Prowess flagship award

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The Flagship Award The Flagship Awards are a best practice standard for excellence in women's enterprise development. They aim to help organisations to identify, measure and improve their services for women looking to start and grow businesses. The standards have been developed and are administered by Prowess.

For further details about the Flagship Award and the newly developed 'Commitment to Flagship' see or email Marla Nelson at mailto://


The Prowess approach to mainstreaming

Prowess a trade association and lobby organisation for women’s business support was launched in 2002 and was supported under Round 2 of the Phoenix Development Fund. As well as its more generic trade association work on behalf of the members, Prowess has developed a Flagship award for excellence in women’s enterprise development as a means of influencing mainstream and specialist providers of business support and networking services.

  • The flagship award is based on a set of 12 criteria against which mainstream and specialist women’s business support providers can be assessed. The Prowess board drew up the criteria and tried to encapsulate best practice in women’s enterprise support.
  • A similar list with 13 criteria is used for assessing network organisations.

How Flagship status works

13 criteria for business support

The 13 standards for Business Support Providers fit across 4 key areas as illustrated below:


  • Outreach
  • Access
  • Commitment to diversity (including that at least 40% of clients are women)

Client focussed

  • Segmented market knowledge
  • Listening organisations
  • Regular face-to-face service
  • Promotion of clients’ businesses


  • Some women-only provision
  • Women business support professionals
  • 40% of clients should be women, and the share of ethnic minority women should be proportionate to the local population


  • Established programmes
  • Significant impact
  • Effective partnerships
  • Coherent range of services
  • Pre-enterprise
  • Business training or counselling
  • Access to finance
  • ICT
  • Networking or mutual support

3 criteria in detail

Each of the criteria used is described in more detail so that an organisation will know what it will need to achieve in order to be “women friendly”. Three criteria are presented below with their detailed explanation:

Examples of Prowess’s Flagship Member Criteria (3 of 12 criteria presented)

  • They disaggregate client statistics by gender, ethnicity, disability and any other underrepresented or disadvantaged groups and on balance they reach an adequate number of these.
To effectively target market segments, you need to measure the effectiveness of your marketing approach.
  • They are committed to serving diverse communities.
There’s a danger of women’s business support being just the latest funding-led bandwagon. A strategic mission-led approach is more likely to last when the bandwagon moves on.
  • On balance they deal with access issues adequately.

Access issues can design women and other groups out – apparently small things, such as:

    • Timings – all-day courses may not suit women who have to collect children from school. Many people need to start a business on top of a job, and daytime courses exclude them.
    • Location – women are less likely to have access to a vehicle so venues should be accessible by public transport and in locations that take personal safety into consideration.
    • Costs – women are more likely to be on lower incomes or benefits and may be excluded by the cost of care, travel or course fees.
    • Take care responsibilities into account – women with care responsibilities will need access to a crèche or help with childcare costs without too many restrictions. Elders or dependents with other care needs are a growing issue where women are most likely to have primary responsibility.
    • Culture – some cultures will not attend mixed gender courses.
  • At least 1/3 of their business support professional staff is women.
Support organisations need to make efforts to reflect the characteristics of their clients. Women business support professionals can be powerful role models to clients and women clients sometimes feel happier seeing another woman.

The accreditation processs

Of the 68 Business Support Provider members of Prowess, 60 have had service delivery assessments completed and eight are still in the process of being assessed. Of the completed assessments, six members have been identified as meeting the best practice criteria and will be awarded Flagship Member status.

Of the nine Network members, three have had service delivery assessments completed and six are still in the process of being assessed. Of the completed assessments two members have been identified as meeting the best practice criteria and will be awarded Flagship Network Member status.

It is clear that Flagship Member status is a tough standard to reach. Members of Prowess can be assumed to be already sympathetic to issues around women’s business support, otherwise they would not have paid for membership - yet only 10% of Business Support Providers passed the test. Organisations that did not reach the standard while expressing disappointment had a clear understanding of where they would need to improve in order to pass in the future.

The following organisations have achieved the Prowess Flagship Award:

Flagship business support providers

Account 3

Account 3 delivers a very comprehensive programme of women's business support in the East End of London. Its particular strengths include a clear and deep commitment to serving the diverse community in which it is based. The offices provide a fantastic visual impact of success stories of women from all ethnic groups and backgrounds and business types and the informal networking provided by the food coop day and open days provide real exposure of local women to the possibilities for self employment or further traning that Account 3 can offer them. Account 3 operates in the East End of London

T: +44 20 7739 7720



Beta Technology: South Yorkshire Female Entrepreneurs Network programme

Beta Technology delivers an excellent range of women's networking and mentoring opportunities through its delivery of the South Yorkshire Female Entrepreneurs Network, part of the wider Advancing Women in South Yorkshire Project. Its particular strengths are large scale high quality networking events and a mentoring programme that closely matches mentors and mentees - which together have helped to raise the profile of female entrepreneurs in the region.

