A COTSWOLD woman has spoken up for rural businesses in the Houses of Parliament.

Emma Heathcote-James, who founded the Little Soap Company, based in Ebrington, was invited to take part in an inquiry looking into ‘women in the workplace’ at the Government’s London HQ. She attended the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee on Tuesday, December 18, joining some famous names including the BBC Dragons’ Den panellist Hilary Devey.

The businesswoman, who set up her own company five years ago, said: “It was a privilege to be asked and to be able to bang the rural drum for us ladies in the sticks who are successful outside of London.

“We survive despite 0.5 meg of broadband, no mobile phone signal and travelling a lot more miles than our city counterparts. Some MPs were certainly intrigued that we often can’t Skype or do webinars or other upskilling videos due to buffering.”

The main focus of the day was on flexible working and the question was, is flexible working do-able in small to medium enterprises?

Emma said: “My answer was absolutely, yes it is. I put forward the rural enterprise model of using local suppliers and freelancers, which has enabled us as small businesses to grow cost effectively, to be more flexible and scaleable and, of course, there is the added bonus of saving time, money and HR resources from employing on a part or full-time basis.

“We need to support women with degrees, HE and vocational training and those with experience and help them get back to work after having children.

“A few are fortunate and are able to work from home or set up their own businesses which can work flexibly around childcare but this is still not the norm and more of an exception to the rule.

“As a result, the Government is losing a lot of skilled, experienced women by pricing rural mums out of the market place with the rise in childcare costs in no way matching wage packets.”