Forget Girl Power. This is women power and those involved mean business. A growing number of female entrepreneurs is emerging from St Neots as women set up their own businesses to help beat the affects of a stifled economy and provide a way of working on their own terms.

Forget Girl Power. This is women power and those involved mean business. A growing number of female entrepreneurs is emerging from St Neots as women set up their own businesses to help beat the affects of a stifled economy and provide a way of working on their own terms. CATE MUNRO reports of their successes and a new business network - Likeminded Network - which caters only for women.

CASE STUDY ONE:

MUM-of-three and former chemist Jane Roberts, 44, is the owner of Davidson-Roberts Ltd, which she set up in 2006.

The company runs day nurseries in Buckden, Ramsey and Rushden and an after-school club in Ramsey.

Following the birth of her second child in 2005 - and the stress of maternity-leave which accompanied it - Mrs Roberts, of Opeford Close, Offord Cluny, decided to look for ways of working for herself and hasn't looked back since.

"I decided I wanted to spend more time with my children and, to be honest, companies tend not to be overly accommodating towards women in the workplace," she said.

"They tend to leave it until the last minute to work out maternity arrangements, which is stressful for women.

"I was living in Gamlingay at the time, and spent 10 months researching the market and the area, and I came across Buckden Day Nursery, which I bought in 2006.

"I started looking around for a second business the following May and I continually look to expand - I love a challenge.

"I think there's definitely a quiet revolution going on. Developing your own business is a lifestyle choice, but women tend to be very creative and good at spotting niche markets which helps.

"The Likeminded Network is brilliant. Whether you've started your own business or are thinking of doing so, it's invaluable to be able to meet other women who have done it, see what they're about and what they're going through.

"Now is also a great time to think about setting up your own business - a lot of the big players are struggling due to the recession so there's less of a battle for market share."

INFORMATION: For details on Davidson-Roberts Ltd visit www.davidson-roberts.co.uk

CASE STUDY TWO:

THE desire to contribute following the birth of her children led Ingrid Fawcett, 37, to start her own business.

Following the Stock Market crash of 2009, just after the birth of her second daughter, the former recruitment consultant decided to take the plunge and set up Create@68.

The company sells bespoke jewellery, hand-finished frames, door plaques and other desirable items for the home.

"After Amber was born I decided I wasn't really enjoying my job enough to go back," she said.

"I also wanted to work around my family which going back to work wouldn't allow - plus, childcare costs are so high."

Ingrid, of Avenue Road, St Neots, began by making personalised presents for family and friends. The feedback was great and requests for additional items started arriving.

She was also making jewellery for herself which led to her being approached to make pieces for a friend's wedding.

"I still felt I wanted to contribute and be part of something after having the girls," she said. "It can be a solitary experience working on your own, so being part of The Likeminded Network is great.

"It's good to be able to get an idea of where your business sits within the market, get to know what other people are doing and how they source their materials.

"We had no idea it would grow so quickly, but people are approachable, friendly and warm and there are such an array of business ideas."

INFORMATION: For details on Create@68 e-mail creative68@live.co.uk

CASE STUDY THREE

WHEN 31-year-old Eleanor Abbs got married, she had no idea her wedding reception would be the inspiration for a business venture.

The mother-of-two, of Gaynes Park, Perry, elected to have afternoon tea on the day she got married instead of the usual sit-down dinner and disco.

Her mother spent nine months sourcing vintage china for the occasion, which meant that after the big day, Ellie was left with hundreds of pieces of vintage crockery.

"I found afternoon tea was becoming more and more popular among people of all ages and, as I've always cooked, I thought that if I could offer catering as well, people would be up for it."

The former support assistant set-up Elle's Vintage Kitchen last year, and after attending numerous fairs and festivals, the business is growing and she also gets to spend more time at home with her children.

"What motivates me is the sharing of information and ideas, and meeting people in the same situation," she said.

"There's a long way to go business-wise, but there's a lot of support out there for women who want to branch out on their own."

INFORMATION: For details on Elle's Vintage Kitchen visit www.ellesvintagekitchen.co.uk

CASE STUDY FOUR

ST NEOTS business owner Chrissy Brown, 39, who developed the Likeminded Network with four other St Neots business women, started Crafty Monkey Pottery Painting, Build a Bear and Craft Studio in July 2010 after becoming disillusioned with corporate life as a buyer for a gift experience firm.

Inequality in the workplace and what she refers to as "David Brent-style management" conflicted with her personal values, driving forward her decision to go it alone.

"Decisions were being made I didn't agree with, and I felt I could do things better," she said.

"The idea for Crafty Monkey came to me in February 2010 and by July I'd opened the doors. Running my own business has given me a lot of freedom.

"The success of the business is largely down to what effort you put into it but there are also so many different avenues you can use to market yourself - such as networking through The Likeminded Network.

"Since opening the studio, I increasingly felt there was a real need for a more informal networking group in St Neots and I am very proud to be a part of such a positive, empowering network and this is only the start - the sky is the limit on what we can achieve by helping each other."

INFORMATION: For details on The Crafty Monkey studio visit www.craftymonkeypotterypainting.com