Did you know that 40% of businesses who receive a Start Up Loan from us are women – a figure significantly better than the national average of 19%?

To celebrate this, on 17th May we’ll be hosting a networking event for female entrepreneurs to meet and share knowledge. But we know that not all entrepreneurs will be able to make it – so we also went to a few of our amazing female founders to ask for their top tips on starting up.

Interested in meeting like-minded entrepreneurs? Grab a ticket to the networking event here!

Copyright Julia Neal Photography 2015

Have a mantra

Fritha Vincent, Secret Projects

At Secret Projects, we all live by a shared mantra called POWER. It keeps us on track when we are tired, when we start to lose confidence or face challenges. I encourage all entrepreneurs to come up with their own mantra to support them when things get tough. Please feel free to borrow our one. We believe in ourselves, we support one another, we persist, we think, we take pride in everything we do, we trust our instinct, we work with joy and we pretend until we know how. The last line of the mantra is borrowed from Virgin’s Richard Branson. Thanks, Richard!

Focus on the journey

Hannah March, Shorebeing

There will definitely be times when you start to doubt your ability to make your business idea succeed, times when you think ‘what an earth have I done?’. Whenever I start to question myself I’ll set a challenge to find one single reason why I can’t make it happen, and if I can’t find a reason then it’s full steam ahead! I truly believe we can do anything we put our mind to, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Simply put the research in, commit yourself and you’ll find a way. For a quick confidence fix, focus on the journey so far, how it all started with a simple idea and how it’s grown to where you are today – you’ve made that happen because you're awesome, and you dared to go where most people are to afraid to.

Navina Bartlett - Coconut Chilli

Find your ‘why’

Navina Bartlett, founder and Boss Lady, Coconut Chilli

My true passion is using my start-up Coconut Chilli to challenge conventional food manufacturing - as a vehicle for change - in a bid to create sustainable food systems around the world. That's my 'why'. 

In an age where discount promotions have become the norm, brands and businesses can no longer expect to grow if they compete on price alone.

Take Dove as an example, now seen as a champion for 'real women', or Wholefoods, who embody their ‘higher purpose statement’ of “we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish.” These brands do well because customers feel they know what they stand for and that by choosing to buy their products, consumers are serving a higher moral purpose of their own. 

Whatever ‘your why’ is, it's a more powerful tool than perhaps you realise when it comes to attracting and, crucially, retaining customers. In the long run, it makes commercial sense too.

Speak to experts

Leila Berlie, Blended Superfoods

Starting a business is a challenging process for anybody. As a woman, it can sometimes feel even harder as some people still maintain their old-fashioned views that women are not as capable as men. I work within the Health and Wellness industry so am lucky enough to have loads of amazing female role models such as Madeleine Shaw and Clean Eating Alice.

My advice is to never feel like you can’t do anything. If you’re unsure on something, speak to experts in the industry, or get yourself to a networking event. There are events that specifically target women in business such as WIBN. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help if you just ask!

Conquer your fears

Jenni Bailey, Calla Shoes

Face your fears and move out of your comfort zone as much as possible.  You need to make your comfort zone a place where most other people would feel uncomfortable, that's when you can really make things happen.

For me I was never that comfortable doing presentations - my heart used to feel like it was in my mouth and I'd end up saying something inappropriate! However, I've found that as an entrepreneur I have needed to pitch to get my business noticed - especially by investors.  I practiced and practiced and practiced.  I took every opportunity possible to stand up and speak to people about my business and get feedback.  It has really paid off and I'm now completely at ease pitching and talking in front of large crowds of people.  I used this newfound confidence to pitch to investors (from which I've already had an offer) and I've also won two pitching competitions, winning £6,000 for my business.

Vision, motivation, mentors and patience

Selma Nicholls, Looks Like Me

The impossible becomes possible with a clear vision, hard work, perseverance and patience. 

Vision - I have a clear mission statement of what my vision is and I’ve fully prepared myself, researching the field I’m entering, knowing where I am placed in the industry, the need for the service I provide and open to figure out the best ways possible to achieve this. I made a decision to remain focused on my focus which meant I chose to not be disturbed or distracted while I was in this incubation period.

Looks Like Me - Selma Nicholls

Motivation - Know exactly what drives you to succeed!  In my case it is my daughter and other children from underrepresented groups.  Increasing the visibility and inclusivity of these groups in advertising and fashion campaigns. Being the change we want to see, creating and working collaboratively to make these opportunities happen.

Mentoring -  Great advice I have been given by my mentor includes “Build bridges and grow your network”, “Know who your cheerleaders are and keep them close”. Share with them and ask for feedback on your work – I meet with mine every other month.

Patience - It takes time, and remember that through adversity great things happen.  Most importantly, enjoy the process!


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