GrowBiz Learning Session Programme in the Cairngorms
Jackie Brierton, Director of Growbiz, tells us about how they have been providing support to small rural businesses to help them through the challenges of the pandemic, and helping them to embrace digital technology to learn new skills.
In the past year accessible learning and business support opportunities have been more crucial for micro-enterprises in rural Scotland than ever. And the way in which many small business owners have accessed learning opportunities and increased their digital capability and know-how has altered significantly.
When the Covid pandemic hit Scotland in March 2020, GrowBiz quickly flipped an in-person focused learning programme to online learning. It’s hard to believe that just 15 months ago, Zoom was relatively new to most small businesses but has since developed into being a vital business tool.
Video technology has enabled businesses to continue to trade remotely and in addition to providing e-commerce selling, has also proven invaluable to many service businesses. Dance classes, speech therapists, photographers and even dog trainers have all successfully managed to flip their businesses to online. And the creative community who would normally attend fairs, craft markets and open studio events have had to find new routes to market and ways to connect with their audience and customers.
GrowBiz has been providing rural support services for 15 years, and since 2019 has been providing specific support to micro-businesses in the Cairngorms National Park area. As part of this project, support from Skills Development Scotland was accessed in 2020 to provide a series of online learning sessions for businesses in the Cairngorms. More than 900 businesses, of which 119 were based in the Cairngorms, attended 88 events held between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. Topics included improving Instagram engagement, search engine optimization, using Canva to create engaging content…and much more.
These rural businesses have enthusiastically embraced online learning despite the inevitable and infrequent connectivity issues many experience. Feedback says that participating in learning sessions online enables participants to work more efficiently and in the long term could potentially save time and obviate the need to travel, with the environmental benefits this brings.
From a networking perspective, participants have enjoyed both the learning and community aspects of an interactive GrowBiz learning session. That’s because the numbers attending each session are kept relatively small (maximum of 15 participants) and each session has two team members, one who presents and the other who facilitates the learning.
Each attendee has the opportunity to introduce themselves and to meet the other participants. The sessions are dynamic, interactive and participatory. They definitely do not follow the webinar model as participants have found that Zoom fatigue and tiredness can be a reality. Making the sessions interesting is important and attendance figures seem to demonstrate that this style really does work effectively.
Business and social isolation has been a real challenge for rural enterprises, and people want to do more than just learn. They want to connect, hear from others and feel heard themselves. There is real value via opportunity to connect in chat, to collaborate or to be inspired by something another business owner has tried out.
One client said
As a direct result of a contact made at an online meeting with GrowBiz, myself and another attendee have put a bid in for me to work with her charity which supports children. GrowBiz has really helped me keep interested in my business this year when it sometimes didn't feel worth the effort. The online training and interaction has been easier for me to attend than in person.
Another client said about How to Improve Instagram Engagement:
The combination of using a presentation, asking for our experiences and keeping it open for questions throughout (and the chat being monitored by a GrowBiz representative) made it feel inclusive despite being run online.
Every time GrowBiz delivers a learning session it seems that the next idea for a topic is born. As a result the programme has evolved dynamically to meet the needs of businesses and is able to respond quickly.
GrowBiz learning wheel has been developed (pictured) and learning session topics sit under one or more of the spokes of the wheel. Many of our clients want to be digitally up-skilled in ways that can support their marketing activities or financial management skills. However, learning sessions have also been delivered on mindfulness and self-care, which have been important personal development topics during this time.
In-person learning sessions now seem a distant memory, and for now and the foreseeable future it is likely that online learning is here to stay.
For more information on GrowBiz’s learning programme: www.growbiz.co.uk