Cumbria Forum

Cumbria Forum

A six-month programme, as part of the Cumbria Growth Hub, designed for owner-managers, MDs, and senior decision makers of SMEs with a growth aspiration.

About the Programme

Develop your strategic thought processes and gain the skills to successfully describe, design, challenge and pivot your business models.

You'll begin with an overnight experiential, which is a two-day event made up of leadership exercises, focused discussions and peer-to-peer learning. Stepping outside of your workplace, you'll be encouraged to think about your business differently and reflect on your current practices. This experience is designed to develop trust amongst the participants, breaking down the barriers to learning and providing opportunities to connect your new knowledge to real-life situations.

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Discover our testimonials.


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Programme Elements

The Cumbria Forum programme includes sessions each month, taking place over 1-2 days. You'll participate in a range of challenges, workshops and tasks to develop strategic thought processes and skills, and the focus on practical learning means there are no formal assessments.

Get in touch

To discover more about the Cumbria Forum, and how it could transform your organisation, please complete our enquiry form and we'll be in touch shortly.

The Benefits

The programme fully integrates into your business, so you will spend time actively working on your business not in it. The peer network provides the support and the University provides the challenge to your thinking and ways of working. The programme will provide you with the tools to develop a strategic approach to your business and ultimately generate the growth you need.

Amy Scott, Director at Cyclewise, explains why the Cumbria Forum was right for the business and how the programme supported their growth plans.

Cumbria Forum a key ingredient for growth, say award-winning entrepreneurs Hawkshead Relish

Hawkshead Relish, manufacturers of hand-made relishes, pickles and preserves, have refocused their growth strategy, reshaped the business around a key new appointment, and raised their profile with major customers since participating in the Cumbria Forum.

“We produce both our own brand and private label,” explains Maria Whitehead MBE, Director and joint founder. “Prior to going on the Forum, I was nervous about the private label side, whether it was the right route for us, for growth. But the Forum, and especially the Business Model Canvas, allowed me to see it in a different way – and now that side is growing faster than anything else.”

Applying that particular tool also helped to rationalise where to spend money and led to a strategy of entering awards to gain visibility. This supported the launch of a new product, which Maria’s husband and fellow Director Mark took more than a year to develop. The innovative Black Garlic Ketchup was a finalist in its category at The Grocer’s New Product Awards, pitted against the likes of Heinz and Hellman’s. As Maria says: “That for us was the ‘biggie’ because as well as all the high-end stores, it gets noticed by all the supermarkets.”

Hawkshead Relish have also won accolades for their business accomplishments, receiving the runners-up award at the prestigious Nat West Great British Entrepreneur Awards and scooping Small Family Business of the Year. Maria says that going on the Forum enabled her to look afresh at the make-up of the company and to recognise both the great strengths and the potential weaknesses of being such a family enterprise.

“It made me draw up a plan of personnel and recognise that we needed an Operations Manager to become the key link between production, distribution and the sales team. And since we put Ben in the post, it has made such a huge difference – he has absolutely risen to the challenge and the whole way we operate is changing.”

She adds that they have now introduced software that enables them to cost every aspect of every production run and use this to inform profitable sales deals. Yet this analytical approach all started with the dashboard that was introduced early on in the Forum. “As soon as we were given it, I started to use it and I passed it around to other people, adapting it to our needs, so that every department could see their contribution for the week. Even now I still go back to that dashboard, it’s such a really useful tool to have.”

It is plain that Maria found her experience of the Cumbria Forum both very practical and, in her own words “hugely empowering”. So it isn’t too surprising that her husband Mark is now attending the Innovation Development Programme, one of Lancaster University Management School’s additional programmes.

“He has seen the difference it’s made, and how the management structure now works as a result - so when I told him about the Innovation Development Programme, he said I’ll do it!” What Mark is learning now is what she learned, Maria says. “It’s the value of stepping outside the day-to-day: concentrating on what your business needs, rather than fire-fighting issues as they arise. That makes all the difference.”

The Cumbria Forum is a business growth programme, part of the Cumbria Business Growth Hub. It is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Contact us on to find out more.

Maria Whitehead MBE - Hawkshead Relish

Cumbria Forum helps financial planning business FMB to plan for its own future

Roger Jackson, Director of Financial Planning at Financial Management Bureau (FMB), discusses how engaging with Lancaster University Management School and participating in the Cumbria Forum has enabled the company to develop a strategy for future growth.

FMB is a family-run business that has been providing independent financial advice since 1987. The Kendal-based firm focuses mostly on financial planning for individuals, with some corporate work as well. As Roger Jackson puts it: “it’s about making sure their finances are efficiently aligned with their medium and longer term goals.”

With a need to preserve its distinctive heritage whilst also moving with the times, FMB was ideally placed to benefit from the Cumbria Forum, a business growth programme delivered by Lancaster University Management School.

“It has helped us to innovate and develop new offerings,” Roger explains. “Such as a lower cost, more streamlined service that’s designed to appeal to clients of the future. What really prompted this in my mind was the ‘Four Ways to Grow Your Business’ session. By pulling our ideas into those boxes and breaking it down, we’ve been able to identify how to respond to changing demographics by getting people into the right mindset: ready to transition from the more streamlined route to full financial planning in the future.”

“The Forum appealed to me straight away because I was aware of the University’s prowess, especially the Management School, which is ranked very highly. There were a couple of people involved who I respected even before I started – like Gerry Johnson, a leading academic in strategic management – and I knew it would be useful just to try to absorb information and knowledge.”

“We have a very close relationship with the Management School,” Roger adds. “We have worked with them on student projects and one of our directors is now an Entrepreneur-in-Residence there. Our MD, who is currently on the Innovation Development Programme, was already familiar with the Cumbria Forum and she thought that because of my dual role it would be good for me.”

It didn’t take long for Roger to appreciate that his fellow delegates were facing similar challenges in their businesses and this helped to foster an invaluable sense of empathy. “It enabled me to understand a lot about other businesses, to share experiences with other managers and to see what they were doing to operate in changing markets.”

If the Cumbria Forum has had a lasting impact on FMB, it has also cemented its links with the Management School and the wider peer network. “I’ve personally referred friends and business associates,” Roger says. “I keep in touch with the other delegates from my cohort and we’ve forged new relationships throughout.”

The Cumbria Forum is a business growth programme, part of the Cumbria Business Growth Hub. It is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Contact us on to find out more.

Roger Jackson - Financial Management Bureau
Business people

"This programme is a fantastic opportunity for growth orientated small and mid-sized companies in Cumbria, helping them grow skills and confidence in equal measure." - Ewan Pullan, Programme Manager

Costs & Apply

This programme is fully funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) eligible businesses. Businesses must meet the ERDF criteria as below:

  • Based in Cumbria
  • Employ fewer than 250 full-time employees
  • Has an annual turnover less than £40 million
  • Has received less than £160,000 of publicly funded support in the last 3 years
  • Is business to business

To apply, please get in touch with us.



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