ICE Specialist Expertise

ICE has developed specialist expertise across the enterprise and entrepreneurship agenda.

ICE customers gain from a sound understanding of the constitution of the small business sector, an in-depth knowledge of the characteristics of small business owners of all types, what motivates them and, critically, what barriers they face when setting up and growing a business.

As well as having 25 years of experience in the field herself, ICE Founder Dinah Bennett has developed a team of Associate Consultants over many years who have demonstrated skill and expertise in their own fields, to complement her own.  This extended team enables ICE to provide its customers a combined knowledge and know-how across all areas of the enterprise and entrepreneurship agenda which would be difficult to equal.

A snap-shot of ICE specialist expertise, and introductions to some of our Associate Consultants, are provided below.  Should you require any further information, or if you require expertise in any other field, please Consult-ICE.

Survival rates for family business are a genuine cause for concern.  Although a thriving family business sector could form the backbone of an economy,  it is generally acknowledged across the globe that family firms have a life cycle limited to three generations, and during the third phase they are expected to fail.

Through a variety of studies and interventions, longitudinal research (Hallmarks) since the early Nineties, and more recent studies conducted in Asia and Europe, ICE understands the dynamics of the family business structure.

Our work now involves the education of a wide range of organisations leading to a deeper understanding of their business characteristics and the dynamics which often make family business owners less likely to seek support. Through an improved empathy with the family business owner, the business support sector can become better equipped to engage with the sector and provide more effective support.

ICE has also developed a range of programmes that directly engage with the family business owners to support them to identify routes forward for the third generation to avoid business closure.

Home-based businesses have been type-cast as ‘life-style’ businesses for many years, with an assumption that they have little potential, or propensity, for growth. However through improved mobilisation of work through technology, working remotely, from home and other non-traditional work places is becoming an accepted norm. Through improved connectivity there would appear to be less correlation between workplace, productivity and business success.

Setting up a business at home has significant benefits in context of the enterprise economy.  Lower start-up costs mean that more businesses can start on a lower-risk basis.  The ability to balance work and domestic responsibilities through operating from a home base also makes it significantly more viable for people with caring responsibilities, the majority of whom are women, to engage in entrepreneurship.  The ability to start up a business from home also makes enterprise a more attractive option for over 55s who may not wish to engage any longer in traditional work structures as they near, or work beyond, retirement age.

ICE and Associate Consultants have significant experience and expertise in the area of home-based business.  Our team understands the nuances associated with running a business from home, and critically we are familiar with a range of techniques that support organisations can employ to reach out to the home-based business marketplace which has been inherently hard to reach.

As well as providing new opportunities for engagement in enterprise, operating a business from home exclusively can be extremely isolating for business owners, and this isolation can ultimately lead to creativity and growth being stifled due to lack of stimulation and opportunities for personal development.  Through our Associate Consultant Jayne Graham of Colleagues on Tap, the concept of co-working, as an ante-dote to this business isolation, has been evaluated, and we now have access to in-depth expertise in this area through a range of programmes to support people who work for themselves, at home, to avoid working by themselves long-term;  the principle of the co-working programmes is to identify complementary workplaces, workstyles and work-based activities, as opposed to championing a permanent  alternative to home-based working.

An ability to ‘think globally’ is critical to enabling entrepreneurship across international markets.  As important, however, is an ability to effectively ‘do business’ internationally by understanding different cultures, business behaviours and values.

ICE provides enterprise insights into international markets and business culture, helping business advisers and international trade development professionals to understand the nuances of internationalisation, so in turn they are able to positively support their customers to compete globally.

ICE programmes include capacity building in the design of suitable international business development programmes and associated materials, incorporating training, consultancy and counselling services.  Study areas have included understanding the market within which trade development professionals operate;  diagnosing the needs of individual clients or groups of clients;  designing a wide range of support programmes.


Rural and poor women in many war affected states have always played an important economic role in the family. Due to the impact of the war almost every family, urban and rural, educated and uneducated, depends on the economic productivity of women to a far greater extent than ever before.   Whereas in the past it was shameful for a man to be financially dependent on a woman, in many households, including within the diaspora, women are now the main breadwinners.


