Female entrepreneurship plays a key role in creating jobs and driving economic growth.
But while the number of female entrepreneurs has risen over the last decade, women consistently say that access to finance is a barrier to them starting – and running – their own business.
Figures from NatWest show that while 51 per cent of the UK population is female, only about 20 per cent of SMEs are led by women.
Finance for women in business
There are many more women with entrepreneurial ideas who need support to help their businesses succeed. In fact, findings from the Women’s Business Council suggest there could be one million more female entrepreneurs if women were to set up and run new businesses at the same rate as men.
Here, we take a look at some of the funding agencies and support structures that are in place for the growing group of small to medium businesses (SMBs) and working to encourage a new generation of female CEOs.
High street bank NatWest is committed to supporting the UK’s female entrepreneurs and works to help women who want to set up their own business. Across the RBS group, it has access to a team of 250 ‘Women in Business’ specialists. These women provide tailored support, expertise, skill development, mentoring and networking opportunities to female business owners.
NatWest also runs the Everywoman Awards, which were first launched back in 2003. These awards continue to blaze a trail for female entrepreneurs.
This government-funded scheme is not exclusive to women, but provides advice, loans and mentoring to start-up businesses. Visit Startuploans.co.uk.
While not specifically aimed at women, it’s also important for female entrepreneurs to consider alternative sources, such as crowdfunding and angel investors. Useful sites include UK Crowdfunding, the UK Business Angels Association and Peer to Peer Finance Association.
The government-run Great Business website features a page specifically outlining the support available for women looking to start, grow or accelerate their business. Topics include finance, mentoring and networking, plus details of the government’s advice and resources, alongside the organisations offering their support.
The Women’s Business Council
This organisation was established in 2012 to advise on how women’s contribution to economic growth could be improved.
British Chambers of Commerce
The BCC operates women’s business networks across the UK and can be a useful starting point when looking to find out more about opportunities to access finance.
This is a global membership organisation that offers a learning and development platform for women in business and female entrepreneurs.
This organisation is open to all female business owners – both new and well-established – from any sector across the UK. Its aim is to empower, connect, train, inspire, campaign, promote, celebrate and support women in business.
Forward Ladies is a networking and business support organisation for women throughout the UK.
This organisation provides a comprehensive list of national – and some international – women’s business networks, a map of local services, support and finance for women in enterprise.
Mumpreneur offers support and advice for women juggling family life with starting up – and running – a business.
Encouraging Women into Franchising
EWIF’s focus is to support women who are looking for a route into the franchise industry.
This initiative focuses on the connection of women-owned business and multinational corporations.
Wire is a UK networking and business club for rural women in business.
Access to finance
As a female entrepreneur, it’s important to consider all the finance options available to you so you know where to go to get the initial capital you need to start your business, as well as ongoing support to help make it a success.
For more information on funding solutions for female entrepreneurs, check out our guide to small business funding