Rural women encouraged to sow ‘Seeds’ of business with new programme for female entrepreneurs

Rural women are being encouraged to sow their own seeds and start a business via the Seed Formula.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 10:48 am

Delivered by business enterprise agency, LEDCOM and business consultancy, The Simple Series, the Seed Formula is a programme aiming to inspire and support women living in rural towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

The overall programme kicks off with the Seed Summit on Friday, September 10, where three local entrepreneurs will tell their business story.

These include Pamela Lilburn of Brookvale Farm, who was born in Larne and brought up in Carnalbanagh.

Pictured are LEDCOM’s Chairman Dr Norman Apsley OBE with Shirley Palmer, CEO and Founder of The Simple Series and LEDCOM’s Chief Executive Officer, Ken Nelson MBE. They are encouraging rural women to sow their own seeds and start a business via the Seed Formula.

Whilst Pamela worked full-time at PWC, she also understood the huge commitment in supporting her husband, a dairy farmer from Moira, and knew it was equally important to find a way to have more flexibility and freedom to spend time with their children Theo, Harrison, and Evie.

In February of this year and with three children under the age of eight, Pamela and Richard Lilburn decided to launch their fourth baby, 'It’s Just Milk'. They knew that their hard work, perseverance, and dedication would pay off.

Brookvale Farm's innovative approach to new technology, including bottling their whole milk and milkshakes in re-usable glass bottles and a collaboration with a local gelato company Taboo HQ, was showcased on an episode of BBC’s Countryfile show in June.

As well as there being introduced to the 12-week Seed Formula programme, there are various breakout sessions looking at the future of rural women in Northern Ireland.

It is a hybrid event with limited numbers attending, but will also be hosted online.

Supported by a grant from the Ulster Bank, the Seed Formula will guide and support female entrepreneurs who are committed to building a business in their chosen field.

As the business enterprise centre for the Ballyclare and Larne areas and headquartered in a rural area, LEDCOM has over 36 years’ experience supporting business start-ups in rural communities.

LEDCOM’s Chief Executive Officer, Ken Nelson MBE said: “we strive to inspire and support individuals in their business journey and that includes any female entrepreneurs we may have.

“We know that economic and social ventures can have a huge positive impact on rural towns and villages. The main aim of the Seed Formula and additional membership is to not only empower female entrepreneurs but to further improve the communities in which they reside.

“We know that our rural women have a lot of offer the world of business and I would encourage anyone who may be interested to sign up for the Seed Formula – it’s sure to equip you will all the knowledge and skills you’ll need to get your business off the ground.”

Research conducted by the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship in 2021 has shown that 1 in 10 female entrepreneurs plan to start a business in 2021, while the single biggest issue holding them back is lack of funding.

Serial entrepreneur, Shirley Palmer and Founder of The Simple Series identified that women living in rural areas were underrepresented in favour of their female counterparts living in larger towns and cities. These findings were one of the main motivations behind the formation of the Seed Formula.

Shirley added: “Given the challenges of the past year with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the issues around trading in the wake of Brexit, our economic recovery greatly depends on the untapped potential that women-led businesses can represent.

“Seed Formula participants will learn everything they’ll need to know about running a successful business, from their ‘why’ and sales to marketing and finances. They will be expertly guided from an initial idea to final brand.

“We believe that this ‘Formula’ will result in innovative projects and/or businesses which will create new jobs and enhance the quality of life for those who live in rural communities. We know that those who complete the programme will see results.

“We intend to build upon the Seed Formula’s success and offer more women throughout Northern Ireland in 2022. We’re looking forward to working alongside local women to help their business dreams come true.”

John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank supporting projects like Seed Formula was key to tackling the imbalance female entrepreneurs continue to face when it comes to accessing funding.

He said: “At Ulster Bank we are committed to supporting female entrepreneurs and providing them with the tools and networks they need to start or scale a business. This partnership with Seed Formula has the potential to deliver transformative change for women; particularly those in rural areas, and we are pleased to have been able to play a role in bringing female entrepreneurs even closer to potential investors through the Enterprise Partner Funding grant.

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project and wish each of the participants well as they take the next step of their business journey.”

To register for a place at the Seed Summit on September 10 or for more information, please visit

The Seed Formula begins on Wednesday, September 29.