Women account for less than a third of those who are self-employed, although between 2008-2011 they represented 80% of the new self-employed (Labour Force Survey, Office of National Statistics 2013). They start businesses with less capital, and are definitely less likely to apply for funding. Interestingly, more women than men in the age ranges 30-39 and 40-49 are running their own businesses.
Working with female entrepreneurs has changed my life. They are well-organised, passionate, dynamic and extraordinarily hardworking. Well, aren’t most women?
Lots of the women that I have worked with are also mums, so as well as having all of the above traits; women are also fantastic multi-taskers (any mother is probably the ultimate pro at this now!) Not only are they juggling their home lives but also trying to keep afloat their families and children.
So many women, especially single mums think that they can’t start up a business and I’m here to prove them wrong! I have set up not one successful business but three as a single mum and I couldn’t be prouder.
My advice to those who tell you that you can’t?
You would be amazed at what you can achieve on your own and you can do anything you want. Anything that is in your dreams can be achieved. I am proof of that.
So, you’re probably thinking, what is Ali going to say next that can change my mind? I’m here to tell you the skill set that you need.
There are a group of skills that are widely accepted as those that an entrepreneur needs, or exhibits, in their working lives. When you look at the list, you will see that we all need these skills on a personal level too and most women already have them:
Being creative as an entrepreneur is all about letting your mind run free and coming up with scenarios. It isn’t about the colouring or drawing that you do with your children at home! It’s not ruling things out before you’ve even had a chance to plan them out, let alone try them.
Communication is vital in every aspect of your life especially when running a business. Not only are you communicating yourself, you are doing it on behalf of your company.
When we are talking to someone, in any situation, we must be sure that what we say is communicated clearly, slowly and professionally.
Consider what you are saying, practice the more important ‘speeches’ beforehand (including new business pitches and general product/service information), and always speak with a smile. People can hear it in your voice, particularly on the telephone and it makes them more at ease.
Anyone setting up a business needs to know how to present themselves. It’s a non-negotiable. You are the face of your work. Meeting you may well be the first opportunity that your client has had to consider your company and what it stands for.
If you want to be successful, at anything, you have to be focused. You have to be conscious of what you want to achieve, how you are going to do it, and what you will need to get there.
If you like solving problems, then you will love running your own business. They can be a bit like buses; you wait ages for one and then three come along at the same time. Sometimes we end up looking at the big picture and don’t drill down to the real problem underneath. Women hey?
Listen to your gut feeling (intuition)
Decision making isn’t always about using your head, it’s also sometimes about using your heart and when it’s a business decision – and it’s your business – emotion, whatever we like to say about there being no emotion in business, really does have a part to play.
Builds trust with others
You need to be able to build trusting relationships with other people. This can be very difficult for some, but you need to realise that it is also a life skill and you will need it at some point.
What’s stopping you?
I come across lots of ladies who are really keen to have a go at starting their own company but find something stopping them. The real reasons behind that barrier are not a lack of ability – or even experience – it’s just that us girls are nervous of getting it wrong. We spend far too much time planning, and re-planning, and planning again.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but at some point its time to wake up and realise that you only have one life, take a chance, you never know what might happen! I took a chance and look where I am today – genuinely happy, healthy and successful.
Ali is a hugely successful entrepreneur. She founded her first business in 2000 and, so far, has run and managed five successful businesses. Ali is currently founder and MD of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project .