WiRE has been offering business support to women in rural business since 1996, when research conducted by senior lecturer Izzy Warren-Smith at Harper Adams University identified a significant number of farm diversifications were established by women. These female entrepreneurs were, however, coming up against a number of barriers, including lack of access to finance, lack of confidence, not being taken seriously, rural isolation, and lack of rural business support.
The first WiRE conference attracted some 400 women and showed that the countryside is alive with business often driven by rural female entrepreneurs. WiRE is now a trusted national organisation, which helps rural women develop and grow their business and delivers a range of services in response to member feedback and the needs of women in rural business.
WiRE believes passionately that women in rural business should be heard and valued. We lobby on a national level to keep rural businesses on the political agenda and contribute regularly to national policy as our advice is often sought by Government. WiRE have Prowess flagship status for excellence in women’s enterprise development.
Izzy was awarded an OBE in 2005 in recognition of her contribution to female entrepreneurship and the current director Polly Gibb was awarded an OBE in 2013 for her services and support for rural businesses. Polly has now been joined by another director, Judy Illing who is based in York.
WiRE was initially based at Harper Adams University, Shropshire. The University was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2005, recognising the significant contribution that the Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) programme has made to developing and supporting women-owned rural businesses.
WiRE encourages links with local and national government bodies and large companies in order to enhance the range of business services available to women in rural business.