Women-owned businesses account for an estimated 19% of SMEs in 2017, contributing around £85 billion to the UK’s GVA every year. But if women started up businesses at the same rate as men, we’d have 100,000 extra new firms every year – which would really boost the British economy. Closing the gap between women and men could add an additional £250 billion to GVA of the UK economy, equivalent to 4 years of economic growth.
Women have a range of challenges in starting and scaling business, including lower levels of capital, caring responsibilities and the work/life balance, greater difficulty in accessing finance, affordability and accessibility of childcare, lower levels of confidence, self-belief and risk receptiveness. But women do not lack the ambition to start or grow – they just need a women-tailored, women-friendly service to help them on the way.
Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) is a collaborative project to help women living in some of the regions either side of the English Channel to increase their personal skills and develop their business ideas and knowledge. We will be supporting them through new training workshops, face to face advice, mentoring and online learning, all developed specifically for women.
In 2006, our Enterprising Women project started the transformation of the business support landscape for female entrepreneurs. In its first five years, it trained nearly 4,000 women, enabled the creation and growth of more than 3,000 businesses. By 2011, dedicated funding for female enterprise support fell off the map, and so all the learning from Enterprising Women was embedded into our other commercial and publicly-funded services alike. As a result, over half our clients are female!
Enterprising Women was selected by BIS as one of three national best practice examples for SME support and recognised by WINNET 8, a European project researching good practice in eight European countries. Now it has become a national community of female entrepreneurs, providing members with specialist Growth Programmes at all the key tipping points of the business journey, a mentorbank and access to our elearning portals.