Women are coming together in support of equality and empowerment at home and in the workplace. The recent rise of girl power has been harnessed by many women-led enterprises to encourage and show young girls that they can be anything they want to be!
Did you ever imagine that you could be part of this movement? Being a female entrepreneur can be lonely, cut-throat, stressful and demotivating at times, but once you learn to navigate the process and realise your worth in the marketplace – great things can happen.
There is no lack of talent or appetite preventing women from entering the business world as leaders or board members. Rather it is the patriarchy and old school mentality of the baby-boomers that place unnecessary obstacles in the way of aspiring young women. Being a woman in business or trying to start a new venture as a female leader is hard. Very hard.
The issues around equality and empowerment must be addressed and corrected in order for the world to evolve and grow in a positive direction. The fact that we have the need for these sorts of discussions can be disheartening, but it has to be done and changes have to be made. The trick is to keep having the conversation and keep pushing for change in order to revolutionise an outdated business model designed to benefit only men in the working world.
You can't, however, wait for change; you must be the change and forge your way into the world of business and entrepreneurship. If you have started a business at home and have become so successful that you need to expand, don't fret, you have a lot of support around you. You only need to know where to look.
According to Mastercard, 25.8% of business owners in the UK are women. Statista shows that in women starting their own businesses, a 72% increase occurred between 2000 and 2016, with female entrepreneurs generating 18,000 jobs in 2015, adding to economic growth and GDP.
Looking at these stats, one can see how significant women are to society and the economy. With this in mind, consider hiring women from diverse backgrounds to take your business from start-up to FTSE listed. Hiring women only is a good human capital model to encourage the model of equality and empowerment within the business world.
The untapped potential of female entrepreneurship can be a significant boost for the UK economy and needs more funding and attention to bloom. 'RBS has calculated that boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £60B extra to the UK economy,' according to Prowess. This astronomical figure alone should be enough motivation for leaders and governments to invest time and money into female entrepreneurship.
Funding For Growth
Accessing funding for businesses is still a stumbling block for women. Start-ups are especially difficult to finance with a female-only board. Research has shown that a women-only board is four times less likely to qualify for funding than one made up of men. Besides appearing on an episode of Dragon's Den, what other financial opportunities exist for women wanting to make their mark in the world of entrepreneurship?
Fortunately, there are funding opportunities and business grants available for women to take their business to the next level. The difference between a business grant and a loan is that the grant is given with the specific purpose of investment into the business. A loan must be paid back with interest over a specific period of time. In essence, funding is given, and a loan is money that is lent.
If you are considering approaching a bank, a start-up or business loan can be an answer to your financial needs. Start-up loans have also been popular of late which offers the opportunity to expand and grow your business with interest rates tailored to your needs.
Office Space For Employees
Finding appropriate office space will depend on what your business needs and budget are. Will you be needing an office type set-up, warehousing or manufacturing space? The best way to find office space is to speak to experts in fit-out, design, refurbishment, and furniture solutions first and then find office space to house your business.
If you are in Scotland, finding an office to rent in Glasgow can be daunting but also exciting as Glasgow is one of the top 15 cities in the UK for start-up and small business growth in the UK. Amos Beech offers refurbishment and re-design of office spaces all over the city at an affordable rate to suit your business needs.
If you find a space which you think is suitable for your business needs in Glasgow, try incorporating sustainable work processes and materials, which will pay off in the long run. Not only will you be a savvy businesswoman but an eco-conscious one too!
Stick to your budget and keep the end goal in sight. Getting your business up and running is a priority so at times just a simple coat of paint and upcycled office furniture used in clever ways may be just what you need.
Creating an office space with your business vision and mission in mind should accommodate your employees too. Consult with an HR professional to ensure that your contracts and workspace are all above board and compliant.
When hiring women, consider their needs – working remotely when they are needed at home could be a great perk! Create an environment and culture of understanding and empowering women which speaks back to your business strategy. Hiring diverse women can be beneficial for innovation, collaboration and cultivating a female entrepreneur-rich culture.
Gaining momentum or traction on female-led businesses can be achieved by networking with people or industries that are passionate about female-led enterprises locally and globally. Attending or hosting networking events at least annually provides the opportunity to grow your business by having the right conversations with the right people.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of entrepreneurship and women in business is achieved by subscribing to or reading publications that promote and understand the plight of a businesswoman. Books and talks on women empowerment are available at the click of a button. Simply YouTube or Google these keywords to stay up to speed on what is happening within the world of girl power.
Certain programs or events also allow the opportunity to not only network but mentor young girls and ladies in achieving their potential.
Initiatives such as Business Women Scotland Awards, showcase women-led businesses and place them in the spotlight. Not only do they have categories that highlight and celebrate women entrepreneurs, but they support a charity initiative for women. Proceeds from their evening soiree go towards a charity which provides interviewing skills and clothing for women in need.
Social media is a powerhouse for women in business, as the organic reach and potential to promote women-led enterprises is enormous. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of active social media users are in fact, female. Creating awareness of the gender funding gap for female entrepreneurs can be done on social media platforms and attract investors
Women are natural communicators and social media provides the platform for engagement with like-minded individuals and companies which can add value to your company. Marketing and networking on social media can be done without cost, which makes it perfect for a start-up.
Women can engage with thought leaders and business minds to foster relationships that can be instrumental to business growth and awareness. Having a solid presence on social media can also establish women entrepreneurs as thought leaders in the business world too. Leveraging the reach of social media is important in creating awareness around equality and inclusion.
Unfortunately, when starting a business, there will be trying circumstances as most female entrepreneurs continually have to defy stereotypes to be taken seriously. Sexist tendencies still dominate the business world and women have had to accept that proving themselves to male counterparts or leaders is par for the course.
