Lancashare founder, and Lancashire lass, Lisa Edge was thrilled to have been nominated for (and won) Entrepreneur of the Year at this years' Blackburn with Darwen Hive Awards on 27 June. Following a 20+ year career in the public and private sectors, Lisa left her beloved job in education in a bid to help Lancashire businesses and the county to thrive.
For almost 2 decades Lisa supported businesses in Lancashire with education, training, funding, suppliers, new products, jobs, new businesses and much more in her educational position. Her role as Head of Employer Engagement in the public sector, helped to build a vast amount of knowledge and a picture of the landscape and challenges that Lancashire businesses faced.
"Knowing we had so much to offer as a county and asking employers every day, for 17 years what they needed, is what gave me the inspiration" Lisa said. "It seemed simple to me that for the county to succeed, we should ALL have access to the same support, information, funding, etc that is on offer here. It became apparent during my years supporting businesses that they didn't know about some the wider Lancashire offer, about the huge funding pots they have access to, which networking group to join, the fab support that Chambers offer and so much more, I seemed to be continually 'sharing' all I knew. I wondered what it might be like if we all did that on a large scale'.
In 2016, Lisa gave up her role and began working on a concept of 'sharing'. A way to centrally gather and 'share' as much support and information from across the county, on one single portal. She engaged over 100 businesses in the design and development stages of Lancashare, making sure it was built by business, for business but benefited everyone. 3 years on, Lancashare has been nominated for 11 awards, has received Northern Powerhouse Partnership status and the sharing platform is also live in other counties with Cumbria and Manchester now sharing too.
There are now hundreds of members 'sharing' centrally, and thousands of free users and visitors regularly uploading or using the site to find what they need in Lancashire. Collectively, these members are sharing; their products, services, jobs, tenders, training, events, awards, networking groups, advice, support, funding, news and much more centrally. Anyone can access the site and a wealth of information for free (although there are additional benefits for paid members) every click, conversion and connection on the site is tracked so members can clearly see their return, and all members are issued with a return on investment report.
Lancashare has strong SEO and tracking tools to ensure every statistic is gathered and in less than 3 years, the number of local businesses 'sharing' means collectively they are; helping to reduce unemployment and carbon footprint, they're embedding social values, helping companies start and grow by signposting to funding and support. They're helping to up skill communities by 'sharing' training, they're making our county as collaborative as it can be, strengthening Lancashire and keeping more money and opportunities right here, the impact is huge!
The site now offers member introductions, a new property section, online forums and a new tender alert service. In just 3 months, over £150m of tender opportunities have been shared with members who can also access a bid writing service to help keep public sector spend local and help authorities hit their local spend targets, 3 councils are now Lancashare members.
Speaking about her win, Lisa said, 'Normally, when we've won an award, it's been very easy for us to dedicate it to members, as without them, we are just an empty platform with a great name. The definition of Entrepreneur though, is someone with great, innovating ideas that identifies the need for the creation of a new business to fill a void. Did I do this? Yes. But I maintain that this is a collective effort. I would never had known, tried, or succeeded with Lancashare if it wasn't down to the continued support we've had from the Lancashire business community. My humbleness goes out to all of them who have supported our journey. Who had faith in a concept of sharing that had never been done before.'
Lisa continued ' Just imagine a place where 60,000 businesses are all sharing and pooling their resources - the possibilities are endless and in these uncertain times, surely, we're better and stronger together?'