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The Decade of the Female Entrepreneur

Something magical is taking place. It is happening right in front of us. There is an awakening, an epiphany, a perfect storm…

Things are changing for good and for the better. There is a new force to be reckoned with…

The decade of the female entrepreneur has started in 2015!

Where is the evidence for this? Why is it important? What does it mean for new venture creation and business?

Three weeks ago, Entrepreneurial Spark, the world’s largest equity-free business startup accelerator, opened its doors in three new locations in the UK – Brighton, Leeds and Bristol.  Powered by NatWest Bank, Entrepreneurial Spark now has seven accelerators. Currently, 510 new startups are housed within these ‘Hatcheries’, but what is really significant is that 50% of them are woman-led ventures. So, why is it relevant?

Having more people starting, growing and scaling new businesses is vital for our economy.  Entrepreneurs create economic value, which in turn pays taxes and creates jobs, and a decade ago I would have suggested that business was the realm of males. Recently, as part of a talk, I showed a video of great entrepreneurs, which featured Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet etc…. Afterwards, a female member of the audience came to me and pointed out that all the role models were male when half of the room was female!  That’s when it dawned on me… times are indeed changing and it’s about time too.

Attending business networking events these days highlight the change.  Again, a decade ago, it was said that networking sessions were rooms full of people who were pale, male and stale :)  Today, 50% of the room is occupied by highly motivated and perspicacious female entrepreneurial types. They have arrived and are certainly here to stay but, more importantly, to compete.  Let’s be honest, they have brought a freshness which is invigorating the world of business.

What I do see day in and day out these days in the Entrepreneurial Spark programmes are gutsy female entrepreneurs who are determined – like their male colleagues – to become backable, credible and investable entrepreneurs.  Of course, in business gender should not be an issue, but having spoken with so many female entrepreneurs, it has been at times.  Investment panels and forums usually have five males on the platform – what message does this send out to an audience that is 50% female?

The types of businesses that female entrepreneurs are starting are also different.  Unfortunately, the world of tech just now is very male-oriented.  That does not mean it’s a bad thing,  but tech is not the only game in town.  As human beings we will always need food, shelter and clothing, and new services and products are always relevant as consumers look for choice.  Female entrepreneurs are now bringing this choice (with tech-enabled business models), with a new mindset – that of growth and scale.  This reminds me of Anita Roddick and how she believed in what she wanted the Body Shop to be.  As she moved from kitchen to shop to large scale distribution, her mantra – which is hugely motivational to me – was…

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

But, here is a word of caution in what will be the decade of the female entrepreneurs:  All businesses need cash and investment to get them going, from seed rounds to bigger equity rounds.  Let’s make sure that our investment communities value the contribution made by female entrepreneurs.  It could be argued that there are far too many VC funds not investing in female-led ventures, and that not enough female entrepreneurial CEO’s are coming through…

Well, watch this space! The renaissance has started.