Why I will be voting Labour

I am a female entrepreneur, living in Scotland with a Scottish registered business, buying supplies from Europe, and with Simpsons Tea, selling British branded products. So you could say that I cover all the bases when it comes to experiencing business life. And we are in trouble. Big trouble.

Under the SNP, we have entrenched patriarchy in Scotland and it is killing the country. Our economy is on it’s knees. The SNP, with their obsession with independence, have driven the country into systemic poverty. Scratch below the New Town surface and you will find dire levels of poverty, which I believe is due to hardened patriarchy. Open up the economy to equal pay and extra support for female entrepreneurs and watch what will happen. In fact, it has been proven that if a country encourages it’s female entrepreneurs it improves its economy. This is NOT a female issue. It is an economic issue.

However Scotland has done very little to encourage its female entrepreneurs, indeed with the hardened patriarchy at every level, I would go so far as to say it is actually actively discouraging them.

Patriarchy rules Scotland and has done so for a long time. I have experienced this first-hand myself. From the male dominated business networking groups through to boys clubs looking after each other, it is pretty hard as a female entrepreneur. I have been called names, been threatened and mauled at and that was all on one night…

I have had a tea business now for nearly 10 years and during that time, we have won contracts, exhibited at international food exhibitions all over the world and won many awards. However I also have been cheated by the banks (RBS’s mis-selling loan swindle of 2010) and experienced an absolute lack of support from both the Scottish and British government agencies.

I turned around my business by export, yet, I have not had one bit of support from the Scottish Government under the SNP or any support from the British Government. This is outrageous.

We need a change. A massive change. We need to vote Labour throughout the UK and bring in the under-noted changes for female entrepreneurs:

  1. SUPPLIER DIVERSITY – The US has supplier diversity legislation in order to try to support female entrepreneurs and the UK has nothing. This needs to change.
  2. MICRO-CREDIT – We need micro-credit schemes to boost female owned business rather than crippling bank loans that are mis-sold and fraudulent.
  3. VC FUNDING FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES –  We need proper VC funding for women-owned businesses that understands the many different obstacles that female-owned businesses face.

This is why I will be voting Labour…

 

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Is Diversity the key to Innovation?

Last week was a week of exploring diversity. I attended the Women’s Business Forum in Harrogate as a guest of RBS. This was a conference exploring diversity in the corporate world and looking at some of the practical solutions to help more women get to the top and get on to boards. Later in the week, I met with the Chief Executive of Corporate Banking, Chris Sullivan and other senior members of RBS, as well as some inspiring Scottish female entrepreneurs to discuss female entrepreneurship in Scotland.

To my mind, the low numbers of females in the board-room and the low numbers of female entrepreneurs are linked. These are two sides of the same coin. Lack of confidence is a recurring theme for both females in business and females in the corporate world. I am a confident woman but I have had my confidence severely knocked both in the corporate world and as the CEO of my own business. That doesn’t mean to say there is something wrong with me or that I have to act like one of the boys to get on. No, I think it is linked to a much deeper issue. It is one of CULTURE.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a bra-burning feminist. I am not bemoaning my lot. I am not using this as an excuse because I can’t be bothered working hard. Far from it. I need my bra, I have a brain and I work extremely hard. But I am also a mother. Yes, women have the babies. And a lot of women feel that they should put their family before their career and their business. That is exactly natural. But WHY should we have to choose? We have to choose because of CULTURE.

We have a culture in the Western world that does not accommodate diversity. Often it is dominated by white males. Whether that is in our board rooms or on the investment panels of the people I am hoping to impress for an investment. It is not a culture that supports the flexible working/creative working/confidence building building bricks that we need to have a truly diverse culture. We have a diverse society. Women and men, we are all from different backgrounds, straight or gay, white or black. The human race is diverse. It has to be. This is not about bashing white males, we need them! We just need everyone else too!We HAVE a diverse society already – we just need to support it in a DIVERSE CULTURE.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett( President of the Center for Talent Innovation in New York) talked a lot about the link between diversity and innovation last week. She also spoke about the problems caused by no diversity of thought – “group think”. She has participated in studies showing that a diverse board affects the bottom line as diversity of thought leads directly to innovation.

Looking at diversity of thought, I think we see a fantastic argument for chipping away at the lack of diversity so prevalent in our culture. Diversity contributes to ideas and there is a real connection between diversity and innovation. Creativity and innovation are key to growing our economy, creating entrepreneurship and growing sustainable profitable companies. If we can only start to see more diversity across the whole of our culture, then what will the future look like? Innovative, creative, expansive and exciting. This isn’t a “women’s” issue. It is an evolutionary issue.

Five Top Demands for a Mamapreneur’s Wardrobe

Now that I am The Mamapreneur and a fully fledged *mumpreneur*/*mompreneur*, I have some basic needs. I no longer need clothing that offers a sleek transition from day-time office to evening wine-bar transition. I need a total metamorphisis from school gates to meetings with bank/lawyers/investors/business networking/office back to school gates again. Wine-bars no longer get a look in!

