5 News. A Yorkshire-based entrepreneur is on the hunt for 10,000 sq. ft of space to house a new roller rink, as demand for the sport spikes. The founder of Roller Girl Gang, a Leedsbased roller skate shop that offers classes to adults of all skating abilities, is hoping to find a suitable space for a new roller rink to serve the growing numbers of teams and individuals that have taken up the sport. Melissa Blackwood swapped her career as a primary school teacher to open her first skate shop in 2020. When Covid-19 lockdowns prevented the shop from running at full capacity, demand for lessons and online goods soared. The benefits associated with skating, such as improved mental and physical health, also began to rocket for its customers. Over the past two years, Melissa has trained 15 instructors and recruited 30 volunteers to run the classes. The entrepreneur has also taught some of her team to build bespoke skates for their loyal customer base. While Melissa was supported by her all-female team of part-time employees, to take the business to the next level and implement strategies to support growth, she needed more support for her own personal leadership journey. Melissa decided to enrol in a 12-week Help to Grow: Management Course designed to help business leaders and their senior managers to increase resilience, innovation, and growth within their organisations. The course was delivered by Leeds Business School at Leeds Beckett University, a recipient of the Small Business Charter award that is given to institutions that support small businesses. Melissa completed the course, equipped with the tools needed to make the changes to grow her business. In the 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. Melissa has also gone from running her business alone to hiring six part-time employees, enabling her to focus on growing the business even more. Now her business is structurally stable and growing, Melissa is focused on ways to support the wider skating community and is looking to find a safe place dedicated to those wanting to excel in their passion. Melissa Blackwood, founder of Roller Girl Gang, said: “Many female business owners I’ve spoken to struggle to ask for support, or don’t know where to look. Thankfully I was pointed to the Help to Grow: Management Course. I’ve been able to gain the skills needed to help drive the business forward, give my team a solid progression plan, and to start work on finding a space for roller skaters to enjoy – my ultimate goal. “In addition to the confidence I’ve gained, the course also taught me a lot about things I’d never come across before in my career as a teacher. For example, I learned how to put together a business plan, how to attract and retain the right talent, and most importantly, how to convey what I wanted to say to investors in the business community.” Yorkshire has not had a dedicated roller rink in 50 years By using the advice and skills gained via the Help to Grow: Management Course, Melissa has also sought support from Fund Her North to boost her knowledge around securing investment. Melissa explained: “While demand for skating increased two-fold during the pandemic, we’re Leeds-based entrepreneur calls for new roller rink after Help to Grow: Management Course helps turn business around. now left with skaters struggling to find a safe space to play and skate safely. “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. Thanks to the Help to Grow: Management Course, I’m now able to understand what investors need from me and I’m working really hard to find a space so we can bring a roller rink back to Yorkshire soon.” For a new roller rink to come to fruition, Melissa needs a space to host 10,000 sq. ft of specialist flooring and is appealing for investors to get in touch with her via her website. Michael Hayman MBE, Chair, Small Business Charter, added: “Melissa is a brilliant example of how the Help to Grow: Management Course provides inspirational business leaders with the skills and confidence to build flourishing businesses and make contributions to their community. “Our team of experts are able to share their own experience and real-world case studies, to provide course participants with the knowledge and tools to increase productivity, address challenges head on, and create achievable goals in a bid to grow. “Melissa’s journey so far is truly inspiring. I wish the whole Roller Girl Gang team all the best going forward and hope they can find the space needed to make a skate rink a reality for the whole Yorkshire community.” The founder of Roller Girl Gang, a Leedsbased roller skate shop that offers classes to adults of all skating abilities, is hoping to find a suitable space for a new roller rink to serve the growing numbers of teams and individuals that have taken up the sport.