ICE has supported agencies in Somalia and Namibia to understand these issues and to gain insight into how to better support both men and women, to stimulate and enable post-conflict economic development.


We have also worked in several war affected and fragile states including Bosnia, Croatia and Libya, working with agencies to develop interventions addressing the Impact of War on Family Livelihood Systems and supporting the re-growth of once thriving international businesses.  In Bosnia ICE worked as part of an EC programme across the country post war to assist SME owners to re-establish their international client base.


Banks and providers of other financial services world-wide are increasingly aware that as the commercial environment changes in response to global pressures, their future profitability and prosperity lies with the premium small business sector.


Over the past 18 years ICE and Associates have worked extensively with the banking community in the UK and overseas. Our work has focused on four key areas:


–  raising awareness of the importance of the SME sector to the development of the economy, and therefore increasing the propensity of the financial services sector to turn its attention to it;

–  deepening understanding of entrepreneurship and the process of development within the independent business to aid recognition of the need for finance, as well as recognising the support required to ensure it adds to the sustainability of an enterprise;

–  enhancing the competence and ability of bankers to work effectively with small businesses; and

–  providing insights into the way banks can differentiate themselves from competitors in an important and increasingly crowded marketplace.


Click here to read ICE case study Understanding the Entrepreneurial Lifeworld

Social Enterprise has an important role in stimulating the driving economic growth, and in Europe it is estimated that one in four businesses now starting up will be social businesses.  In the UK we have witnessed this sector becoming increasingly important not only because it employs significant numbers of people, but also because it delivers vital services – often those that other providers find it difficult to do.  The sector is an important source of innovation and creativity and emerging from a recession the public demand a more sustainable ways of doing business.

ICE representatives and Associates have a significant combined experience in the field of social enterprise.  We recognise the enormous potential that social enterprise has in context of tomorrow’s economy, and because we really understand the dynamics of the social enterprise sector we are able to provide valuable insights to support organisations, institutions and policy makers to ensure that the most is made of the sector’s potential.

Preparing for business start up is a crucial stage for the nascent entrepreneur.  Over many years we have identified 6 stages which, if systematically followed, will prepare budding entrepreneurs to progress to starting up a company successfully.  The 6 stages can take a varying amount of time, depending on the individual’s personal resources and capacity, and start-up animation programmes should be structured to helping budding entrepreneurs to deal methodically with every aspect of this 6 stage process, taking into account their own personal circumstances.  Support is also essential at start-up for at least the first 6 months to ensure the business and its founder develop a solid platform for future growth.

ICE provides enterprise insights into the start-up animation process.  Support providers are offered toolkits and activities to explore the potential in participants to be enterprising and to raise awareness of self employment as a viable career option.  We are then able to support with capacity building in programme development and delivery, ensuring that every aspect of our ‘6 stage start-up’ plan is effectively addressed through enterprise animation programmes.

START-UP AMONGST OVER 55s, / 'Third Age Entrepreneurs'

The job market is tough at the moment.  The global economic slowdown coupled with widespread redundancies are making it difficult to find work.


For over-55s several other factors are also at play which is leading to this growing segment becoming the most active in starting up on their own.  Earlier retirement or enforced redundancy,  low interest rates, the demise of final-salary pensions, demographic changes and longevity coupled with the motivation to ‘do something’, preferably something that supplements your state pension, has led to approximately 1 in 5 opting for self-employment globally, a considerably higher proportion than the average across all age groups.


Years of experience and expertise means that more mature entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed, with over 70% lasting more than 5 years, compared with 28% of younger entrepreneurs;  they could potentially add billions to any economy in the coming years if current predictions are correct.


ICE has developed animation and start up programmes specifically targeted at the 55+ market and has supported a range of intermediaries to develop appropriate interventions and communications for this sector.

The concepts of entrepreneurship and ‘enterprise’ are firmly on the agenda within the education sector and particularly for Universities, where both policy and funding guidelines encouraged institutions to support and embed enterprise throughout all of their activities.

