Putting women on the agenda for growth: Enterprising Women

The brief

In 2010, the BIS Small Business Survey estimated that 15.5%, around 690,000, of SMEs in the UK were majority women-led, contributing about £50 billion, or 12%, of the UK’s SME GVA total.

Growth is government’s top priority in its strategy for economic recovery. Yet despite having the ambition to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business, the potential of the female economy continues to be untapped.

As a successful serial entrepreneur, YTKO Group’s CEO Bev Hurley has long campaigned for this to be addressed by government.

In 2006, a tender by the East of England Development Agency finally presented an opportunity to transform the way that women’s enterprise support was delivered to increase the number of start-ups by women and foster the growth of established female-owned businesses. And to prove that tailored, gender-specific support works in delivering jobs and economic growth.

Our response

YTKO Group created a dynamic, coherent, highly focused business model for women starting or growing a business., This had a highly collaborative online peer and stakeholder community at its heart, underpinned and reinforced by a wide range of female-friendly face to face start-up and growth support. The strategy was specifically designed to address and overcome the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs – no ‘one size fits all’ approach!

The online hub provides women with full business and personal profiles, enabling those starting off on a shoestring with a web presence from which they can trade and raise awareness of their business, supported by our Woman of the Week role models and other promotional opportunities. The hub also fosters the finding of partners for sales, marketing and business collaboration, and those all-important peer connections. News, information, event calendar guides and resources, a national mentorbank and Ask the Expert facility enrich the offer.

Online is not sufficient though, and face to face delivery of our Aspire start-up programme, specialist Growth Programmes, a range of skills and access to finance workshops, inspirational business networking events and peer-to-peer conferences and Awards provide that all essential personal contact. A £10m loan fund with Lloyds TSB is earmarked solely for women-led businesses seeking capital to start or expand their companies.

Anyone with services to support the success of women entrepreneurs can also join the community – we’ve actively promoted the services of over 200 partners and work collaboratively with them to host joint events to further benefit our members.

Results

Today, Enterprising Women has nearly 9,000 entrepreneurial women members nationwide, with associations and partnerships in the UK and internationally that take its readership well over 12,000.

The community gives us an unrivalled knowledgebank of expertise on factors influencing the start-up, sustainability and growth of women-owned businesses. This can be used to inform and evidence policy decisions to release the value of this highly diverse and productive segment of the SME economy.

Selected as UK best practice for SME support by BIS in 2009, Enterprising Women has also been endorsed by a European Commission project researching good practice in female entrepreneurship, and highly commended by the European Social Fund for the breadth and depth of its data. In its first 18 months, Enterprising Women enabled the creation of more than 250 sustainable new jobs and businesses and trained more than 2,500 women.

To date, more than 3,400 enterprising women have received training – to create more than 350 sustainable new jobs and businesses, with business survival rates that far outstrip the national average, at more than 80% after four years.