Female founders need our help


Success is a huge topic for female founders. Not least because by society’s standards, the definition of success has evolved hugely over the years. I was invited to speak live on LinkedIn by the founder of The Women’s Chapter, Michelle Pughe-Parry de Klerk, to share my views as a serial entrepreneur, investor and business growth expert on how we can help more female founders to succeed.


The Rose Review found that in the last year, there were 140,000 new female-founded businesses started in the UK. The report also highlights the untapped potential in the UK economy being worth 2.5 billion pounds. If we gave women more support around access to funding and being recognised, many more of those businesses would succeed. Let’s look at what we could be doing to help female founders unlock the potential they have.


What success means for female founders


My LinkedIn post about how I was way more “successful” in my 30s running 7 figure businesses resonated with a lot of people. Back then, I had a co-founder, and we were having a great time and we were making quite a lot of money. When I look back and compare my activities as a founder 15 years ago to today, my business now is much smaller. But does that make me less successful?


I run a boutique consultancy business working with clients I love and helping them achieve significant growth for their business. For my wellbeing and that of my family, I’m consciously guarded about how much client work I do, how many clients I take on, and the kind of clients I work with. In terms of revenue, I’m not making the kind of money I have made in the past. What I do have though, is more time with my four children, a business that has survived the pandemic, and enough space to overcome mental and physical health struggles. 


Success to me is seeing my clients happy, getting them fantastic results, receiving wonderful testimonials, my clients returning and referring other clients to me. We are led to believe money is the be-all and end-all but it is not the only barometer of success. People love to identify success by business size, turnover, and revenue – whilst these are all important, there are other measures of success too.


What the last few years have made me realise is that without your health, you have nothing. For me, that comes from not overdoing it, not pushing myself, ring-fencing personal and family time, and setting boundaries with clients – all easier said than done. I’ve often found that female founders, like me, have additional responsibilities such as running a household. Being mindful of that, giving myself grace, and making sure that I look after myself helps.


Access to funding for female entrepreneurs 


My first experience of securing funding as a female founder was fairly straightforward. Back in 2005, I went on Dragon’s Den to raise funding and won without a huge amount of preparation. I was lucky as I know it’s not like that for all the other female founders I speak with and I’ve seen first-hand the bias that exists against women in business. The statistics show that male-owned businesses are still receiving seven times the amount of funding as female-owned businesses.


Often you’re pitching to a board of middle-aged white men and it can be rare to see diversity.  I’ve noticed that women who have had children in particular can feel like they have something to prove. I for one didn’t take proper maternity leave because I wanted to prove I could run a business and have a baby and do both well!


How to support female founders


In our conversation, Michelle and I discussed 5 key ways to support female founders to succeed.

1. Invest in female founders


If it’s within your means, investing in female founders is a great way to support them. Even small amounts can make a big difference to early-stage businesses. I invest in female founders because I’m passionate about helping them to succeed, I find it fulfilling and I enjoy the dynamic. I choose who I invest with based on their mission, vision and if I genuinely believe in what they can achieve. Separately, if I see other business women investing that is a big draw for me to consider.


2. Take an inclusive approach


A more inclusive approach to success in the entrepreneurial space is long overdue. Many businesses get left behind because they’re not ‘scaling’ or they have a ‘lifestyle’ business. There is nothing wrong with becoming a founder to have more control over your time. Flexibility around family care is the number one reason to start a business for women with children. Being at your kid’s sports days, bake sales and nativity plays is a great reason to start a business and makes someone no less successful than founders who want to exit in five years with a multimillion-pound payoff.


As founder of The Women’s Chapter, Michelle Pughe-Parry de Klerkr, said “there’s plenty of space within our economy for all of those businesses, and every single one of them makes a meaningful contribution”.


3. Network in women-led business spaces


One challenge for female founders in the early stages is being seen, heard, and discovered when they don’t necessarily have a large marketing budget or a massive community behind them yet.


Networking groups like Female Founders Rise and  The Women’s Chapter are a great way for fellow female founders to stand in support of each other. What I love most about networking is connecting with others and supporting them on their journey (hence why I have set up Female Founders Rise). There are many benefits to business networking. We can all offer our honest feedback, advice, guidance, support, and connections.


4. Use your consumer power

When buying products and services use your money to support female-founded brands. There are a plethora of brilliant businesses out there led by women. Something I want to do as part of Female Founders Rise is to showcase amazing businesses created by female founders.


5. Amplify business women’s voices


It is important to continue advocating for ourselves and other women in business to bridge the gender gap. Champion women where you can – whether that’s in the boardroom, in a networking meeting, on social media.


To sum up


Michelle perfectly summarised our conversation on how to help more female founders to succeed. She said, “we can’t be what we can’t see. We all have a responsibility to help share stories and shine a light on these incredible women that are doing brave things every day”.


Watch my full conversation with Michelle here: W.TALKS: How we can help more female founders to succeed


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