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…

 

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.

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