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…

 

Empower Women and you empower a Nation

It is with great delight that I hear today that Jeremy Corbyn is bringing in policies for the equality of women.  In a society dominated by widespread banking corruption at the heart of the city and dominated by patriarchy, Corbyn recognises that if you empower women you empower a nation.

FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP

I suspect that Corbyn will bring in massive change in the banking system and will attempt to dismantle the “old boys network”. It would be ideal if part of this reform takes into account the fact that lack of access to finance and punitive banking loans are currently strangling female entrepreneurship.

ACCESS TO FINANCE

As part of this reform, it would be amazing if it is recognized that the access to finance is currently  one of the main barriers to female entrepreneurship. It is already widely accepted that female entrepreneurship is an economic issue but no-one is really was doing anything to enable it.

The combination of free childcare and micro-credit would revolutionise the lives of women. For the first time, women would be enabled to become financially independent. This is a huge change and at it’s heart, it is an economic change. Corbyn realises that if you empower women, you empower a nation. Microcredit banking through a new National Investment Bank would release microcredit loans to SME’s owned by women to encourage business start-ups and growth.

We have business accelerator programs that are no more than glorified car salesmen acting solely as salesmen for the banks. Obviously, this is corrupt and useless. I hope that Corbyn flushes these out by his measures for reform for the equality for women.

VC FUNDING FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES

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Another issue that is very important is VC funding. We have dreadful statistics, as shown above. Why can’t some of these measures include match funding to help women start up their own VC firms to invest in women? We need more VC’s that are NOT part of the Old Boys Network. I would like to see a vision of the future where I set up my own venture capital firm to invest in women. Maybe under Corbyn’s reforms, this might be possible.

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Corbyn’s investment in women can help to create and grow some of the world’s most incredible entrepreneurs as well as contributing hugely to social projects internationally. I just hope that he realises that women’s equality extends to female entrepreneurship too.

The Mama working with Resolve to celebrate women on International Women’s Day

The Mama is working with social enterprise, Resolve to celebrate women on International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is on Friday 8 March 2013 and thousands of events are being held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. One such event is being hosted by the Edinburgh Social Enterprise, resolve.

Speaking about the event, resolve business manager Wendy Bates explained how, for many women, juggling is a fact of life.

“Home, work, relationships, the school run, family, friends, partnered-up or single, it can often feel like it’s all go and all down to you”, she said.  “We want to encourage women to focus on themselves for a while, be inspired and above all else, have some fun.”

The event will be held in the Merchants’ Hall in Hanover Street, Edinburgh from 10am until 3pm.

As well as being treated to a glass of bubbly and a delicious lunch,  women will hear from local ‘Mumpreneur’ Anna Louise Simpson, as she shares her fascinating journey from Corporate Lawyer to Oil Painter to full time mum and founder of her award winning herbal tea company, Mama Tea Limited.” www.mamatea.com. In particular, Anna Louise will discuss how she manages to ‘juggle it all’, within the wider context of a consideration and celebration of women internationally.

It will be a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of opportunity for proper “me-time”, whether it’s chatting and sharing experiences with fellow guests, having a pamper at one of the beauty stations or benefiting from the coaching and wellbeing experts who will be on hand running workshops and providing expert advice.

For further details and to book, please contact support@health-in-mind.org.uk or call 0131 718 6003. Group discounts are available for parties of 6.

resolve works with individuals and businesses to manage stress and promote wellbeing and was set up by mental health charity Health in Mind with funding from the Scottish Government Enterprise Growth Fund.

5 Business Tips for female entrepreneurs

1. GET STARTED

Plan, do your business plan and work out your financials, but the most important of all of these is actually STARTING! EXECUTE, GET GOING. START!!!

2. DEVELOP THE ENTREPRENEUR MINDSET

Enjoy that first “glow” of success with the first big orders but never lose sight of the bottom line and your goals. Don’t let your ego get carried away and stay focused. Above all, HAVE FAITH AND CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF. You can do it.