T: +44 1302 322633



Bolton Business Ventures

BBV offers a full range of business support services to women wishing to start a business or who are already in business. This includes business advice, networking, seminars, business skills training, loan funds, business incubation and mentoring. BBV operates in the North Manchester area, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan.

T: +44 1204 391400



Bolton Metro's Ethnic Minorities Business Service

Operating in the borough of Bolton, Lancashire, the Ethnic Minority Business Service provides tailored and targeted support for black and minority ethnic (BME) clients. For the past six years an officer has been employed to specifically target the needs of BME women. Services are delivered in a culturally sensitive and relevant manner and can help women to develop a business idea, raise finance and develop skills. The multilingual advice and support programme includes seminars on pre-enterprise training, self-employment awareness, business development, book-keeping and taxation and ICT programmes. A free creche can be provided for under 5s. Women who are already running a business can recieve advice on expanding a business, breaking new markets, raising finance and pursuing international trade.

T: +44 01204 336150



Business Link for Hertfordshire's New Horizons programme (Inspiring Success for Women)

Offering a comprehensive range of women friendly support. Their Business Planning Workshop is aimed at women starting or running a business who need to put together a business plan. Guidance is also provided to help women develop their self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness. A tailored one-to-one support service is available for women managers. Good links with Business Link Herts. Operates across Hertfordshire.

T: +44 01727 813538



Business Link Wessex

Business Link Wessex provides affordable advice and support across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight to people who are thinking of starting a business and new and established businesses.

Its Women into Business programme, delivered by women for women, consists of Awareness Events, Personal Development Workshops, Enterprise Training programmes and networks aims to provide women with the skills, knowledge, motivation and confidence to start their own business. The initial Awareness Event is free and enables women to exchange ideas and ask questions in order to assess the realities, risks and benefits of starting a business.

Assistance is available with travel and pre-school childcare costs and timings are school friendly. BLW uses user-friendly, community based venues which are easily reached by public transport and provide access to people with disabilities.

Its Start-Up Programme was awarded Prowess Flagship status in November 2005.

T: +44 8454 588558



Chwarae Teg (Fair Play)

Chwarae Teg's remit is to provide pre-enterprise support to women (and in the case of the Lone Parents project, to lone parents of both genders), and to avoid duplicating existing services by providing appropriate and effective referrals to mainstream business support providers. In doing this Chwarae Teg provides a range of regular face-to-face business services, ranging from initial one to one interviews to pre-enterprise workshops, to training sessions on specific topics, or aimed at specific sectors.

T: +44 29 2047 8900



Enterprise Enfield

Enterprise Enfield is a not-for-profit, DTI-approved enterprise agency offering a range of women-friendly business support services. Seminars specifically designed and delivered by women for women include Assertiveness, Time Management, Conflict Management and Starting Right in Business for Women. One-to-one advice and guidance sessions are available with expert female or male advisers covering a whole range of business issues including business planning, raising finance, marketing and managing accounts. Enterprise Enfield has been awarded the Customer First and Matrix standards for quality business support and is also an Investor in People.

T: +44 20 8443 5457



Her Business

Her Business provides a fully comprehensive range of regular business support services ranging from one-to-one coaching support, pre-enterprise training programmes, monthly business training workshops to networking opportunities and electronic newsletters.

T: 01768 210997



Incredit delivers an excellent range of business support services to a wide client group, recognising that flexible services, community based outreach, quality provision and client focused services will make a real impact on currently under-represented group. A range of services and resources including microfinance, business incubation and 1-2-1 business advice are provided through their Business in Prisons programme (for report see, workshops focussed on enterprise development in 5 women's prisons are currently being delivered.

T: +44 1438 794438

E: mailto://


QSA - Street Cred

Quaker Social Action's Street Cred project provides comprehensive, multi-lingual micro-credit and business support for women starting up in business. Groups of women are enabled to work together to provide a peer support and business development opportunities with support from Street Cred staff.

Street Cred operates across the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney and Waltham Forest.

T: 0207 729 9267



Click here to download the Street Cred case study card

Rural Women's Network (Voluntary Action Cumbria)

RWN delivers an excellent standard of services to its rural client base in Cumbria. As well as offering comprehensive networking opportunities, it delivers a full and very comprehensive programme of business support services. The team is committed to providing all clients with opportunities to access their services, taking care to ensure to cater for clients from different backgrounds and with different access needs.

T: 01768 21099



Sheffield Community Enterprise Development Unit's (SCEDU) Making a Difference Programme

Making a Difference is a programme developed by SCEDU, aimed at women who want to start their own business or develop management skills within community organisations. For women wanting to start a business SCEDU offers business training, one-to-one business advice and aftercare training sessions. For women in management roles a 20-day course is offered which includes mentoring, workshops, networking and a residential programme.

T: +44 114 201 5260



Slough Enterprise Gateway

Slough Enterprise Gateway provides local business support to a wide range of start-ups, including sole traders and limited companies, during their first three years of trading. It covers all business sectors, giving advice, creating networking opportunities and providing incubtation space. Other activities include workshops covering issues from business planning to data protection, maketing and sales and assertiveness. Empowerment events for women are run to inspire women and help develop their self-esteem.

