Design has no borders. That’s one of our core values here at 99designs, and our team reflects this – we’re a strong team of diverse individuals. Men and women representing equal halves. We’re passionate about helping everyone to grow their businesses, in whichever field, but still it seems there are often barriers which women in business need to overcome in order to achieve their full potential.
What’s amazing is that there really are some incredible organisations and resources in the UK who help support female entrepreneurs in all aspects of starting a business. We’ve handpicked a list which we hope will provide support and information for all women out there who want to do it their way. Take a look….
1. Female Entrepreneur Association
The Female Entrepreneur Association is an international group which is dedicated to inspiring and empowering women in business. It offers a host of features including a 10 minute weekly video which gives tips on succeeding in business. There is also a Member’s Club which you can join if you wish to get in touch with fellow entrepreneurs in what is a thriving online community.
There are also online masterclasses, a free magazine called The Girls Means Business, a Facebook page with over 300,000 fans, a regular blog offering more business tips and a whole lot more. If you want to get inspired, read the group’s ‘How She Did It’ page to find out how successful female entrepreneurs completed their journey.
2. British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE)
BAWE is a peer group for women in business who like to be challenged. It is interested in members who aim high; for example, BAWE welcomes women who want to build global brands and the organisation prides itself on having an exceptional group of members.
If you are part of BAWE, you automatically receive membership to the FCEM World Association of Women Entrepreneurs which has members from 60 different countries. The BAWE ‘Aspiration’ Programme offers Training & Development opportunities and members can also attend regional, national and even international conferences.
3. Women Entrepreneurs UK
Women Entrepreneurs UK is a website for women who aspire to create their own business. As well as offering honest advice on the many challenges facing businesswomen, the site also provides you with tips on how to raise money for your start-up.
The website is neatly divided into a variety of categories including Women Business Grants and Business Loans for Women. There is even a Cultural section which highlights the issues faced by Asian and Black female entrepreneurs in particular.
4. Women Mean Biz
Women Mean Biz is a place where you can grow your business with the aid of expert advice. There are a number of groups located all over the UK so choose the one that is closest to you! Each group meets once a month in what is a two hour meeting over lunch. This get-together follows the tried and trust WMB format and you get the chance to share and swap ideas with fellow entrepreneurs.
WMB was founded by successful businesswoman Philippa Constable and is a result of her vast amount of experience in the field. Once you become a member, you receive your own profile page and have the opportunity to get involved in training sessions and seminars held by experts. There are also three membership levels so you should find one to suit your needs.
5. The Businesswoman’s Network
Interestingly what we see as the biggest impactors on women’s success is not always what women can access funding or support on. Which is very frustrating. For instance, earlier in the year a European MP came to the BWN and described it as the most motivational and best support for women in business he had ever seen which I was very proud of since it is self-funded by myself. Which with no membership can be a real juggling act. However, the MEP then spent the morning hearing from business women and said he would report back to Brussels on our behalf on the biggest challenges impacting on female entrepreneurs. Great I thought! Although when I had a chat with him before he left, despite listening to what the business women had told him, all he wanted to talk about was funding.
While I appreciate funding can be an obstacle to success, it is not the biggest challenge. As a business coach I see many obstacles impacting on women and the biggest comes down to confidence Take for instance the issue of funding. If you had confidence when one avenue to funding said no you would have inner confidence to believe that you could find a solution and keep going.
When I put your question to our members another challenge that female entrepreneurs face is limited views and misogyny. Personally being someone who started her career in the Automotive industry I’ve always had the attitude that says I will do this, and I believe its what we think that impacts on what we get. I really feel that the biggest impactor on female entrepreneurs success is what they believe. If more women believed they could succeed in business it could literally be worth billions to the UK economy and at The BWN we help turn that around. No amount of adversity or limitation from funding, skill or time stands in your way when you have the right support and the right internal belief and that I feel is one of the biggest impactors to women’s success. When you build women’s confidence, when they believe in themselves, and appreciate how far they can go and what they can achieve then it is impressive what they can go on to achieve.
Mandie Holgate, Author, Broadcaster, Coach & Founder of The Business Womans Network
The Businesswoman’s Network claims it can help you increase sales and become known as a leader in your industry. It has a vast number of special events which teach you the tricks of the trade. Examples of events include learning how to make a good first impression and how to get valued and hired by the clients you want the most. The average BWN event has between 25 and 70 female entrepreneurs in attendance and if you book in advance you receive a 60 second promo slot.
