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Willow Bridal: Business Support and Peer Networks Case Study

Case Study Accelerate Peer Networks

Willow Bridal is a premium bridal boutique in Middlewich.

Willow Bridal is a premium bridal boutique in Middlewich, Cheshire. Launched in 2016, the company stocks collections from world-renowned designers, some of which are only available in the UK via Willow. 

As a small business, Willow Bridal was significantly impacted by the closure of non-essential retail during the various national lockdowns in 2020/21. 

 Owner Helen Williams connected with the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub to: 

  • Access general Coronavirus business support 
  • Find out what peer-to-peer support there was during lockdown and how she could learn from other industries 
  • Access funded training for a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification via the Accelerate programme   

The Growth Hub provided Helen with information about the Peer Networks programme, a Government-backed scheme that enables businesses from a variety of sectors to share best practice and become part of a strong cohort of leaders.  

Helen joined the Peer Network, which is free to join, in January 2021, attending virtual sessions with six other business leaders. 

The sessions, which were facilitated by an experienced provider chosen by Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, gives attendees the opportunity to discuss challenges they face and work together to create solutions that can be adapted across various sectors. 

As part of her engagement with the Growth Hub, Helen was also able to reignite her passion for marketing, via the Accelerate skills programme. The programme enabled Helen to access funded training and regain her certification with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, allowing her to further build her brand strategy and take the business forward. 

Helen, who employs three members of staff, said: “I initially got involved with the Peer Networks Programme from a social perspective and was looking forward to hearing from other businesses and how they operate.  

“I was actually surprised to see how much advice I could offer to the other businesses in my group, who were predominantly from the tech industry. They seemed to really value my input on social media marketing and how I retain staff. 

“Similarly, I was able to tap into others’ knowledge on the benefits of outsourcing matters such as payroll – it really opened my mind to how I could work smarter and more effectively.  

“In addition, I’ve been able to get on the path to being recertified by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Having previously worked in marketing, I have a real passion for it and, without the help of the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, I wouldn’t have been able to access the training during the hours that fit round my work and family commitments. 

“I can’t wait to reopen post-lockdown with a fresh perspective and take the business’ brand identity forward.” 

Andy Devaney, Business Innovation Director at Cheshire and Warrington LEP’s Growth Hub, said: “Willow Bridal is a thriving local business that pulls in customers from across the country, thanks to its accessible location and excellent service, so to be able to play a role in its growth has been fantastic. 

“With the closure of non-essential retail came a great deal of stress and worry for businesses t across our sub-region, with many not knowing whether they’d be able to survive and return to how they once were. But, with the help of programmes like Peer Networks, business owners have been able to share challenges and solutions to build confidence as we move through the roadmap out of lockdown. 

“We’re thrilled to have been able to signpost Helen to the programme so that she can not only pick up advice and guidance, but also share her expertise with those from very different industries to hers. 

“We wish her every success as she prepares to welcome customers back.” 

 Find out more about the Accelerate and Peer Networks programmes

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