I’ve been lucky enough to work with many businesses at different stages in their growth journeys over the past 20 years. I thought I’d probably seen (and experienced) it all; that was until I was invited to sit on an AllBright investor panel to consider new business ideas presented specifically by female entrepreneurs.
Having worked with entrepreneurs for the past five years, I jumped at the chance to be involved with the HSBC Private Banking and AllBright partnership. We share a common goal of championing female entrepreneurs and their business ambitions. I enjoy connecting with people, understanding their business goals and supporting them to make it happen - so this was a natural fit for me. Each month AllBright host a pitch day where female business owners have the opportunity to share their ideas with a panel of investors and a live audience in the hope of gaining funding. My colleagues had sat on previous panels and said how rewarding they found the experience. I was truly honoured when I was asked to be the first male to take part.
Hearing from the female founders throughout the course of the morning gave me a sense of what it’s like to be in their shoes. We know access to funding is a challenge faced by all entrepreneurs but for women, even more so. The Entrepreneurs Network recently discovered that just 9 per cent of funding for UK startups goes to women-run businesses. From a global perspective, the recent Rose Review found “only 6 per cent of UK women run their own businesses, compared to 15 per cent of women in Canada, almost 11 per cent of women in the US, and over 9 per cent of women in Australia and the Netherlands”.
Digesting all of this this made me feel uncomfortable. Here were smart, ambitious businesswomen with great ideas but unable to get them off the ground due to lack of accessible funding. How do we change those numbers? I believe it’s not just down to women to start and continue these conversations, it’s important we all do. How can we truly see progress otherwise?
So calling all entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners out there who want to change the statistics, I would encourage you to keep going, support each other and let’s shift the numbers.
Here are some words of advice to anyone looking to create their own start-up:
1. It’s easy to get carried away with multiple light bulb moments. Focus on just one idea, doing it well, and getting it off the ground.
2. Join a hub or group of entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other’s mistakes. This can reduce the cost of going back to the drawing board.
3. Take any advice/help on offer. Some of it may seem irrelevant to you right now, but as your business evolves it could be a useful piece of the overall jigsaw in the months and years ahead.
4. Research your market and make good use of social media. For example, review product packaging and marketing strategies. How many start-ups have money for marketing? Usually not very many. Platforms like Instagram allow brands to post product based content and poll their target audience to vote on their preference. You’ll receive direct feedback, saving money and time.
5. Don’t rule out collaboration with other brands. Working together could help open more doors to you and prove mutually beneficial.