The first thing The BWN gives business women is a welcoming inclusive environment open to all women in business. The fact that you could walk in and be networking with a business woman that works with budgets worth millions and a business woman that has just set up and has an ambition of making their first £1000 profit means that everyone gets to benefit from each other in ways that may not seem obvious at first.
Many successful professional business women will admit to us because of the relaxed environment that encourages an acceptance that mindset and skill sets can be learnt at any stage of your career that they’ve never got over their 20 year fear of public speaking or their hatred of picking up the phone.
In this way you can have business women who’ve hidden from speaking engagements from team meetings and elevator pitches to board rooms contacting us to tell us they just spoke to an audience of 300 people with a microphone. The second thing we do powerfully is with our master classes with some of the top speakers and authors in the UK is give them tools to overcome those fears and learn new tools. This leads to growth in their business and themselves.
I was asked to write a book by the leading non-fiction publishers in the UK Pearson’s and the chapters resonate with what I see both working with female entrepreneurs for years and at The BWN. By helping a person deal with the fears that impact on success they can increase confidence, sales and success. And that is something we are proud to say we are rather good at.
Some of the top speakers in the world say that the other thing we are good at is keeping business women motivated. I heard on Radio 4 that the biggest mistake this very successful business woman had made was thinking that she could stop networking. Nigel Risner International Motivational speaker and author said “The BWN is one of the most well organised and motivational events I’ve ever attended” and his spoken to 1.5 million people world wide.
It is frustrating that so much money is spent on expensive programmes in our country to support women in business that only a few get to access, when the BWN is a self-funded organisation that is genuinely helping more and more business women to overcome their business fears, believe in themselves, learn new skills and find the solutions to enable them to overcome the challenges to female entrepreneurship without expensive memberships. My greatest wish for The BWN in 2017 is that the government would take note on our work and see that this works and it doesn’t need sacks of cash to be achieved. That could have a serioucly good impat on our UK economy, local communities and seriously support female entrepreneurs.
Mandie Holgate, Author, Broadcaster, Coach & Founder of The Business Womans Network
I case you are in Central London on 25th November and interested in what else Mandie Holgate has to share and what her new book Fight the Fear is all about, join her international book launch.
6. Women in Business Network (WIBN)
The WIBN is a membership organisation for women looking to benefit from word-of-mouth business opportunities. Groups are divided according to profession to ensure you get special ‘targeted’ assistance from other members.
The WIBN was formed in 2005 and offers monthly meetings where you can network and learn more about becoming a success in your field. There are an estimated 2,000 members in the UK and the site itself features blog posts from successful businesswomen.
7. First Women
The First Women Programme was created in 2005 and since that time, the group has sought to bring together female ‘trailblazers’ in business in a bid to help them breakthrough. Members of First Women engage in a series of high profile events including the First Women Summit and the First Women Awards.
As well as having the chance to network at these events, there is a possibility that you’ll receive an honour of your own! The First Women website is filled with information on achieving a positive work-life balance while also showcasing content designed to inspire.
First Women conducted a survey among women and created an insightful infographic from the results:
Everywoman is a group that aims to help businesswomen meet their goals and grow their skills. It was founded in 1999 by Karen Gill and Maxine Benson; both women have subsequently been awarded MBEs. At present, Everywoman has a presence in 80 countries around the world with over 10,000 members.
It offers a wide range of products and services to female entrepreneurs including events related to specific industries such as retail, banking and technology. There is also an everywomanClub which is open to women who have achieved a senior-level role in an organisation.
9. Women Unlimited
Women Unlimited was founded by Julie Hall and is designed to help women who are in the early stages of their business. Instead of wasting valuable time by researching the Internet for tips, you can use Women Unlimited as your one-stop shop for business tips, advice and practical information you can use for your business today.
It is difficult to identify the biggest challenge facing female entrepreneurs as it really depends on the woman and her business.I work mainly with micro-entrepreneurs. Women who have gone out on their own to pursue a business built around their skills and knowledge. Often they are to sole breadwinner in their families to are responsible for supporting themselves. They have chosen to set up their business because they want freedom and autonomy and are tired of the BS that they experience in a corporate environment. But the problem is that marketing yourself is hard and when you are working by yourself there are a lot of balls to juggle. So the biggest challenge I see is overwhelm. Overwhelm because there is a lot of conflicting advice out there and overwhelm because they find it difficult to identify the right actions to take, or are missing the knowledge they need and don’t have the budget to bring in the expertise to help.
