Celebrating women entrepreneurs

Holly Branson with Womens Entrepreneurs panel
David Watts
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 19 November 2020

This week we’ve been celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week, and I wanted to draw special attention to the start-ups and small businesses founded by women. To round the week off tomorrow, I’ll also share a little insight from growing up with the ultimate serial entrepreneur! Although Dad, being Dad, never really understood that title – he far preferred being a maverick businessman! No surprise there.

A young, bearded Richard Branson in the studio with his arm raised

Being a women entrepreneur brings enormous challenges their male counterparts may never face. My admiration for women entrepreneurs and business owners is really fuelled by the way they overcome these challenges and follow their entrepreneurial passions despite the odds. These barriers include everything from finding funding to securing stockists. The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs – alongside numerous other reports – painted a very stark picture of investment in female founded businesses in the UK when it was published in 2019.

Here are some of its key findings:

female entrepreneur statistics from The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs

Concerning statistics, yet I wasn’t surprised by them after sharing a panel with seven women, who had founded very successful and impact-led businesses. Each of these women echoed the findings in the report and shared their own difficulties with attracting investment and even getting in front of Venture Capital investors. These women were unbelievably generous with their time and gave brilliant advice for all women struggling to gain investment.

Today, I want to give a massive shout out to the women who are out their building their businesses, shaking up sectors, employing within their communities, and making a positive impact in our world. During 2019, I was lucky to meet many of these incredible women from a mini-series I hosted called ‘Entrepreneurs: Born or Made.' I never really get to the bottom of the question!

Holly Branson sits speaking to female founders, She wears a dark blue dress with her blonde hair over her shoulders
David Watts

I found that necessity and problem solving was often the driving force behind a woman’s business idea. This was very much the case when I sat down with Fleur and Alice from Attollo Lingerie, Carly from KeepEmQuiet, and Kristina from Advent of Change. Each of these women were propelled to launch their businesses when they couldn’t get hold of something they wanted to buy. It wasn’t available, so they decided to make it available!

Later in the year, I sat down with Catherine Salway who set up the Redemption Bar –the first alcohol free, plant-based restaurant in the UK – and was fascinated by her ability to spot a trend and find a niche market. Unsurprisingly, as an ex-Virgin marketing guru, I also learnt about the importance of creating a unique brand. Read more about Catherine’s story here.

Headshot of Catherine Salway
Catherine Salway

One of the entrepreneurs I’ve admired the most this year is Ayesha Pakravan – founder of the Virgin StartUp supported company called The Plattery. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic,  Ayesha quickly pivoted her gourmet catering business into a free meal delivery service for people who were isolating and vulnerable and is now using entrepreneurship to tackle food poverty.

We still have a way to go in encouraging investment in more women founded businesses - but I intend to keep pushing that agenda! Our planet and our economies need the talent, drive and innovation provided by the thousands of women entrepreneurs making things happen in the UK! As the Alice Rose Review says: “We calculate that a sustained and concerted effort to help women succeed as entrepreneurs could add around £250 billion of new value to the UK economy, if women chose to start and scale businesses at the same rate as men.” £250 billion is not an insignificant number!

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs quote
Image from Virgin.com

You can play your part too. In the lead up to Christmas, look out for the brands, online stores and products created by female entrepreneurs. When shops open up again, seek out local bricks and mortar stores that are run and owned by women. The best way to show our support and encourage investors to back more women, is to back them ourselves and spread this important message!

For further info, stats and interesting articles, check out the below:

Here are some women entrepreneur networks you may benefit and learn from: