4-5 June 2024

Manchester Central

Skating forward with Help to Grow: Management

Skating forward with Help to Grow: Management

17th May 2024

Creating Roller Girl Gang


Shifting careers can be difficult, but doing so with your own business can be even harder. Melissa Blackwood, the founder of Roller Girl Gang, managed to pivot from a career in education to making her own roller skating business. In fact, the company was recently given the Bricks ‘n’ Clicks award at the Good Retail Awards 2023 for its work as a digital and physical shop.


During the development of Roller Girl Gang, Melissa attended the Help to Grow: Management Course. Melissa shared her insights and how she leveraged the information from the course to develop her business.


Ten years ago, Melissa, developed an interest in roller skating, and it quickly became a passion project. Melissa noticed that plenty of her colleagues in the teaching world had an interest in learning to skate. With the belief that skating has a positive impact on physical and mental health for people of all ages, she launched her business.


Joining Help to Grow: Management


After receiving coaching qualifications, lockdown hit, and Melissa had to quickly adapt the original idea was required to adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the Roller Girl Gang pivot to an online-focused stream of revenue.


She explains, ‘Suddenly, roller skates became very popular as roller skates sold out across the world.’ This uptake in interest in roller skates, and stock amassing in her house, led to Blackwood feeling comfortable to open a brick-and-mortar shop.

Looking to find a way to manage the growing business and its complexities, Melissa contacted Leeds Beckett University.


Initially, Melissa attended the Help to Grow: Management Course to learn about financial management within an SME, but the scope of learning was much larger than that and ranged from peer networking to operational efficiency.


Takeaways from Help to Grow: Management


Peer networking


Blackwood was initially unsure whether she was right for the course as she sat with peers from larger organisations, but she found herself quickly reassured by the group. In fact, one of Blackwood’s favourite elements of the course was the opportunity to network with other business leaders.


‘The peer group was brilliant, and the diversity of our sectors became a strength. Despite different industries, we all found similar problems at different stages of our business journey.’

Workplace culture


The course has also enabled Blackwood to evaluate her workplace culture, ‘I’m really celebrating that the people who’ve joined my organisation as employees have stayed with me and see the culture we’re trying to achieve’.


Blackwood explains that she enjoys seeing people grow in their position and become empowered. Help to Grow: Management has ‘massively helped to clarify our vision and mission and get those statements clear.’ Naturally, having a mission helps encourage staff and gives a greater sense of purpose and engagement in the workplace.


It also means ‘potential employees can decide straight away if they align with what we offer or are better suited to go to another shop or brand, and we’re quite happy with either outcome. It’s important as a small business that we have the right people in the team.’


Business Operations


The course provides small business leaders with a series of business models and frameworks that they can use within their business. Blackwood explains that the course has ‘given us the tools that underpin our development. For example, we now have an operational flow. We learnt how to use this tool framework in the ‘Effective Operations’ module. It enables the business to clearly see its functions and highlight areas for improvement.’


The course taught Blackwood to take time away from the day-to-day of the business to look at operational efficiencies that present long-term gains.


Applying the lessons learned


12 months before completing the Help to Grow: Management Course, Roller Girl Gang reported a turnover of £202,000. By using the new skills gained through the course, Melissa reshaped her organisation to give her employees more responsibility and saw turnover increase by 74% in the period from February 2021 to February 2022. However, Melissa isn’t stopping there.


Looking ahead, Roller Girl Gang will move to a larger space for her shop and for people to learn to skate. ‘From roller derby teams and competitive roller hockey groups to people skating for fun, there’s a real appetite across Yorkshire for a roller rink.


As this next step is realised, Blackwood is ‘very pleased that I’ve still got access to all the Help to Grow: Management module material in the course as I’m definitely going to back and work through again because it’s a great reference point.’


She concludes, ‘Help to Grow: Management has opened so many doors alongside the work that Leeds Beckett is doing to support small businesses. I wish I’d known about Help to Grow: Management sooner.’


Find out where you can access the support and learning offered by Help to Grow: Management here.

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4-5 June 2024

Manchester Central


2-3 October 2024

ExCel London