Sat at a breakfast meeting with one of Lancashire’s sons Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, Lisa Edge declared she was on a mission to fix Lancashire.
“But is it broken?” came the reply.
Two years in and committed to the campaign of getting people to think smarter about how the county does business, this full-time working mum has made headway in paving some of those cracks thanks to her award winning online enterprise Lancashare.
After a successful 20-year career in the public sector within education, Lisa set about forging a new path using her skillsets to drive local business outside the realm of the classroom
Late last year Lancashare was welcomed as one of the newest members to the government’s flagship Northern Powerhouse Partners Programme, headed by Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Jake Berry MP.
It marked another milestone for the digital sharing space, which seeks to engage businesses in the red rose county, regardless of their size, and simply ‘share’ and help each other, whether that be job recruitment, good practice, marketing, procurement and tenders, or even just good news.
Lisa’s belief is that a more collaborative business community can only be a good thing in getting the county put on the map for all the fantastic opportunities it offers.
There are now more than 1,000 members with the number of regular visitors accessing the site’s free resources far greater than that.
Lisa says 2019 will be about reaching out and ‘knocking on many more doors’ undeterred in her vision to create so much more than just a directory, but a one-stop shop for businesses to use and improve collectively and ultimately ensure her home county continues to progress and thrive.
Lisa, who previously worked at Preston’s College, says: “When people talk about business in the north west, it is automatically assumed it must be Manchester or Liverpool, Lancashire is often completely missed – why?
“When your life’s work has been about engaging with business, from the one-man band to the big enterprises, you have a much greater idea of where the most simple links can be made.
"Access to funding, finding an engineer or how to better promote yourself.
“It started to make a lot more sense to me and I started thinking who can I go to, to get this up and running some way and then, well, why not me?
“Two years ago, I gave up on a career of 17 years, took redundancy and just decided to go for it.
“I knocked on those doors and began to ask businesses to ‘buy in’ to a new concept of becoming the most collaborative county we can be.
“I am so privileged and proud of the amazing businesses here and being officially approved as a Northern Powerhouse partner – that is way beyond what I imagined we could achieve in that time and is testament to the incredible businesses of these amazing counties.”
Lancashare celebrated it’s second birthday on Lancashire Day, November 27 2018, at the Villa, Wrea Green.
Lisa is passionate about business but as much about where she is from and she says it is the social values instilled within her from a young age growing up in Bolton, on which she has built the foundations of Lancashare.
“I was one of five at home, my mum and dad brought us all up to realise the importance of good values, there was a very strong sense of community and the idea of helping everyone.
“It was a ‘do as should be done’ attitude.
“Working in education for so long and forging such close relationships with so many local businesses, I kept thinking there was more that could be done to pay back and share within the business community and that's where the name ‘Lancashare’ evolved - a simple concept of better sharing everything the county has to offer from the SME’s, the one man band, to the charities and the big businesses.”
Lisa credits her late education as having completely ‘changed her life.’
After her parents separated when she was aged 15, she says it turned her world upside down: “I left school without a qualification to my name and by 17 I was pregnant.
“The council set me up a flat on an estate, a world away from the life I’d grown up in.
“It wasn’t just me, I now had a baby boy to look after and that completely changed my perspective – this wasn’t what I envisaged for him and I was determined then I was going to turn it around. I worked my way out with nothing but strong will.
“I got myself back to college to do some clerical training while I worked in the day for my income, and within a few years I had worked my way to a PA position.”
A strong work ethic saw her through various positions at corporate firms, such as Norweb and Chubbs, and then around 1994 Lisa found herself back at college, this time at Blackburn, which would sow the seed for her career in the public sector.
“I took on every course going, from HND in computing to a level five in management training, you name it, overall I did more than 10 years of learning. I was married, had four children, I was working a full time job – at the end of the final course the college offered me a job working in external funding.”
It was at this point she began to get heavily involved with local businesses, working in employer engagement at Blackburn College, later moving to Preston’s College. where she was instrumental in strengthening links between the college and business.
“I had spent many years building key relationships with businesses across a wide sector of industry, the stand out thing for me was often the basic problems they were facing regardless the size of the company were the same, whether it was recruitment or funding opportunities.
“Companies were facing the same challenges again and again and the answer was to work collaboratively,
“I started to listen and the dots began to line up, I felt firms needed to share knowledge and opportunities.
“I had the skills to help them do it, but at the time I was going through a divorce, remortgaging the home, taking redundancy, I had a foster child to care for, but I had this urge it was now or never. I was determined it was going to work.”
Now a grandmother-of-one, Lisa lives in Darwen with her partner.
‘Lancashare’ has bases in Preston and Blackburn. The sharing platform is filled with local suppliers, jobs, training providers, tenders, events, awards, networking events, news, offers, discounts, advice, information and funding from across Lancashire.
“By ‘sharing’ all we have and know, on one central platform, opportunities increase and we can find what we need at our fingertips,” says Lisa.
“Working together, we save time and money, we help each other, we reduce carbon footprint, increase our social values and keep more money right here, in our fabulous county.
By advertising and looking for jobs in one place, we recruit locally and reduce unemployment. The initiative is growing with start-ups to SMEs and £350m turnover firms involved.”
Membership includes all three Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, Boost, Hive, Blackburn Rovers, solicitors, banks, manufacturing firms, councils, colleges, and universities.
New branches are also being rolled out, including Manchester (Manceshare) and Yorkshire (Yorkshare). For details, visit www.lancashare.co.uk