Supporting female founders and the true difference it makes
21ST SEPTEMBER 2023
Why should you support female founders? Because the difference you can make is immense...
What is the value of investing in female founders? Why focus on women?
The truth is, people shouldn't just support female founders, they should support ALL small business founders. Yet with just 20% of SMEs in the UK being led by women¹, the fact that according to the British Bank, for every £1 of equity investment in the UK in 2021, all-female-founder teams received just 2p of it², and that in 2021, women still earned 15% less than men on average and did 60% more unpaid work³, it’s likely they need a bit of championing. Especially as female founders contribute £85 billion to the UK economy each yearJo Brimble had a good job on the creative direction team of a successful company, exploring insight, and the look and feel for brands. One Mother's Day, Jo’s husband bought her a pottery course, and she loved it. She took some extra evening classes and started honing her hand building skills alongside working… until she was made suddenly redundant two months before covid appeared. Jo was devastated. All the good jobs were in London and she was in Bristol, with two small children. She could retrain but like many women, it often doesn’t make sense financially to try and return to the workplace after having babies, especially after redundancy and in a new role. So she decided to start a business.
It wasn’t easy but Jo didn’t give up. She was lucky to have the redundancy payout to set her up but that wouldn’t last forever and the business took time to evolve. She said, “I saw something great on Instagram that said, ‘Your first anything is going to be bad, but your 100th time will be better'. It’s things like that that spur you on. When I was at uni, there was a famous illustrator who was a postman for years until he was 40 or something, and started drawing. You just have to give things a go as who knows what it will turn into.”
Does it really make a difference to support women entrepreneurs?
“When I started working with clay it just opened up so many possibilities. If you love what you do, that drives you. This allows me to live my passion. But it’s also the support of others that makes such a difference. If I share something I’m doing on Instagram and I get a positive response, I follow those positive responses and my confidence grows. It’s a circular thing. And the more niche the better. I was worried nobody would get my work but that’s the beauty of social media. You find your people — and the difference it makes to my life is remarkable.”
How does customer support affect a female founder? Empowering women to work flexibly
It’s not just that it helps improve her creative work. Jo says, “By people supporting my business, I’m able to work flexibly around my children. The juggle is easier and I love that they see it. They see the hard work I put in and what I get out of it. They’re not hearing about office politics but about the photoshoots in my bedroom and creative things. They see me trying my hand at everything (and sometimes failing) but that’s good.” It might seem like a small thing but this has the power to fundamentally change the way future generations think about work — and give young girls especially, hope for a more flexible future themselves and to build a life around her hopes and her family, not just trying to fit it into a corporate business and the myth of ‘having it all’ (see our article on why entrepreneurship is the new feminism for more on this).
Now meet Patroula, founder of Patroula Jewellery: on starting again at 50
“I’ve always had a passion for jewellery. In my early twenties I made silver pieces and sold them at a local market. I was very lucky to meet a woman who ran a vintage clothing and jewellery shop, and I ended up working for her for 10 years before starting my own jewellery business online — at a time when the idea of buying jewellery on the internet was pretty alien.” Patroula said. It ended up being incredibly successful and she finally sold the business after 15 years. After training to become a yoga teacher, Patroula was slightly, “Freaking out about what to do!” She adds, “I didn’t want to not work again but I wanted to do something I loved. It’s a different aspiration now that I'm in my 50s. You struggle to find your place once the kids have grown up.”
Help show women over 50 — as well as everyone else — that starting a business is possible
One day though Patroula had an idea and her entrepreneurial itch returned. She was desperate to take all she had learned running her last business to set up a new one — but could she do it? It was a challenging time and her confidence was on the floor. “I was incredibly lucky that my friends encouraged me and wouldn’t give up, spurring me on to make new pieces and set a launch date. It’s one thing having an idea but you need that support to keep you going and I’ve never looked back. There’s so much more help available now, as well as communities. It’s less competitive and more age inclusive I think — especially on Instagram. People are happy to share.”
Why should people support female founders of all kinds? Championing independence
“The difference this has made to my life has been huge,” says Patroula. “I can’t tell you what it means. I shout out to my family ‘I’ve got an order!’ as I am so excited. Plus I can work under my own steam, manage my own time, I’m passionate about it and I don’t care as much what other people think. The support has given me that confidence. It’s given me freedom. It gives most female founders freedom I think and that’s irreplaceable. By supporting female founders, you are supporting a whole life story that has gone before the product that you’re buying: the challenges she’s faced and her family’s too.”
The emotional benefits that being a female founder brings
For Patroula it’s clear. “I’ve learnt more about what I am capable of and I love that I can then help build that in others. Plus, I believe in making milestone jewellery, pieces with meaning. I remember spotting a woman in the supermarket wearing one of my necklaces once and I was thrilled… honoured. It’s a feeling you can’t explain but it gives you purpose. And that’s pretty special.”
Of course, every story is different and these are just two, but every sale really does change someone’s life. From founders who set up businesses after miscarriages, redundancies, divorces or just later in life, your support can mean the world. If you want to help champion the female economy, flexible working and more, look out for the female founders badge when you shop.