Last updated Jul 10, 2024 and written by Aditi Mohan

IWD: A Spotlight on Women-Led Businesses

We learnt that for entrepreneurs empowerment, encouragement and inclusion begin with sharing. Whether this is a sharing of time, resources or, in our case, knowledge. For this reason, our Women in Business campaign has been focused on highlighting women-led and founded companies, to ask them essential questions about entrepreneurship.

One aim of ours was to show women-led businesses from as many industries as possible, in as many shapes and sizes. This was to give a wide scope of examples and gain a wide scope of stories from our female founders.

This year, on International Women’s Day, we want to share what we learnt so far.

You can read the original interviews with our founder on our Instagram.

Businesses we spoke to:

Beth Salem from Googy Granola- a homemade granola company focused on delivering healthy, sugar-free granola that tastes as good as it is for you.

Natasha Hansford from Soxsies- a baby apparel company providing the solution to comfortable and cute baby leggings with integrated removable socks.

Annabel Thomas from Nc’nean- a small batch distillery which focuses on sustainability and innovation within the spirits and whiskey industry.

Aixa Fernandez from Culynart- a gourmet food company bringing authentic Spanish cuisine to London.

Solvegia Pakštaitė of Mimica- an award-winning start-up tacking food waste with their innovative gel cap solution called ‘Bump’.

Lucinda Dore of Lucinda Dore Solicitors- a modern and adaptive law firm specialising in road traffic accidents.

Could yours be next? If you are a women-founded and led business, we want to hear from you.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Our first question, as simple as it was, allowed us to tunnel into the crux of entrepreneurship. What is the driving factor which inspires people to take a chance on owning and operating their own business?

Whilst the answers varied, one sentiment was largely shared:

Beth, Goody Granola: “Lockdown was tough, I found even my runs weren’t bringing me joy. Over time I fixated on a business idea I had for ages and I thought I’d try and set up a business, see if that can help me find some joy.”

Natasha, Soxsies: “I started the business after my youngest son passed. It was, at first, a passion project to keep me going.”

Aixa, Culynart: “After more than 8 years working in IT, I decided I wanted a change I didn’t feel fulfilled in my work anymore.”

Solveiga, Mimica: “The concept of Bump was my final university project, one aimed at helping accessibility in food labelling, I never expected it to become a business. Over time, I realised Bump had applications beyond accessibility, in food waste. When I won the James Dyson Award for my project I saw how this became an exciting opportunity.”

Lucinda, Lucinda Dore Solicitors: “I no longer wanted to be at the beck and call of others all day. I found myself stuck in court all day whilst my daughter’s nursery would be calling me to collect her when she was unwell. I told myself I would never let that happen again.”

Annabel, Nc’nean: “I had always wondered about starting my own business, but I finally took the plunge when I realised that there wasn’t an existing distillery that reflected the values I wanted to see in the industry.

Overall, our founders talked about finding joy, uncovering a gap in the market, and looking for more, whether that is within their industries or themselves.

We also found this sentiment was replicated in our research. Women felt more empowered when they had more agency and fulfilment. A large part of entrepreneurship is pursuing a life, product, or industry in which you want to be a changemaker. Showing how entrepreneurship can help achieve personal and professional empowerment.

What Is the Biggest Challenge You’ve Faced as an Entrepreneur?

Transparency is key to empowerment, we might hear a lot about the benefits and appeal of entrepreneurship but we also wanted to highlight the surprises, the fears and doubts. Entrepreneurship can be difficult and sharing both sides of the coin can help enlighten someone else’s route.

Goody Granola: “At times, everything feels overwhelming. I had never done this before, I didn’t know about Companies House, how to build a website or think about building a brand.  It was a huge learning curve and I still find myself out of my comfort zone.”

Soxsies: “For me, self-motivation was a huge challenge. When you experience a slow sales day or when an idea doesn’t pan you, you constantly feel as if you are being chased by your sense of failure.”