3. FEEL THE BURN AND START TO FEEL SUCCESS

The first “burn” or failure or fall is not BAD. Once you pick yourself up from the mistake and start to learn from it, you have the makings of success!

4. FIND YOUR USP

Find your unique selling point and then hammer this home to all and sundry. Use every marketing tool available and become an expert on social media marketing. It is your biggest FREE tool!

5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS BE INNOVATIVE

Entrepreneurs always look for the next opportunity and your business has to be innovative and agile to survive. Be a social ninja. Be curious and have fun with it!

Is female entrepreneurship the key to economic recovery?

Are Women Entrepreneurs the key to Economic Recovery?

“We’re comin’ out of the kitchen’ Cause there’s somethin’ we forgot to say to you (we say) Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Standin’ on their own two feet. And ringin’ on their own bells. Sisters are doin’ it for themselves………”

As Annie Lennox sang, sisters are coming out of the kitchen and we are indeed doing it for ourselves! More and more women are choosing to start up their own businesses, often from home using the internet and often with families. The flexibility of being your own boss whilst raising a young family is appealing especially in these times of recession. Also, it is a necessity for a lot of women, who need to make money and may be unemployed with or without children.

However, the numbers of female entrepreneurs are still comparatively low. Women are still lag behind on men in start-up activity and their companies tend not to grow as quickly as male companies.

Often, this problem is seen as a “women’s issue”. However, this is not the case. Raising the levels of female entrepreneurship, both start-ups and growth, is an economic issue. FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS NOT AN EQUALITY ISSUE BUT AN ECONOMIC ISSUE. Why? Well, it is well established that start-ups, particularly those in high-growth areas, are essential for job creation and economic growth. Female entrepreneurs are our hidden and untapped resource for economic recovery. If we can get more females starting up high growth businesses, we could well all be on the road to economic recovery.

Female Entrepreneurship as a driver for Global Economic Recovery

A recent paper by the Kauffman Foundation “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers,” has suggested that getting more females to start up high growth businesses could the the key to GLOBAL economic recovery. That is simply incredible.

What makes this paper very interesting indeed is that it explores “the intersection of two issues that are thought of separately: the need for sustained economic growth {in the United States}, and the status of women’s entrepreneurship.” This intersection applies the world over.

The report’s author, Lesa Mitchell, reports:

“Women’s entrepreneurship is an economic issue, not a gender-equity issue,” Mitchell said. “As more women engage as entrepreneurs to build on their discoveries, new jobs and economic prosperity will follow.”

Sadly, this report, as well as many others, highlights that female entrepreneurship really is an untapped resource at present. We simply need to get MORE women starting up businesses and GROWING them; particularly in high-growth sectors.

The above paper explores the reasons behind lower business startup rates among women and suggests steps that would help to get more female entrepreneurs to realise their potential and in turn help to turn around the economy.

Kauffman Foundation  – Steps to boost female entrepreneurship

The report details the under noted steps that should be taken to address the low numbers of female entrepreneurs:

1. Role Models

We need as many successful female entrepreneurs and inventors as we can, to stand up and shout about their successes. In this world of  celebrity culture, let’s start to focus on the “celebrity female entrepreneur”! As a new entrepreneur, I would always look to other successful entrepreneurs and their stories to fire me up and keep me going. But more needs to be done. There is a CULTURAL DISCONNECT between the successful female entrepreneurs and their protégées. Not only do we need to see more positive female business role models in the press etc, I would propose that we need to give more support to the powerful SOCIAL NETWORKS that link the role models with their “students”. Social networks know no geographical boundaries and are extremely accessible. They are also extremely viral and allow for the rapid dissemination of information. There are a lot of networks out there that are pro female entrepreneurs and we need to support them and help them to grow.

2. Technology

The report states very clearly that one of the steps should be to invite more women to join the science advisory boards of high-tech companies. This step relates to Life Sciences/Tech faculties, where there is a huge disparity between the numbers of women producing research and those that end up commercialising that research and/or serving on the science advisory boards of high tech companies; thereby not exposing themselves to the same commercial/industry networks and contacts. This is a very specialist step and is a very important step.

