are now over 1 million self-employed women in the UK and whilst over 70% own their
own businesses, less than 20% of those have employees.  Some might argue that women don’t want to
grow big businesses, but it’s not true for many female entrepreneurs
today.  So what will encourage women to
grow their businesses to a size that contributes to the economy by providing
jobs for others?

things: aspirations, capabilities and
, and underpinning them all a
good idea that is scalable


Business Model


women start out delivering a product or service that is based around their own
skills e.g. complementary therapy.  Whilst
you might be the best therapist in your local area, the business can only be
scalable if you create a business model which helps you (and others who may
become involved in your business) understand how it makes money.

business model should describe how your business positions itself within its
industry and how it intends to generate revenue.  It should answer the following questions:


Who pays? (consumer,
producer, or third parties?)

What for? (goods, services,
expertise, assurances of quality or security.)

To whom?

Why? (perceived value, competitive
price etc.)


need a clear and convincing answers to the above questions, especially “why”.

If your business model cannot be replicated
then it will difficult to turn your service into a growth business.  But assuming that it is, then consider the
other areas too.

more about business models




women start up in business for different reasons to the traditional
entrepreneurial values of financial success, power and status.  Some tend to be motivated by personal comfort
or self-actualization goals that allow them to work at something interesting
and maintain flexibility. Running a high growth business tends to demand high
levels of energy, commitment and leadership skills and might not seem so appealing. 


How to get inspired


  • Read about women who are
    running growth businesses and find out what it’s really like   
  • hink about your future and
    what you would like to achieve.  Think
    about the benefits of investing time and effort for a few years in order to
    build a business that has the potential to be sold. This could provide the finance
    for you to achieve your longer term vision.
  • Believe it is
    possible.  Sometime the greatest fear we
    have is fear of success, not fear of failure so create your own model for
    success based on your ideal work environment.




is the combination of knowledge and skills that you bring to the table.  Sometimes I think many of us like to imagine
we can do it all, and it’s foolish to believe that this is the case.  This encourages you not to delegate and get
others involved, which is what is needed to grow a business.   

  •  Critically assess the skills
    and capabilities that you have.  Be
    honest with yourself and recognise that if you are focusing on your strengths
    then you can start to value strengths in others and it’s easier to delegate.




are the combination of financial and social capital that you have available
which can help you make the transition from lifestyle business to growing


the years, maybe you have not had as much interest or taken the responsibility
for understanding and managing finances, and research shows that women spend
less time engaged in activity related to acquiring finance at the start-up

could be because we can be more risk averse regarding business funding.  I wish I had a pound for every woman I have
spoken to that will only start their business on a shoe string because they
don’t believe it’s really going to be a success!  Yet it’s this under-capitalisation of a
business that can cause problems if you intend to grow.

  • Challenge your thinking
    – ask yourself – what is attitude to financial risk?  Would you put up your house as security?  If not, why not?  Is it that you would not put your family in
    jeopardy, you don’t believe in the potential of the product/service?  By asking yourself these questions, you can
    begin to think like an investor – if you don’t believe in your business, then
    why should the bank or an investor?
  • Contrary to popular
    belief, successful entrepreneurs are not risk takers, but what they do is
    carefully evaluate all the risks before making a decision.


Social Capital


you begin to grow, you will need to find good people to help you. They might be
business specialists, investors, potential members of staff, mentors etc. and
the more diverse networks that you have, the greater the chance that you will
be able to find the right people.


  • evaluate all the
    networks that you are part of already. E.g. family, school friends, other
    parents, business networks, evening class contacts, people at the gym, and you
    will amaze yourself at the number of people you know. 
  • Even if you don’t have a
    large network, you can “borrow” social capital from others who do and that is
    where a mentor comes in.  If you are
    looking to build contacts in a particular industry sector then you might consider
    seeking a mentor in that industry. 
    Whilst this might seem a “one-sided approach” if you have ever mentored
    someone else you will know that the mentor gets a lot of satisfaction too from
    being able to help their mentee and to make introductions.
  • How to find a mentor