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.
Rebecca Sloan, from start-up Piddle Patch, recently wowed investors on BBC’s Dragons’ Den in an appearance that led to Steven Bartlett investing £50,000 in her business.
Abby Watson is a senior corporate solicitor at Harper James. She completed her training at a global law firm and worked in their corporate team for six years before joining Harper James.
In this interview, Rebecca and Abby share their experiences and tips as successful women in their fields and they also touch on the difficulty of balancing work and family life as working women and how they find time to wind down.
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?
Rebecca: ‘There are a lot of factors at play, including the types of businesses in question and the goals of the founders. For those who want VC funding, then meeting and learning from those in the industry will be important so that you can position your business, business goals, and offering in an attractive way. However, VC funding might not be for everyone and it’s important to know that there are other ways to raise money too. I think there needs to be more information about how to access funding, the types of funding available, and how to reach them.’
As a female entrepreneur / successful person in your field what do you believe the biggest challenges are that you face on a day-to-day basis?
Rebecca: ‘Balancing work demands from a growing business, while raising a toddler and young family (during a pandemic no less) has been quite the challenge. It’s extremely difficult to set boundaries between the two and the lines can often blur.’
Abby: ‘The biggest challenge has been juggling my work with family life/bringing up my children and trying to create a work-life balance. Being organised and strict with when and how I do things has helped. Accepting that I can’t do everything. Giving myself some me-time. Probably the most significant way that I have overcome these challenges is by joining Harper James, which abolished commute times and allowed me to work flexibly.’
Can you share three tips that might help women accelerate their entrepreneurial growth?
Rebecca: ‘Surround yourself with likeminded, and ambitious individuals, who will push you and encourage you to work towards your goals. Figure out ways to outsource work so you aren’t doing everything yourself. This one can be challenging but will help immensely. Find the right people and keep them. It can be really difficult to find the right people, so hold on to them when you do.’
Abby: ‘Plan and organise the business in terms of where it is now, targets and goals for the future and how you can achieve it. Seek advice from others that already have experience - consider offering equity in the business in exchange for such advice. And make full use of digital marketing and social media. Also, consider how to motivate staff to work and stay with the business and have the courage to go for it.’
What might the Government do to better support female entrepreneurs?
Rebecca: ‘The Government should invest more in educating and empowering girls and young women in the practical knowledge of how to develop and evaluate an idea, identify the resources and support they need to make it happen, understand the finances behind it, and act on it.
For many, the current system is about passing tests instead of taking risks and understanding opportunities. A lot of talent and experience goes unrecognised because we do not do enough to empower young people, and especially females, to recognise their own strengths, abilities, and how to market them to others and create value. Providing more mentoring and grants for women and new ideas, and support infrastructure and access to resources and knowledge would also help.’
What advice would you give to a young woman planning to set up her own business?
Rebecca: ‘Perfection is the enemy of progress. Start small, develop a basic product or service, and put it out into the world for feedback. The feedback you receive will help you know if you are on the right track or if you need to pivot your offering. Stay open-minded and do not fall so in love with your own idea that you are unable to adapt and change to the feedback you receive. Learn how to listen to and follow your gut. Not all feedback is helpful feedback and you will learn to understand the difference as you go. Importantly, do not invest money you can't afford to lose on a product or service when you're just getting started. Spend as little as possible to develop this product or service so you don't lose your money on the wrong initiative or too soon in the process.’
Abby: ‘Seek advice and support from women already in business/law - speak to others about how they have achieved their goals, be organised and plan out what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, be realistic but don’t be afraid to dream big.’
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:
- 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
- Jennifer Young (Founder of Jennifer Young Limited) & Sally Gwilliam (Senior Employment Solicitor) – on confidence
- 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