Slough Business Women's Network has been set up to help support and train women into networking.

Contact: Nina Sian, Slough Enterprise Gateway Director.

T: +44 1753 610043



Success Matrix

Success Matrix delivers holistic business solutions across the East Midlands, to businesses of all sizes. It supports and encourages women to achieve their personal and economic potential in business. It has the skills and expertise to help women, whether an established business looking to grow, or a young venture taking the early steps to achieve its dream.

Its mainstream training and business support is complemented by some women-only support – including Business Women's Link, its Prowess Flagship Award winning network. It keeps abreast of, and contributes to, the latest research, information and opportunties, and is always seeking new ways to support women in business.

Its website has a women’s zone and showcases four specialist divisions covering the wide areas of business services on offer. It has a team of friendly, knowledgeable and experienced people who are ready to help.



Train 2000

Train 2000 develops and delivers a range of high quality innovative business support measures throughout Merseyside. It works with a cross-section of the community, particularly with women, disabled people and minority communities. Train 2000 offers free, women-only pre-enterprise training, business training courses, workshops and business counselling and operates a business loan fund. It can also help with childcare and travel costs for training.

T: +44 151 236 6601




WEETU strives to help women deal with economic change and to develop and extend women's access to quality employment, education and training opportunities. It offers an extensive range of free business support, training and advice programmes throughout Norfolk and operates a pioneering microcredit loan fund.

T: +44 1603 767367



Women's Business Development Agency

The Women's Business Development Agency WBD a provides free, women-only, pre-start up, start up and existing business training. Its strengths include a particularly dedicated and committed team of female business support staff, who are specialised in accessing and retaining hard to reach groups and communities. It can help with childcare and travel costs for training.

T: +44 2476 236111



Mission Possible

Mission Possible helps individuals and organisations across Europe to achieve the "seemingly impossible". Its services include motivational presentations, executive coaching, books and workshops on motivation,entrepreneurship and leadership.

It run a county-website resource for women in Oxfordshire who wish to start up in business or are already early-stage entrepreneurs and need help to run their business and their lives:

It founded the Faringdon Businesswomen's Networking Group, also in Oxfordshire, which was awarded Prowess Flagship status in January 2006:

It meets monthly and is a friendly network with a strong business focus.

T: +44 1367 244855



W:ISE Programme at the University of Salford

The W:ISE Programme offers monthly training sessions on a variety of different topics aimed at helping take the business forward. These covered include business start-up, sales, marketing, business planning, finance for non-finance managers, public relations and presentation skills. Larger networking events are organised every few months with keynote speakers and the chance for clients to expand their networks. The programme is open to all women, both those thinking of setting up in business and those already running their business.

The programme is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and therefore all events are free of charge. Certain regions are not covered: Merseyside, Wales, Scotland, South Yorkshire, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Also those who work within public sector organisations are not eligible.

T: +44 161 295 3000



WiiSE (Women involved in Successful Enterprise)

Managed by Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber and Business Link, WiiSE is a network for women in business that operates across Derbyshire. It aims to help all women in the county - including those in the early stages of running a business, as well as owners and managers in established businesses - make new contacts through regular events. The events are designed to make the optimum use of networking opportunities over a meal in a relaxed and informal setting and in the company of inspirational and motivational speakers. The network has grown to an active and enthusiastic 150 women from all types of businesses, experiences and backgrounds. One thing they have in common is the desire to improve - to move their businesses forward through effective networking and new practices.

T: +44 845 601 1035



Women in Enterprise Northern Ireland

Women in Enterprise is a network membership organisation committed to excellence in the delivery of business support services to women starting or growing their business. The Women in Enterprise Network facilitates regular contact with over 1,800 individuals, groups and organisational members and its major project for 2006 was to establish BWN NI – Business Women’s Network Northern Ireland - a project to bring together all other existing networks of women in business across Northern Ireland to enable members to improve networking opportunities and business skills. Its support services also include:

  • GROW Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund (loans from £500-£10,000)
  • GROW (Growing Real Opportunities for Women) Business Series
  • Mentor Training and Matching

T: +44 2871 366967



Women Into Rural Enterprise

WIRE is a dynamic and committed network offering very good services to its members. At a national level it provides a good level of service, and in those areas where funding allows for a dedicated local officer, provides an excellent range of networking opportunities. Over the past 12 months, activities in local areas have expanded rapidly, allowing a more extensive coverage of local events in locations across the UK.

T: +44 1952 815338



Women Into the Network (WIN)

Women Into the Network (WIN) is a networking initiative based at Durham Business School, which facilitates the development of women's businesses. This project integrates women into existing and new business networks and bridges the gap between providers of business and professional support. WIN's activities include communications and publications, networking events, awards and role model promotion and research. Individually each area provides distinct benefits to members in terms of gaining knowledge, skills and contacts specific to their needs. An EU commissioned survey has recognised the success of WIN by selecting it as the UK best practice initiative for promoting female entrepreneurship.

T: +44 191 334 5502

F: +44 191 334 5144