A number of high-profile organisations have expressed support for the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) new networking programme for business leaders from small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), another LEP initiative developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the Solent region hard.

A total of 10 separate networking groups as part of the Peer Networks initiative will offer business owners and business leaders in SMEs the chance to grow their organisation through a national peer-to-peer networking programme. This motivating programme aims to bring diverse groups of individuals together to share and work through common business issues, recognise and act on new opportunities, build a trusted network of connections and improve long-term personal and business performance.

Amy Doyle is the Entrepreneur Liaison for the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise project at the University of Portsmouth, and she runs the Female Entrepreneurs Network, Supporting Start-ups & Female Founders. A significant supporter of the programme, she said:

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“I’m so pleased that one of the ten peer networking groups that the LEP is establishing is specifically for women in business because we know women often lack access to relatable, professional support networks. Women can face so many additional barriers to growing a successful business; networking of this type, for smaller businesses, can provide a wealth of benefits, both economic and psychological, by connecting them with other people facing similar challenges and supporting each other to find solutions.”

Peer Networks will be delivered by the Solent LEP with its Growth Hub team coordinating the recruitment of SMEs to the programme. Expert facilitators are being recruited to deliver and manage sessions. In order to support the variety of business types, industries and locations across the Solent, the LEP is setting up ten different networks in the Solent region:

  • Women in Business
  • Maritime and marine-based businesses
  • Businesses in and around Eastleigh
  • Businesses in and around Fareham and Gosport
  • Businesses in Havant
  • Businesses on the Isle of Wight
  • Businesses in the New Forest
  • Businesses in and around Portsmouth
  • Businesses in and around Southampton
  • Businesses on the Solent Enterprise Zone

Brian Johnson, Chair at the Solent LEP and an ambassador for SMEs said:

“We are delighted to be bringing this unique peer-to-peer networking programme to businesses in the Solent region, many of which have been impacted by recent and ongoing economic difficulties. It will provide a framework for delivering our commitment to support their immediate survival and recovery over the next two years. The programme will help to secure longer-term growth and prosperity for the businesses taking part, and that is a hugely important achievement for the Solent economy.”

The networking groups will include groups of 8-11 business owners or managers from the SME business community, participating in each meeting which will be led by an experienced facilitator. They will typically meet fortnightly as part of delivering 18 hours of action learning through 2-3 hour sessions. The programme includes individual one-to-one support (through the provision of coaching, mentoring, or advice) will also be provided either directly by the programme, or from other existing schemes to help to implement and manage change.

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From finance and HR to sales, marketing and more, the programme’s expert facilitators give businesses the flexibility to create a support network which works for each business to help them strengthen it and improve its overall performance.

The Peer Networks programme is now live if you are interested in finding out more about the proposed networks as they progress, visit

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