I think that that we need to get more women involved in high- growth tech per se. Technology itself is liberating and maybe as a more generalist step, we need to encourage more women to get into gaming/tech/life sciences. Technology allowed me to start-up my business from my dining-room and does the same for women all over the world. Technology can and should be like bread-and-butter for female entrepreneurs!

Educating more women to use and advance technology is key. Again, we need to rethink the CULTURE surrounding technology and find ways to encourage women to get involved in starting-up technology businesses.

3. Not-for-profit initiatives to connect female start-up entrepreneurs with big companies

This step is the one that really excites me the most. The report has the under noted recommendation:

“Not-for-profit initiatives advancing opportunities for high-growth women entrepreneurs need greater funding and skin in the game from women executives, philanthropy leaders, and industry. Support of networking and collaborative events between startup founders and big companies are critical for all entrepreneurs, but even more critical for women and underserved minorities that do not have the same access to networks that can provide them their first customers. We need to expand programs like Astia, NewMe, Founder Fridays, Women 2.0, Kauffman FastTrac®, and myriad other not-for-profits focused on providing education and networks for high-growth women entrepreneurs”.

Again, this goes back to the idea of high growth SOCIAL NETWORKS that not only link female entrepreneur role models with start-ups but exposes those start-up entrepreneurs to much bigger companies. This recommendation also underlines the need for such social networks to include men as well as women, i.e. Astia above.  All of the above networks are amazing and a lot of them are focused on tech but they are not really within the reach of female entrepreneurs in the UK.

In the UK, we have the following networks to name a but a few and they are all amazing; powerful, inspiring and informative – The Next WomenWomen UnlimitedEvery WomanWomen’s Enterprise Scotland, Mumpreneur UK. However the question remains –  do we need a UK not-for-profit, social network that is focused on technology that links founders with the much larger companies? Again, addressing this involves a CULTURAL swing that embraces more female entrepreneurs in tech.

In any event, there is not a single solution to this issue. We also need to gather better data on the numbers of females starting up businesses, perhaps we even need to look at supplier diversity, as they do in the U.S.? There is one thing for sure though – there is a gender gap in entrepreneurship at the moment but that fact doesn’t make this a gender issue. As Mitchell has said,  female entrepreneurship is NOT a gender issue – it is purely economic.

How to start a business – overview of the Business Plan

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be asked to asked to speak at the RBS conference for Women in Business about the story of Mama Tea and my experience of how to start a business.

RBS are being very proactive in addressing the issues of trying to get more females starting up businesses with this initiative. They have a network of Women in Business Ambassadors throughout the UK who are there to assist female entrepreneurs. Isn’t that fantastic? I believe they are rolling out this initiative on a much wider scale and I applaud it fully!

I spoke about how to start a business – looking at one of the first hurdles – the business plan. This is traditionally seen as a bit of a pain to do but really, it is YOUR plan of what you want your business to look like, not some template. Also, if you are thinking of starting a business, you really need to research your market, competition, pricing, product, USP’s very carefully! You should know the answers to all these questions; there are some great resources out there and a lot of them are FREE!!! Here in Edinburgh, I used the National Library of Scotland. They have a fantastic business resource centre, so you can look up all the business research reports and research competitors etc. Also, go and do some of the FREE courses at your local Business Gateway. They have access to over 200 videos, tutorials etc for you to use and the website is fantastic.

Start with your idea and break it down. Why is it unique? What are the Unique Selling Points (USP’s)? What does the Market look like? Is there a demand for your product or service? What can you sell it for – is there a good profit margin in the product or is it a high volume/low margin product? How will you market your product or services?

Other companies and banks also have resources that you can use for free – RBS has an excellent business planning tool – http://www.rbs.co.uk/business/banking/g2/planning.ashx

Over the next month, I am going to break down each part of the Business Plan into manageable chunks and include a checklist at the end of each blog, so that any aspiring female entrepreneurs can actually take practical steps to getting a great plan in place and then get going!

The Mama