In support of International Women’s Day and to help break the bias for women in business, throughout March we’re sharing stories from some of our inspirational female entrepreneur and founder clients, who each share their successes and the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. These stories are coupled with insights from female solicitors at Harper James, who discuss the necessary changes that will allow women’s voices to be heard in business.
Jennifer Young runs Jennifer Young Limited a skincare start-up that has found success by developing a range of products, with particular emphasis on skincare for those living with cancer.
Sally Gwilliam is a senior employment solicitor at Harper James. She advises clients on a broad range of employment matters and has a particular strength in employment litigation.
Sally and Jennifer discuss the importance of being confident as a successful woman in business and law. They also touch on the advantages of being a woman and how to be loud and proud about your successes.
Female-led start-ups received just 2.3% of VC funding in 2020, according to reports. How can businesses owned by women achieve a stronger and fairer share in the future?
Jennifer: ‘If I were to take the stats at face value, this question is difficult to answer, particularly as I am one of the 2.3%. I can only suggest that anyone seeking investment takes advice from as many relevant sources as possible. There are hundreds of people who will give advice or charge for advice, fewer are able to provide well-informed advice.’
As a female entrepreneur/ person in your field what do you believe the biggest challenges are that you face on a day-to-day basis?
Jennifer: ‘I suspect they are the same as any other entrepreneur, having a limited number of hours in a day, growing a team which is strong enough to allow one to step away from the day-to-day of the business, which gives you time to concentrate on strategy and growth.
If anything, I see being female as an advantage. If I have faced challenges resulting from being female, I have not noticed them. I have, perhaps, placed them alongside all the other ‘day to day’ challenges and just got on and dealt with them.’
Sally: ‘While many businesses are alert to equality issues, I think sadly at some point in their career most women have or will encounter challenges on the basis of their gender. As a junior solicitor, I can recall a client not hearing my younger, female voice and looking to the male Partner in the room instead. Thankfully, this type of behaviour is the exception rather than the rule and for me, I’ve been lucky to have had the support of my colleagues (male and female) throughout my career. I overcame this challenge through preparation and having confidence in my ability – I went into those meetings knowing what I was doing, knowing I could do the job and I proved I could do so. I also had the support of colleagues, male and female, and a strong female role model to look up to. Women should feel confident and empowered – we’re every bit as capable as our male colleagues.’
Can you share three tips that might help women accelerate their entrepreneurial growth?
Jennifer: ‘Work smart. Be discerning about whom you take advice from. Hire slow and fire fast.’
Sally: ‘Research… Doing your homework pays dividends. There are opportunities out there for female led businesses – in these instances, the fact your female is a superpower, not a challenge. Keep an eye out for funding initiatives aimed at female entrepreneurs. When looking for investors, look for female led funds. There will be women out there wanting to give back to start-up women led businesses. Look out for competitions you can put yourself forward for, or social media campaigns you can work with to utilise and to maximise your exposure.
Build your networks. There is power in numbers and building yourself a strong network will help. There are plenty of networking events out there, and not all of them will work for you. Figure out what does work and try and collaborate with other women entrepreneurs and expand your reach. Don’t underestimate the power of social media – shout loud and proud about what you’re doing on those platforms. Make yourself easy to approach and be confident to approach others where you feel it could help you.
Find yourself a mentor. As a woman in business, learning the ropes from a strong experienced woman was absolutely invaluable to me – I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I have been lucky to have a fantastic female mentor who has supported me throughout the progression of my career. She helped me be a better lawyer – offering expertise, support and encouragement and tough love at times.’
What might the Government do to better support female entrepreneurs?
Jennifer: ‘Anything that the government can do to support women will support female entrepreneurs and professionals. I have been blessed by access to European Funding via local universities, LEPs and Chambers. Our VCs (the fabulous Midven) manage a fund from the British Business Bank. Every little bit of support given to my business helps it to grow in some way. We employ more people; we bring more products to the market. Government funding helps businesses, no matter who runs them.’
Sally: ‘Whilst there is some financial investment out there for female led businesses, there isn’t anywhere near enough. More investment to help women succeed would make a world of difference. The Government should also keep equality, not just for women but for all other protected characteristics too, at the forefront of its agenda. The Employment Bill expected later this year is expected to bring in some changes which will be welcomed by many women (albeit they will apply to men too). The Bill is expected to introduce flexible working rights from day 1 of employment, as well as bringing in enhanced protection from redundancy for pregnant employees, maternity returners and those returning from shared parental or adoption leave.’
What advice would you give to a young woman planning to set up her own business?
Jennifer: ‘Learn from others, listen a lot, fail more, learn from your mistakes and from those of others. Don’t listen to anyone who suggests that being a woman is a limiting factor in any area of life. You can do anything - and you should.’
Sally: ‘Be passionate, confident and go for it. Be prepared to work hard and remember to take a moment when you can to reflect on your achievements and enjoy and take pride in the moment.’
IWD 2022 #BreakTheBias – Enabling and inspiring female entrepreneurs
Join us for the rest of our series of interviews with some of our remarkable female clients and solicitors who share their stories to help enable and inspire female entrepreneurial businesses.
Up next, you’ll hear from:
- Mariani Robinson (Founder of Naturally Lady) & Sarah Gunton (Commercial Partner) - on work/life balance
- Whitney Bromberg Hawkins (Founder of FLOWERBX) & Kate Wright (Head of Client Services) – on female mentoring
- Rebecca Sloan (Founder of Piddle Patch) & Abby Watson (Senior Corporate Solicitor) – on family
- Hawaa Budraa (Co-Founder and CEO at Onaria Technologies Ltd) & Jas Bhogal (Corporate Partner) – on investment
- Sarah Bridget Dees (CEO of My EU Pay Ltd) & Lillian Tsang (Senior Data Protection and Privacy Solicitor) - on mistaken identity