How female entrepreneurs can overcome barriers to success

Business news and opinion

19 November 2022

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day takes place on 19 November as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), even in high income countries women are two-thirds as likely to be startup owners as men.  A study by Tide Business shows that only 20% of women have even considered starting a business, while 29% of men would say the same.

So why are the numbers lower for women, and what are the barriers preventing more young women from becoming entrepreneurs? And, more importantly, how can these be overcome?

Here are our tips if you're starting out:

Become part of a support network

National networks like Enterprising Women are fantastic online resources, and they host events across the UK. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to find local and regional “Women in Business” pages. Ask to join these, and you’ll soon be part of a network of like-minded women near you. Join mailing lists and attend networking events that you’re invited to.

Charlotte Yau, CEO of Muihood and winner of AXA’s Startup Angel 2022 found that a community really helped her in the early days:

“For a solo founder, or for any founder really, my biggest tip or advice would be to join a community or a network. I’ve got so much value from joining these types of communities. It’s that collective feeling that we’re all in this together.

It’s a really hard job, it takes a lot of stamina. So being able to ask someone a question and being able to talk to someone who has been there before is so helpful.

With Babes On Waves, a female-founder community, that’s how I scouted the first models for my photoshoots. Just being online and sending messages out there, that’s how I’ve been able to get this far. It’s the power of community.”

Find a mentor

According to the 2019 Rose Review Report, women are still less likely to have strong professional networks compared to their male counterparts; for example only 5% of women report having a business sponsor versus 12% of men. They also found that those that were mentored were 40% more likely to recover from the pandemic than those that were not.

Finding a mentor or entrepreneur to offer advice and support in the early days is key to realising that all barriers can be overcome. A mentor can be a friend or colleague who is a few steps ahead of you, or you could seek out someone suitable at a networking event.

It's possible to work with a remote mentor who you’ve contacted online, but a genuine, face-to-face relationship is more beneficial in terms of personal development. If you don’t already know a potential mentor, search on Mentorsme. This website will match you with prospective business mentors in your region.

Raise capital

Tide Business found that the top barrier for women entering business is that they don’t feel they have enough savings or the right finances to do so (35%) despite the fact that on average, women launch businesses with 53% less capital than men. Even if women are looking for funding from external sources, according to an article on Forbes, in 2020, it was estimated that only 2.3% of all venture capital (VC) funding went to women-led startups.

Needless to say, funding is obviously a big issue for women getting into business.  Luckily, this gap has been identified and there have been big effort to get more women into angel and VC opportunities because it has been found that women investors are twice as likely to invest in female founders.

If you’re looking for funding that specifically champions female business owners, here are two examples of organisations looking to fix the investment disparity:

  • Fund Her North helps female entrepreneurs from Northern England to successfully scale their businesses.
  • Alma Angels is a community of investors who are passionate about investing in and supporting ambitious female founders.

Overcome the fear of failure

According to Tide, 24% of women also feel that the risk is too high and 15% said they don’t have the confidence to start a business. While there is no sure-fire way to fix these issues, it is important that you believe in yourself and what your business has to offer.

Working on getting a great one-minute pitch or robust number-crunching can be reassuring: your business has the ability to succeed if you follow your plan. Other things that can help are getting a mentor to guide you through the tough times and reading stories of other women who have been through the same challenges of starting a business – whether that’s other local business owners or even biographies of big name businesswomen like Jo Malone and Karren Brady.

Gain the right skills

If you feel you have a knowledge gap, don’t let it stop you. Fill it either by improving your own knowledge or hiring in help. Training is available for women in business: for example The Women’s Organisation in the North of England offers training for business women and AllBright is a membership organisation that connects women in business.

Charlotte tells about her experience of filling a skills gap through networking and mentors:

“Being a one-woman band is so tough. My skillset is in marketing and branding, so in that area I feel confident. I know what I want the brand to be and how to market that. But there are areas that are totally new to me and the learning curve is so steep.

For example operations, I’ve never managed manufacturers, logistics, so that’s been an interesting one. I want to scale and move with the momentum that we have already, and I guess that’s where the mentors will come in. Finding people in my network who can help me fill those gaps.”

Above all, remember that success doesn’t have a gender. If you have a good idea, and the drive and skills to realise it, there needn’t be any barriers.

All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 19 November 2022.