Why this is the year women are taking the lead in business

The story of female entrepreneurship in the UK in 2022 is one of enthusiasm, drive and determination – tempered only slightly by the financial obstacles that may still exist.

WealthiHer’s latest study shows that while women aged 25-44 show higher intention to start a business than their male counterparts, 74 percent of female founders are concerned about bias in the funding process. Investment in women-founded businesses has remained stubbornly below 2 percent for most of the past decade.

Overcoming this requires stubbornness, not taking “no” for an answer, and thinking differently about how to circumvent the problem. But this cannot be a one-sided fight.

Each of us in our spheres of influence within the funding community needs to work together to share knowledge on where and how to access funding, how to connect progressive funders with female founders, and how to proactively help female founders. As BGF investor Daina Spedding says, “If everyone took ownership and just three female founders helped, that would accelerate change.”

I’ve been privileged to learn from some amazing entrepreneurs, investors and executives. Here’s what I know…

Expand your hidden network

I’ve found investors in unexpected places – through personal trainers, through friends, even at the Cop26 climate conference. Be open to conversations in weird and wonderful places. And if that investor connection isn’t the one, ask them to recommend you to someone who might be.

See every setback as an opportunity

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, founder of FlowerBx, taught me to come back stronger when faced with funding setbacks. I always think of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she says, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” after being refused service. I use these rejections to bolster my resolve and show them what they’ve been missing out on.

Be prepared

I’ve been told multiple times by male investors, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it.” They didn’t understand the need for my business, despite the vast amount of data and my belief.

This isn’t helped by the fact that you often only have minutes to pitch and pages and pages of material to help investors believe in the opportunity they don’t inherently have a feel for. But while you can use setbacks to spur you on, you can also use research to control how many you experience. Start by considering investors who have invested in people and companies like yours. Next, put on your shoulder pads. As entrepreneur Trinny Woodall says, metaphorically, you need them to keep your worth — and win.

Take care of oneself

Angela Luger, a former FTSE250 CEO and angel investor, told me fundraising is a full-time job — and she’s right. You are running a fast paced business in an emerging, complicated business environment. Not only that, but you will do this in addition to yours indeed Full-time job – and for me a single mother.

Tiffany Pham, CEO of Mogul, a global diversity recruitment company, advises entrepreneurs to treat fundraising as an endurance sport. As a founder, she says, your faith and drive will stand out and inspire others. But you need to take breaks to recharge that belief and take care of your health. Fundraising is also a huge distraction. It takes you away from running the company. So make sure you have a strategy to ensure the business keeps going. The process will almost always take a lot longer than you think – so mitigate and plan accordingly.

Surround yourself with differences

Calum Brewster of wealth manager Brown Shipley once told me, “You are a reflection of the people you surround yourself with.” He found that a strong indicator of success is the board of directors sitting around a founder to help them bring in different perspectives.

When we had this conversation, I was told by a number of potential investors that I wasn’t the right person for them. I started thinking about this problem differently and more cooperatively. Attracting investors shouldn’t be a one-woman or one-man show. It’s about great management teams and networks with complementary skills.

Perfect the art of confidence, even if you don’t feel it

people buy people. At the very least, when pitching, you need to be confident and assertive, especially when faced with difficult questions (which we know women are more likely to be asked).

Nicole Soames, founder of coaching company Diadem, taught me unrelenting confidence. She explains that when pitching, women are more likely to negotiate against themselves. “Let the other side do it. Negotiators need to be appropriately ambitious throughout the process if they want to achieve the best possible outcome,” she advises. Go gold in the ask and keep your line at your value.

What is your entrepreneurial experience like? Tell us in the comment section below Why this is the year women are taking the lead in business

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