Constant education and lobbying for equality are needed to bridge the gender pay gap and support equality. When starting out in the world of business as a female, accept that you will be a guiding light and a role model in the industry. Take this responsibility seriously and help set the standard for women in business. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small, and promote those around you who are disrupting the status quo for female kind.
As exhausting and trying as this can be, there is light at the end of the macho tunnel. Turning to mentors, role models or peers for support can be a proper boost when fighting for equality has got you demotivated. It helps to remember that you are not alone, that there are many more women (and men) fighting the same fight, raising the bar and achieving their business goals. Find these people, build a rapport with them, and use them as a sounding board from time to time.
When their frustration with current fabric care options had fashionistas Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd worn out, the two entrepreneurs made it their mission to start a new niche and launch their very own at-home, eco-friendly laundry detergent line.
With a mission of turning an everyday domestic chore into a luxurious experience, these entrepreneurs not only conjured up an idea for an unconventional product line, but they successfully built their business while turning down the offer of every venture capitalist to knock on their door.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd co-founded The Laundress in 2004 after dealing with their own personal frustrations with limited clothing care options. Whiting, having worked at Ralph Lauren in design and Boyd having worked at Chanel in corporate sales, soon accumulated a stylish wardrobe of designer pieces as perks of their jobs in the fashion industry. However, the duo quickly realized that the maintenance required for upkeeping these items were far from adequate. Laundry products on the market at the time did not cater to delicate textures and fabrics such as tweed blazers, cable-knit cashmere and silk blouses. Taking their clothing to the dry cleaners also proved hopeless as their clothing would often come back with stains or even be ruined despite the overload of chemicals used to clean them. With nowhere left to turn, Whiting and Boyd were determined to create their own laundry solutions designed for specific fabrics.
Not only did the entrepreneurs develop the business expertise needed to finally begin their own company, but they also shared the same educational background that equipped them to pursue their unconventional business venture. Whiting and Boyd met in college as students at Cornell University majoring in Fiber Science, Textile, and Apparel Management and Design. The pair was introduced by a mutual friend and instantly knew they would become business partners. "It was inevitable that we were going to have a business together. We are both extremely entrepreneurial by nature, and it was one of the connections that we instantly shared" said Whiting. After focusing on pursuing their own individual careers for a while, Whiting and Boyd quickly discovered a void in the fabric care marketplace when their clients would continuously inquire about the upkeep of their designer pieces.
The entrepreneurial duo was committed to researching and developing their own eco-friendly laundry products and soon launched their own at-home solutions for specific fabrics like silk, wool and denim, which ultimately eliminated the need for dry cleaning for those particular items. Despite their products filling a necessary void in the market, it quickly became challenging for the founders to persuade people to shift their focus away from traditional laundry care options in order to try their products. However, Whiting and Boyd believed in their mission for the Laundress and bootstrapped from the very beginning, refusing all venture capital funding with the goal of growing organically. In order to be successful, they had to get creative in fundraising. "In the very early days, we funded business development by hosting a 'for profit' party at a New York City restaurant and inviting friends, family, co-workers, etc. to support our new venture. That was pre-Kickstarter and an inventive way to make everyone feel a big part of our decision to be entrepreneurs," said Whiting.
While turning down VC funding as new entrepreneurs seems unimaginable, it is as equally unfathomable to consider how these women gained national traction without social media, all the while hustling to fund their business. For Whiting and Boyd, who started their business before social media existed, it was imperative that they promote their brand by leveraging the resources they had available to them. The CEO's were one of the first to sell consumer goods, let alone detergent, online with the goal of reaching a national audience. Despite having limited retail distribution, they leveraged the power of their website and became featured in publications on both a national and international scale. "Before social media platforms existed, we nurtured our own Laundress community with engaging content on our website, step-by-step tutorials on our blog, and one-on-one communication through our Ask The Laundress email," Whiting explained. With technology evolving and the birth of social media platforms, the founders expanded the conversation about their products from website, blog and email to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
As female entrepreneurs, Whiting and Boyd faced additional hardships as misconceptions about their mission ultimately proved to disappoint more than it encouraged them. As women selling luxury detergent, there existed a preconceived notion that funding would be more easily attainable based upon their gender.
"Everyone thought it was easy to access capital as female entrepreneurs, but it was actually very challenging. We had this unique and disruptive idea within a very traditional space and it was hard to get people on board at first. It's been a continuous journey to educate people in fabric care and home cleaning," said Boyd.
Reflecting on their journey as entrepreneurs, the founders express no regrets about refusing to accept venture capital throughout the process. "Over the years, we could never quantify the cost benefit of VC funding so we continued to grow organically and remain independent by funding ourselves with credit cards and loans," explained Boyd. While their decision proved fruitful, the duo expressed their consideration towards other entrepreneurs who may not be able to fully fund their business as they grow. Because funding is a situational experience, entrepreneurs must ultimately do what is best for their business as no one path is optimal for every entrepreneur or every business.
With an increasing amount of women entering entrepreneurship with their own unique set of products or services, the CEO's offer up one piece of advice on how female entrepreneurs can be successful in their endeavors.
Whiting: "Our advice to anyone looking to build their brands: Have a strong business plan and vision. If you are not disciplined to write a business plan first then you are not disciplined to start a business. Get your ideas down so you ask yourself the right questions; it helps you get organized and plan next steps."
Boyd: "Create quality products without sacrificing the ingredients—no cutting corners. What you create should be the most important piece. Stay passionate, and trust your instincts and follow your gut—something woman are awesome at!"