A new accelerator has been launched which is hoped to kick-start the entrepreneurial careers of 100 women who have lost their jobs to the pandemic.

The FreelanceHER 100 programme said it will focus on women for whom COVID has resulted in a career break, as well mothers seeking to return to work and applicants from the BAME community.

It said it will provide access to “the skills, self-belief and confidence to pursue their ambitions as a freelancer or start-up business”.

Women from across the 10 Greater Manchester districts will have the opportunity to apply for the scheme, which will be delivered online in weekly sessions.

The fully-funded three-month accelerator has been developed by IN4.0 with The Landing, the MediaCityUK-based digital innovation hub.

On successfully completing the programme, the 100 freelancers will be offered 12 months business co-working space at Arrive in MediaCityUK and innovation hub membership starting at £99 per month.

FreelanceHER 100 will support participants to test and build their business ideas or freelancer service as well as develop knowledge and skills in business modelling, product development, finance, communication, and business development.

The programme will work with specialist partners, female entrepreneurs and industry experts giving participants access to a wide range of networks and a supportive community of female founders and mentors.

Peer to peer mentoring will be led by experts including Tina Boden, co-founder of #MicroBizMatters Day & Micro Business Expert, and Sarah Townsend, author of Survival Skills for Freelancers.

FreelanceHER 100 ambassadors will include Rose Marley, CEO of Sharpe Futures & Cooperatives UK, Beena Puri, Innovation & Partnerships Lead at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and Annette Joseph, CEO of Diverse & Equal and former Co-op Digital Delivery Manager.

IN4.0 with The Landing has appointed leading digital and tech stalwart Naomi Timperley, who will lead FreelanceHER 100 as programme director.

Timperley, co-founder of Tech North Advocates, was named Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2020.

She said: “This is a first of its kind groundbreaking accelerator for women and led by women, creating an opportunity for 100 female freelancers to thrive in these challenging times.

“We want to empower female freelancers to be strong leaders, to create powerful enterprises and to influence and shape the world through their companies, using collaboration, community, and innovation.”

“We want to support diverse women who have the skills to launch and lead businesses in multiple markets from idea to validation to funding readiness.

“We will ensure they can do this in a safe environment that is flexible and authentic so that after 12 weeks they have the confidence and ability to build and grow their business.”

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group said there was an urgent need to provide the right kind of support to a cross section of women who have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

He said: “We know that setting up as a freelancer can be challenging as it is a new world and there are many aspects that might not be familiar.

“By giving them access to a three-month accelerator and incubator programme led by Naomi Timperley, one of the UK’s leading growth and innovation consultants, to support those entrepreneurs in the digital creative and technology sector, is going to have a significant positive impact.”

FreelanceHER 100 will launch on 8 January to coincide with #MicroBizMatters Day. Entries are open from 24 November 2020.