As well as providing women with a huge array of useful information, Women Unlimited offers you a range of Events and Workshops. If you go to one of these events, be prepared because they last for over 6 hours from start to finish!
So many people are advising that you need a fancy website and should be updating social media and content marketing. And these are good strategies but not always the best strategy for every business.My answer to this is to always simplify your activities to the ones that are going to generate the fastest and biggest results. For example – If you are starting out as a consultant then writing a blog post is not going to be the best use of your time – much better to be picking up the the phone to old contacts and colleagues … or finding organisations that use people with your skills as associates.Women Unlimited Worldwide (and its sister company The School of Marketing) runs online and offline workshops for micro entrepreneurs and offers inspiration and support to its community.
10. Festival of Female Entrepreneurs
The Festival of Female Entrepreneurs has become an annual event and is organised by Enterprise Nation. Enterprise Nation is a business support network of 70,000 start-ups and small businesses founded in 2006 by Emma Jones MBE, one of Britain’s most high profile female entrepreneurs. Emma is also an international trade ambassador for the UK government and its crown representative, a role focused on increasing the amount of public sector contracts won by UK small businesses.
Enterprise Nation’s membership base has a very high proportion of female members who attend around 200 events a year including the annual Festival of Female Entrepreneurs which brings together hundreds of women business owners from across Britain to hear from high profile female speakers.
The October 2016 version was the 5th year of the festival which took place in Bristol. The 2016 festival featured a number of talks from female entrepreneurs with a focus on appetite for risk and the tactics you must use in the technological age. Each talk lasted for 30 minutes and the festival concluded with a 2 hour drinks reception where you could network with fellow entrepreneurs.
11. WEP (Women Entrepreneurship Platform)
WEP is another not for profit association which aims to bring together female entrepreneurs and women in business. It is dedicated to the promotion of females in business across the EU. WEP’s mission is based on 5 Pillars for Growth which are Education, Innovation, Government Policies, Access to Finance and Networks.
WEP hosts events all over Europe including the International Women in Business 2016 event which takes place in Romania on 20 October. It is the ideal platform for women looking to expand in the EU and who knows; maybe you could win the EU Prize for Women Innovators in 2017?
Prowess acts as an online hub which female entrepreneurs can access if they are in need of advice, support and inspiration. Its membership is growing as it looks to continue its mission of delivering support and services specifically for women across the UK. You can utilise the skills, knowledge and experience of professional advisors to help your business flourish.
Prowess was actually formed in 2012 after the National Association for the Promotion of Women’s Enterprise was closed down. It is funded by external sponsors and contains advice on building your business and locating funding while also telling the stories of successful businesswomen.
WIRE stands for Women in Rural Enterprise and the group is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs engaged in rural business. It was formed in 1996 and its very first conference attracted 400 attendees. It has grown rapidly since and is now seen as a respected national organisation.
WIRE works tirelessly to keep rural businesses on the national agenda and it offers members the opportunity to network with other people in the rural business field. Even if you’re not a member, you can benefit from the helpful advice on the site and there are also special events which provide further assistance in what is a niche field.
14. She Means Business
She Means Business is a page on Facebook Business and it shows women how to grow their business online with specific assistance when it comes to using Facebook. The page is supported by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which aims to protect the interests of the 5.4 million SMBs in the United Kingdom.
You can benefit from helpful webinars which show you how to increase your brand identity and reach on social networks including Instagram and Facebook. It also offers useful advice when it comes to creating compelling and useful blog posts and there are a multitude of Starter Kit videos. These productions are helpfully divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Expert sections so start learning today.
Stylist is a women’s magazine that digs deep to find out crucial information about female issues. It supports female entrepreneurs and regularly has features about successful businesswomen.
A recent example is an interview with Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She explains why now is the perfect time for women to start their own business and offers valuable advice. Sandberg mentions a few examples of successful female entrepreneurs and also advises women to join the aforementioned She Means Business page.
A new era
While it is still far from being a level playing field, there is more advice and assistance available to female entrepreneurs than ever before. There was once a time when women found it almost impossible to create a successful business despite having a great idea and incredible work ethic. In this new era, female entrepreneurs can succeed and we encourage you to check out the links above to learn more about starting and running a successful business as a woman.