee for SSEN, and we bring together social enterprises across the city for events, talks, and workshops. I’d love to see an increased recognition of the benefits of adopting a social enterprise business model by some of the more traditional companies in the city region. Sheffield Soup is a wonderful project run by Pennie Raven that is nurturing and supporting social initiatives and community-led projects. Sheffield Soup invites new enterprises to pitch their ideas to an audience who’ve all paid £5 to enter – and get a bowl of soup and free entertainment. The best pitch wins the evening’s takings to set up their own venture.
“Then there’s all the tech and digital activity that’s going on in Barnsley for example, at the impressive Digital Media Centre, and also with their involvement in the European-funded URBACT TechTown Network. It would be great to see that scale of activity translated across the region. I’m also involved in MakerHub CIC which aims to become a hub of support, resources, and investment for tech and digital entrepreneurs across Sheffield City Region, linking in with national bodies such as Accelerated Digital Ventures and Capital Enterprise.
“When I worked for Tech North part of my role involved connecting the same sort of tech and digital circles in the big cities so you could spread the best practice and learning. When you tap into that network it presents a much stronger picture. The links between entrepreneurs and the network of connections within an ecosystem is a topic that fascinates me; so much so that I am currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Sheffield on the topic of entrepreneurial ecosystems.
“I really want this City Region to be working in the same space as the Manchester and Leeds LEPs!”