This got me thinking….what would be the top FIVE demands for such a working wardrobe:

1. SMART

Ok, so I need to look the part. This is the main part of the challenge. This outfit/uniform/suit needs to impress. However, traditional clothing that impresses is often of the booted-and-suited variety. As you know, this type of clothing is great but does not accommodate running through school gates, with laptop bag slung round your neck, school bag on your back and two wee ones in each hand. The traditional mummy clothing is more of a casual variety….for a reason!! Therefore, what I need is truly SMART clothing. Clothing that looks good but is adaptable. An outer protective layer perhaps? Combat fatigues that turn into sleek jumpsuit with the flick of a zip?

2. POWERFUL

I need to ooze power in my meetings. I need to look powerful and in control. I also need power…literally! I am hooked up to my iPhone 24/7. It is my mobile office. I can take calls, answer emails, review contracts all whilst waiting outside nursery. However, this magic little invention tends to run out charge way before I do. Therefore, I need a renewable outfit. I need solar panels fitted all over my back, like a glittery power pack. I then just plug my iPhone into my pocket and bingo! One fully charged office! At present, this would look insane and would be even heavier than my laptop, so I need someone to invent solar clothing.

3. WATERPROOF

I live in Scotland. It rains here. A lot. I also have curly hair. For the uninitiated of you out there, this spells damp frizz hair disaster which is not the best look when presenting to a group of investors. Therefore, my outfit needs to have some kind of seal skin waterproof element to it. With a hood. A sleek hood. Not like my current option. Shaking hands with my very sophisticated, dapper lawyer whilst swinging my quilted, hooded coat around my shoulders results in a slight rise of the eyebrow and me muttering about the rain as I scurry to the door. I need a more sophisticated option that still protects against the elements.

4. HIGH

I like high heels. I wore high heels constantly as a lawyer. I still really like wearing them. And I believe, they can make an outfit! They make me feel powerful and in control, so great for meetings. However, when running to get to nursery/school pick up in time, they are a pain. Literally. I need a pair of shoes that can convert from high to flat with a flick of my iPhone. Therefore, I want a convertible pair of shoes that are a bit Bond like (or is it Moneypenny?!) and will change according to need. And an app to do that would be nice too, please!

5. RESISTANT

This super duper outfit needs to be resistant….to everything! Silk is beautiful but is not toddler friendly! Sticky hands are a constant dilemma for any suit. This new suit needs to repel all sorts of paint/chocolate/jam/dirt/milk etc etc etc etc…………..this might be the most difficult part of all. Stain resistant material still looks pretty *sturdy*.

So, there you go! Any budding designers out there, this is my list! I am sure others could add to it. I am just looking forward to the day I get to wear it! 🙂

The Mamapreneur

x

Three Business Birthday Wishes

Hurrah! It is Mama Tea’s third birthday today! Three years ago, I set up stall at the Scottish Baby Show in Glasgow and sold our first bag of loose leaf Mama Tea. I didn’t realise then that it was also my birthday of becoming the Mamapreneur

I thought I would blow out the candles and tell you my three business birthday wishes:

Birthday Wish No 1 – Big Mama

I wish that Mama Tea goes from strength to strength. It is not easy bringing a brand to market but we have managed it! It is now our time to grow rapidly and periods of growth are always challenging for any business. I am busy raising investment money for our business and am going to be doing a series of blogs about the challenges of growth. Time to go big, Mama!

Birthday Wish No 2 – International Mama

I wish that we can launch Mama Tea in the US and Europe this year. We also want to change our website so that we can sell direct into as many countries as possible! We are going to be developing an international e-commerce platform over this next year, using the principles of agile development to launch it and develop it. Eventually, we want to sell into every country in the world. Let’s fly, Mama!

Birthday Wish No 3 – Social Mama

I wish that we could increase our social media presence by launching an app, or a map, or a niche social network or whatever the next social trend is! Connecting with our customers and being social. #mamateamap is our current social media experiment. Check it out on Twitter! We are using the principles of in-bound marketing in action to get our brand message out there and connect with our customers! Join our community – social commerce rocks!

I am excited about our future and looking forward to sharing the journey with you!

The Mama

Time to Think Equal

logo of International Women's Day

Each year Cranfield University compile a report on the numbers of females at board level in FTSE 100 companies. In the UK the figure for the percentage of female board members has plateaued at about 12% since 2008 and in the US it has plateaued at about 14-15%.

The Figures

There were 155 female held directorships, out of 1092, in the FTSE 100 in 2010; 21 of which were executive directors and 134 were non-executive directors. The top ranking board in the FTSE 100 was Burberry with 3 out of its 8 directors female and in second place was Diageo with 4 out of its 11 directors female (note this is the only board with 4 females). There are 14 boards in the FTSE 100 with no females, and in the FTSE 250 it’s even worse with just under 50% of boards being all male.

Time for Change

The introduction to the most recent report, by Theresa May MP and Vince Cable MP, said;

Promoting equality of opportunity and equal treatment for women isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also crucial to our country’s economic success.

Women bring fresh ideas, perspectives and experiences. As a woman in business I’m keen to understand why women are not achieving board level, I also appreciate it is not all down to men and women need to help themselves. The debate goes on as to how equality is achieved, everyone should achieve based on merit and this is why the idea of gender quotas is distasteful to many, including me. There are no clear answers as to which gender diversity initiatives achieve positive results but we need to keep working at it to encourage and empower women enabling them to achieve their full potential.