It takes a village. Setting up a female-owned business

There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish. This belief was instilled in me from an early age by my parents. 

Their teaching did not come from gifts of inspirational books of successful women or empowering quotes, but from their expectations of me – which were not compromised by my sex growing up in a household of four brothers.

Setting up a business in a new country as an Irish-born entrepreneur was not driven by a desire to be seen as successful. It came from a need for a better life balance when my three children were young. I was MD of a PR agency headquartered in London at a time of zero support for mothers of young children.

I was 29 when I set up Represent (then O’Leary PR) and it was a tough slog. I was given a £500 grant from Fife Enterprise but told by a male business advisor that I would never make it – there was already a PR agency in Fife who had it ‘sewn up’. 24 years on, we are going strong!

I was, therefore, heartened to read that a Government-backed review on female entrepreneurship has pledged to create three million places for women to access business support over the next three years. 

Since 2022, an impressive 151,603 women have set up companies, with the same report revealing that breaking down barriers faced by women entrepreneurs could boost the economy by £250 billion.

However, what will determine success extends beyond funding. My business trajectory would have looked massively different had my company been born within a supportive community. I lacked the connections and access to those who could help me think bigger and aim higher.

I also battled with finding good childcare. I know from speaking to working mothers, affordable and reliable childcare is the gap preventing women from returning successfully to work and feeling good about it.

Thankfully as MD of Represent, I set the agenda for our working mothers. We are most definitely family-friendly and realistic in approach. 

I also do everything in my power to build women’s resilience and catalyse connections – the latter being driven by Madeline Albright’s famous quote: “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

I am motivated to see this big rise in female-founded businesses, and extremely pleased to see that the government is funding start-up loans. It would be even better to bring about a more supportive community and access to mentors who can nurture and support female entrepreneurs.

I am delighted to be participating in a Causeway Scotland Ireland Business Exchange free webinar on Empowering Business Leaders to coincide with International Women’s Day. We have an incredible lineup of inspiring women who will share their journey and hopefully inspire others to follow their dreams. Why not join us?

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