Thinking of starting your own business? Go for it!
For our #WinnersTalk on the 3rd June we are joined by Rachel Hannan who has seen both sides of business start up, both as an entrepreneur and an investor. Having enjoyed a varied career in tax, consulting, corporate finance and recruitment, she has been involved in 2 business start ups herself, the second growing from nothing to market leader in its niche sector with £23m turnover and over £4m profit in just 7 years. After a successful exit she has spent the last 4 years, among other things, investing in 10 SMEs across a range of sectors.
Rachel will answer questions about the reality of starting your own business, what she looks for when making an investment and why starting a business is a great option for women.
“Historically the world of the ‘entrepreneur’ has been fairly male dominated, with a few notable and impressive exceptions. The good news is that more women than ever before are now choosing to start their own business. I suspect one reason for this may be a desire to dictate their own ‘work destiny’ and a recognition that while starting your own business is certainly not an easy option, it can allow greater control. Whilst research has provided evidence that companies with women directors have better business outcomes, women remain under-represented on boards. In its Global Gender Gap Report in 2014, The World Economic Forum estimated it will take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity in the workplace. Personally I am confident we will not have to wait 80 years! It is however perhaps unsurprising that many women are making the decision to ‘do it for themselves’. Indeed there have been a flurry of recent surveys that show women led businesses are not only growing in number, but also in success.
This is no great surprise to me. Women can make great entrepreneurs; they tend to be good at negotiation, have the ability to think creatively and are resourceful, expert at multi-tasking, good at building strong and lasting relationships and trust, are used to often being left as the last line of defence in a crisis and are certainly no stranger to hard work!
In 2014 the Hiscox ‘DNA of an Entrepreneur’ Report, an international study of small businesses, showed that women are leading the boom in post-recession startups. Encouragingly, of the new businesses started during the recession, over half were founded by women. Long may it continue and just think how the landscape would change for women at the top if some of these became the FTSE 100 companies of the future! It is also encouraging that the ranks of investors also now include more women than ever before and while women still only account for 12% of angel investors, that is a huge increase which is set to grow further in the next few years. We all know the potential danger that people can identify with and gravitate to others that they can see themselves in, so it can only be positive that there is now a more diverse range of angel investors, and not just in terms of gender, but also age and ethnicity. Going forward we can therefore be more optimistic that women entrepreneurs will have a more diverse group of people assessing their investment potential.
Starting a business is not for everyone, it’s terrifying, exhausting, exhilarating and liberating, often all at the same time. You need inexhaustible enthusiasm and bags of determination, plus a clear vision which is rooted in reality, but that should not limit your ambition, nor should your gender. Some women will start businesses to grow and challenge their largest competitors, others will choose to keep it ‘small and perfectly formed’. Both are equally valid and both can provide a huge sense of achievement and pride.
For those with larger aspirations who may be looking for funding from investors or other sources of finance, there are a number of things those who might be willing to provide you with capital will look for. For me these things are;
- A business owner that understands their market and can demonstrate a strong demand for what their business offers.
- A good understanding of the future as well as current potential of the business and the determination and resilience to lead the successful delivery of your plans, even when the going gets tough.
- Strong prioritisation and organisation skills, a good grasp of the financials and an understanding of and commitment to the importance of keeping an eye on the bottom line and cash flow.
- Honesty and realism, the ability to recognise problems early and open enough to tackle them or ask for help in doing so.
- Someone who can inspire others in the business and beyond and is prepared to take ‘calculated’ risks.
- Ambition, drive, creativity and reliability – and someone who is prepared to take some financial risk themselves to illustrate their commitment to and confidence in their business.
In my experience women deliver these just as well, if not better in many areas than men. So for me the question isn’t ‘why should women start their own business’, but ‘why not?’”