On International Women’s Day, Sue Jefferson, chair of York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Board, tells us how female entrepreneurs can empower themselves and redress the gender imbalance in funding and investment.
FEMALE business owners are on the rise according to new Government figures which show a record number of women making good on their ambitions to strike out on their own.
The statistics, commissioned and released in February, by the Treasury, show the number of female-led incorporations in 2022 were at 151,603 – up four per cent on the previous year, while new female entrepreneurs aged 16-25 saw a leap of 25 per cent.
All seems well on the female start-up front, but what about when those businesses are ready to take the next step – perhaps investment in new staff, technology or any other type of growth? It seems that’s where things start to get tougher for new businesses with a female at the helm – especially when it comes to attracting funders and investment.
Treasury-commissioned research in 2019 found for every £1 of venture capital investment, only 1p goes to female entrepreneurs. So why is there such an imbalance and what can female business owners do about it?
As well as chairing our Business Board, Sue is a non-executive director, an investor and the founder/director of Possibilities Realised, helping companies leverage competitive advantage through diversity of thinking and an inclusive workplace culture.
“There are two issues which I believe cause this disparity,“ she explained. “There is a hesitation for funders to invest in a female-led business, which maybe subconscious but reflects an unwillingness to look beyond their traditional considerations. But I also think women may not be pitching confidently or communicating well enough the key elements that investors need to hear.
“What will make or break a business is the people behind it. Pitchers have to come across as confident, convey a strong grasp of the critical elements, understanding what the investor needs to know. That’s why opportunities such as the Embrace Equity Angel Investment at the York St John Enterprise Centre on International Women’s Day, are so valuable for female business owners. Pitching-to-funder events can be really effective. I see, first-hand, the impact. It can be transformative."
According to Sue, women need to be ‘clear and confident’ about themselves and their business.
“When pitching be clear about what unmet need your business is addressing and how your solution is competitive and scalable,” she advised. “It’s relevant to specify key risks but be sure you explain how you’re mitigating them. Be realistic about your steps to success and be clear about what you intend to do with your investor’s money.
“Also, don’t focus exclusively on your product or service. When pitching, a lot of people talk about every aspect of this but leave little time to communicate all the other investing considerations of a business. Learn to love the numbers and the story they tell.
“Beyond developing pitching technique, once you have your first investor then leverage that fact. You can be proud that someone has done the due-diligence around you and your business and invested their money. This in-turn makes you more attractive to further investment.
“And remember, evidence shows female led business outperform the average so no wonder there are now investors focusing on these such as Women Angels of the North.”
If you were unable to join us at our Embrace Equity event on International Women’s Day, there is a range of online support on start-ups and growth, available from the York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub Growth Hub.
You can also access face-to-face business advice and expertise, including a range of workshops and events, at the Enterprise Centre on the York St John campus. Further details are available on the Y&NY Growth Hub website HERE.