Amy Doyle is the Founder and Director of The Lark Network, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC), where women who work for themselves can connect, develop, and feel supported in a welcoming and inclusive community.
Having attended the AWE training, Amy started The Lark Network (‘Lark’ for short) after realising the need for continued support beyond the AWE programme. Amy wanted to help other female founders with additional barriers thrive in the business world.
“I understand the barriers because I have them myself. I am a mum, I’m asthmatic, I’m diabetic, I’m LGBTQ. I have borderline personality disorder.”
By providing services such as free-to-access skills training and relaxed networking events at times suitable to parents, Amy aims to bridge the mismatch between the help currently offered to women and what they actually need to meet their individual circumstances and barriers.
Lark focuses on supporting the woman behind the business, recognising that without a good support system, running a successful business is much harder. Lark training encourages women to think realistically about their own needs, not just the needs of the business.
“Put the kids in first. Put your health condition in first. Put your medical appointments and your caring responsibilities in the calendar. What have you got left and what is realistic? ”
By asking questions like this, Lark helps women who face additional barriers identify how to make their businesses work for them.
Lark runs regular networking events out of a local library on Sundays, providing free drinks and snacks for attendees, and activities for children. It looks to improve women’s social capital by connecting them with other women who may be experiencing similar issues in life and entrepreneurship.
“It’s about finding your tribe. It’s about building your social capital and finding your own support network. It’s all about supporting women as people, not just their business.”
It hasn’t been smooth sailing. Amy, like many other CICs and not-for-profit businesses, continues to struggle to find alternative sources of funding to keep the Lark Network’s services free to use.
“Where do I get the pots of funding that cover my time and resources so that our women are not having to pay? For some people right now, even five pounds is too much.”
Amy’s vision is for Lark to grow to a point where it becomes a grant-awarding charity, awarding small grants to aid women’s start-up journeys. She would also like to “make the current service providers sit up, pay attention, and make the changes needed.”
Ultimately, Amy believes that “every female entrepreneur should get the support they need when they need it… and they should not let their circumstances stop them if running a business is what they want to do.”
Case Study produced by Sass Adams for the AWE programme.