ICE programmes for teachers, lecturers and trainers are aimed at building their capacity and knowledge to support enterprise and creativity in the curriculum so they are able to empower students to create their own future. Programmes developed by ICE provide opportunities to integrate enterprise via intra and extra-curricular approaches.

The work of ICE supports the education of both staff and students from primary through to higher education about concepts of enterprise and entrepreneurship and what it means to them.  Our work equips students to become more enterprising;  increases awareness of enterprising options within employment, self employment and business creation; and changes attitudes and behaviours regarding the ability to be enterprising within the workplace and as an alternative to the world of employment.

ICE has developed programmes for undergraduates, postgraduate doctoral students and staff across all disciplines – the archaeologist whose goal is to make a living from being an archaeologist – or the doctoral student in English who does not want to be limited by options in that field – or the engineer who wants to start his/her own company – or the student who hopes to bring about social or organisational change within the larger organisations in which s/he expects to work.  ICE works closely in partnership with staff across all departments.


In recent years there has been much commentary on the ever-growing importance of women in the global market.   Moreover there has been increasing appreciation that the growth of women’s economic activities and their general level of activity in the paid economy can significantly influence the success or failure of each country’s long-term economic health, to the extent that it is now often claimed that women are the producers, suppliers and customers of the future.


For more than twenty years ICE has worked with Government and a range of organisations in the public, private and academic sectors enabling them to recognise the value of supporting women’s enterprise from both a policy and practical perspective.  The result has been increased awareness of the contribution these businesses make to any economy, and a small, but significant, growth in both the number of start-ups and growing businesses where women are playing an executive role.


ICE has successfully supported the design and development of networks to support women’s business ownership;  advised on policy measures;  written policy documents;  enabled support institutions to redesign their existing programmes to ensure better take by women clients.  Through the work of ICE and its associates we have seen an increase in the number of female-focused business networks, and resources designed to connect women with the support and encouragement they value and hence seen an increase in the numbers of women owned businesses.


Dinah Bennett, Founder of ICE, was one of the first women to be honoured with the Queen’s Award for Achievement in Enterprise Promotion in 2005, and was awarded an OBE for Services to Women’s Entrepreneurship.


CLICK HERE to read ICE case study Communication with Women in Business, YEMEN


CLICK HERE to view video of Dinah Bennett talking about her work with the British Council on the 3 year Women at Work Project in Near East and North Africa regions


In many societies, due to drastically changing economic situations, there are huge challenges being faced by Government as to how they deal with disenfranchised young people. A number of factors have caused this and a worrying response in some countries is that these young people are being either radicalised or turning to crime.

ICE has developed a series of adaptable capacity building programmes for support providers which are geared to supporting young people into self-employment and into creating social enterprises.  Programmes are designed to nurture enterprise competencies in young people, resulting in an improved knowledge and understanding of how they can create their own futures.

Significant outcomes include improved confidence and self-esteem, economic independence, and a transformation from being disengaged or excluded to becoming empowered to make a difference within their local environments – and further.

  In this climate of austerity every penny counts, and money directed towards the enterprise agenda, more than ever, needs to make a tangible impact. ICE has worked with Associate Consultant Dr Pat Richardson of Richardson Howarthfor over 15 years, supporting the efforts of investors and funders in establishing what impact their investments in enterprise have had.   Evaluating ‘hard’, quantitative outputs through to softer, qualitative outcomes, our aim is always to provide management information and market intelligence that is valuable to stakeholders as an enabler of performance improvement, alongside monitoring retrospective performance indicators.

As well as project-based evaluations we also have extensive experience in inter-organisational audit and evaluation, with particular expertise in the field of enterprise, and regularly support organisations to develop and implement their own monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

Become an ICE Associate

If you believe you can add your own insight in enterprise and entrepreneurship to the ICE team please get in touch.  We may be interested in publishing your blogs and articles and perhaps it would be useful to chat about how we might work as Associates in the future.