THE role of women in business creation is set to come under the spotlight this week as the co-founder of Scotland’s leading support network for start-ups has predicted the onset of “the decade of the female entrepreneur”.
Lucy-Rose Walker, chief solutions officer at Entrepreneurial Spark (ESpark), said women are increasingly looking to strike out on their own, though many are driven by different factors than their male counterparts.
Women have the confidence to go on and set up their own businessLucy-Rose Walker
But despite differing motivations between the genders, their needs remain much the same. “Women now have the confidence to go on and set up their own business, whereas some years ago that was potentially not the case,” Walker told Scotland on Sunday.
“An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur – they have a certain mindset, even if they’ve come to it through different circumstances – and now we have a lot of female role models out there as well.
“We believe that we are moving into the decade of the female entrepreneur.”
Tomorrow marks the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest campaign to promote the work of those who create small but growing companies.
Female participation comes into specific focus on Thursday, which is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. There are almost one million small and medium-sized firms led by women in the United Kingdom, but government officials estimate that number would double if women set up businesses at the same rate as men. According to a survey of 500 fledgling entrepreneurs carried out by OnePoll, women are less driven to start a business by wanting to be their own boss. Less than half cited this when asked, versus 60 per cent of men.
Nearly 17 per cent of women said they had struck out on their own because of a change in lifestyle. For men, the ratio was just 6 per cent.
“What we are seeing here is that it often comes down to the circumstances that women find themselves in,” Walker said. “Perhaps they have moved somewhere new, or they have had children, and they are looking to create work that fits around that.”
Women starting up on their own are more likely to feel isolated than their male counterparts, perhaps explaining why they are also more likely to seek a mentor.
Start-up incubators promote the benefits of working alongside other like-minded individuals, which in the case of ESpark means taking up temporary residence in one of seven “hatcheries” located across the UK. Through this, ESpark says aspiring entrepreneurs can expand their knowledge and grow their networks.
Despite the continuing gender gap in the UK’s entrepreneurial landscape, Walker said ESpark maintains close to a 50-50 split among the roughly 200 start-ups it houses at any one time. However, this is “purely due to the applications coming in – not a quota-driven thing at all.”
Some of the accelerator’s brightest female stars include Vicky Brock of Clear Returns, which uses data analytics to determine which of the millions of items ordered online are most frequently returned by buyers. Retailers such as M&Co have saved hundreds of thousands by ceasing to actively promote frequently returned items, which are expensive to process. Her firm now employs 15 people.