To all want to be female business owners.
As today is International Women’s Day, it reminded me of an interview I did last year.
My journey is not particularly special; I am not saving lives or changing the world. Regardless, I thought it was worth sharing in case it helps any other young women decide to bite the bullet and go it alone.
Tell us a little bit about you (background, interests, what makes you get out of bed in the morning).
I am 52 years old, married, with two children, two dogs and four horses at home. I love dressage and skiing, although, having started both late in life, am average at best! My passion, even after 27 years is still my business. There are always improvements to be made and opportunities to find; no two days are the same.
Tell us a little more about your business and what motivated and inspired you to become a female entrepreneur and why within the Financial Services sector?
After dropping out of accountancy at university, I fell into the asset finance industry, initially as an employee just doing administration. Within 3 months I asked to move into business development, where I quickly became the top performer, as well as restructuring the business’s processes and introducing IT systems. Throughout my employed roles since leaving education at 19, I was often frustrated by the confines of company politics, resulting in my potential being restricted, and feeling I could do better on my own. So, in the recession of 1994, I set up my own asset finance brokerage.
The UK is the start-up capital of Europe, yet only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female. Female business owners are unrepresented in high value sectors such as IT and Financial Services. What has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial journey within Financial Services?
As is the case with any new venture, male and female-founded alike, there are many challenges to overcome, from staff to budgeting and everything in-between. However, for me, I never saw being female as a challenge, more a reason to prove that I was as good as my male competitors. Rewards are seen daily, all of which stem from the groundings on which I have built the business; attention to detail, customer service and building relationships based on trust and expertise.
Who were your role models growing up? (Did you have any female entrepreneurs that inspired you?) Do you have a role model/someone that you look up to in business now?
I don’t recall having any particular role models. I just knew I wanted to be successful and was willing to work hard to achieve this. However Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister through most of my formative years, so maybe this had some influence that anything was possible for a woman to achieve.
In business, there are still unfortunately many challenges that women must overcome, from gender stereotypes and societal expectations to access to funding. Tell us how you’ve challenged and overcome these to build your successful business?
Historically there were expectations that women would stay at home, cook, clean, have children etc. whilst the men were more traditionally the breadwinners. This is, of course, less so now, however, there still seems to be an assumption that businesses run by women are not “proper” businesses; rather small part-time ventures in food, crafts, or fitness.
In short, I have tried to do it all. Having my own business enabled me the flexibility to see school plays, sports days and have time off in school holidays. My children understood that working longer or unusual hours much of the time, gave me the flexibility to be there for what was important.
From a commercial viewpoint, I have seen very little effect of the gender stereotypes, and if anything it has worked in my favour. Being female in a male-dominated industry straight away gives you a point of difference. It is then up to you how you run with this opportunity.
Tell us about working with your daughter, and how you’ve created a successful female-owned multi-generational business?
My daughter Rachel, joined the business at the beginning of 2018, after vowing never to work in an office, let alone my business! We have very similar mindsets and agree on the morals behind every decision that is made, so working together is easy. Having two different generations’ input into the business keeps it fresh and it makes decisions much easier knowing there is someone with a vested interest to bounce off.
What are some of the myths or misconceptions about female business owners that you want to debunk?
We are no different from male entrepreneurs; all the same opportunities are out there for those who are willing to work hard and put themselves out there. With good groundings and morals, making sure you can sleep at night, you will have a business that you can be proud of. I have always stood by what I believe in, meaning that sometimes I turn business away or lose it to a competitor. Being your own boss means you can set the ground rules and really make a difference for what you believe.
What do you think society/education/businesses need to do to encourage more young girls/women to become female entrepreneurs?
Whilst it may not seem like it, there is a level playing field to begin with. Hard work (or lack of it), will be what gets you where you want to be. There needs to be less of an emphasis on who (i.e. gender, race, age etc.) and more of an emphasis on the work put in to have achieved what has been achieved.
Finally, what advice do you have for hopeful future female entrepreneurs?
If there is something you are passionate about, just do it! Set your sights high, realise there will be highs and lows, and ask for help if needed.
Please feel free to add anything else to your story here.
Hopefully the more female founders there are, the more young women will recognise the possibilities. Without actually seeing it happen many girls would not even entertain it is possible. As generations go by, the more mothers that are passionate about their businesses, the more daughters will become entrepreneurs. However good childcare settings will become increasingly more important. The grandmothers (previously nominated for childcare help) may well be running their own businesses!
If you are thinking about starting a business, whether male or female, please get in touch and we will be happy to chat through asset finance options available to you.