Let’s just start by saying that this isn’t going to be an exhaustive list. If we put every barrier that a young entrepreneurial woman could possibly experience in this article then the three minute read could easily turn into a five day-er. This may need to be an ongoing blog, but it’s a starting place, partly inspired by our experience when promoting one of our courses. Here we are focusing on just one issue – why are the stories of successful women without degrees and inherited wealth so hard to find?
We launched our online training programme, The Enterprise Wing, in October this year, with the feeling that now, more than ever, young women would benefit from arming themselves with every tool available to take on the job shortage that is on the horizon – with or without covid – so that they could still envision and create a bright future for themselves.
It wasn’t an open access course. The partnership between The Gifted and The Fire Within, and funders of the course the Lawrence Atwell Trust opened up availability to young women aged 16-25 who were not in employment, education or training – otherwise known as NEET.
Promoting the course was interesting. We had great feedback from organisations including social services because it was seen as such a rare treat to be able to offer this kind of opportunity to their NEET young people. When it came to social media, of course we shared what the programme involved and how it would benefit the participants, along with all the usual information about when it would be taking place and how, but there’s only so many times that you can hammer that point. We wanted to get a bit more creative, so we took to Google to look for inspirational stories of women business owners and entrepreneurs who hadn’t gone to university or inherited the funds to start up their enterprise. We wanted to share stories that our participants could relate to, be empowered by and aspire to be like.
This was a hard Google.
The first article that came up was from Beauhurst and delivered a list of the UK’s Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs Under 30, featuring a Sainsbury’s heir, a graduate of a Singularity University in Silicon Valley at NASA, and a range of women that could celebrate huge success both in their education and in business. Before we carry on, we need to stress here that these women are all amazing. They are all doing something to change the world; whether that means encouraging different ways for people to communicate, revolutionising the feminine hygiene industry or helping people’s mobility. However, there wasn’t really anyone that we could share and say “Look, she’s just like you and she did it!”.
As we continued to look through different articles and mix up search terms to try to get different results, we had a moment when we wondered whether we’d forgotten how to navigate the Internet properly. Had we broken Google? Why weren’t entrepreneurial women without degrees and inherited wealth being celebrated and getting the same level of exposure? Where were they?
Through friends of friends we managed to find some, including:
Atreka Cameron, owner of what has recently been voted the second best vegan restaurant in London
Lizzy Fleming, director of Made From Scratch which brings play and imagination to urban environments
Tanya Short Energy Reader who celebrates the huge success of never losing a penny in revenue
Katie Barker who started a business focused on child, baby and life-proof jewellery with just £100 in the bank. The business has grown and one of her East London Baby Co necklaces has been worn in the Houses of Parliament.
Leanne Pero, award winning dance entrepreneur who, at the age of 15, opened her community dance company The Movement Factory. Since then she’s won multiple awards for her work, raised thousands of pounds for charity and touched the lives of many of south London’s young people.
In our search for inspirational women, we were given some great advice from Nicola Baran, Business Owner of Tooth and Claw Tattoos: “One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to surround yourself with people that you aspire to be like. You’ll learn a lot that way and it will help keep you focused.”
So could it be that one of the biggest barriers facing young women becoming entrepreneurs is the lack of people to aspire to be like in their community? And how do we bridge those gaps? How do we enable the women that are doing it for themselves to create a higher profile and connect and inspire others around them, especially when major search engines and the articles on them tend to focus on and celebrate only some women, not all?
The first run of our Enterprise Wing Training Programme is now complete, and you can read some of the insights and how powerful it is to create a group of women supporting women here. We’re now looking forward to bringing more young women together to inspire them to be the next wave of female entrepreneurs, and we hope to help them to gain the exposure to empower those that follow them to think “Look at her, she’s just like me, and she did it!”.
If you’d like to know more about the course, share your inspirational story or get involved to empower others with your expertise, please get in touch.