Culynart: “Dealing with uncertainty has been a key element for me. In your first year of business, you have no control over what is going to happen. This means I’m constantly thinking about income or the benefits of my business without having a clear picture. For a self-funded business like mine, this can be frustrating and scary.”

Mimica: “We are constantly managing our expectations of time. As a company affected by regulatory bodies and food safety alongside our ‘dream big’ values we find that progress appears slow especially when we get compared to software companies. What we are doing is totally different. It's as if we are creating a new coding language and then building and scaling it. It takes time.”

Lucinda Dore Solicitors: “As a law firm we are under tight guidelines and regulations. As the owner, I spend a huge part of my time making sure we stay compliant. We have no space for slip-ups and it requires a lot of vigilance.”

Nc’nean: “I found myself focusing too much on the first few steps, which for us was raising investments, which meant it's easy to lose sight of the long-term hurdles too.”

Starting your own business can be daunting, particularly when you don’t come from an entrepreneurial environment. Our founders’ challenges were based on the uncertainty of what it takes to run a successful venture. However, through time entrepreneurs gain knowledge to fix these teething problems.

Is There Anything You Wish You Had Known at the Beginning of Your Journey?

Entrepreneurship is about constantly learning. We wanted to know what was one piece of advice each fonder wishes they knew, and what would they offer to a budding entrepreneur.

Goody Granola: “I wish I knew more about the jargon, and definitions, and educated myself on the differences between being a sole trader vs a limited company. All of those smaller but crucial bits of knowledge you need to know as an entrepreneur.”

Soxsies: “I wish I knew that you have to embrace the mistakes to enable you to move forward and that success is not just financial.”

Culynart: “Things take longer than expected and a business can not be up and running overnight. Sometimes when it’s your first time running a business your expectations can be so far from reality.”

Mimica: “How important it is to build a mission and values-centred culture into the success of a company. It is the only way to attract and keep the best people.”

Lucinda Dore Solicitors: “Starting a new business can be lonely. I wish I had spoken to other businesses. Now I am experienced, I find myself talking to other founders daily. It's all about staying friendly and connected. They may have an answer to a problem you’re experiencing!”

Nc’nean: “Lots! How long things would take, but also how many different issues I’d have to think about in a more direct way.”

Overall, our founders spoke about being more aware of time, knowledge and collaboration at the start of their journeys. This highlights the importance of finding peers. Through networking and knowledge-sharing entrepreneurs learn more about themselves, their industries, and get a feel for the reality of being a business owner.

A large part of entrepreneurship is about growing with experience, it's easy to feel frustrated at the beginning of your journey because you are trying something for the first time, and often alone. Due to this, building a professional network can be both useful and assuring– something which might provide certainty during the volatile period of starting-up.

How Can More Women Be Encouraged To Be Entrepreneurs?

Finally, we wanted to understand what can be the key to encouraging entrepreneurship from women who are on the other side of it.

Goody Granola: “Seeing more success stories, being encouraged by other women, working and connecting with other female entrepreneurs. Alongside practical changes like free childcare.”

Soxsies: “As my eldest would say ‘Show and Tell’, we need to see more female entrepreneurs and hear their stories. We need to be seen and recognise ourselves in the voices of stories told.”

Culynart: “Having more role models, sharing real stories of entrepreneurs of every background. And not just sharing successful stories but real ones.”

Mimica: “Entrepreneurship should be presented as a viable career path. It never occurred to me that I could start a company until someone suggested it. We need mentors, startup clubs, and guest speakers.”

Lucinda Dore Solicitors: “I think a lot of women worry about how entrepreneurship affects their lives. However, entrepreneurship has made me a better mum and lawyer. It is possible. Not only have I become a better lawyer but I am a better mum.”

The visibility of existing women-led businesses is crucial to the development of women in business. More entrepreneurs need to share their stories and more importantly, these stories have to be more accessible and receive the same attention as their counterparts.

Secondly, stories on all levels must be shared. There is an equal amount to be learnt from positive and negative stories, from large companies to small businesses, from entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.  

Entrepreneurship is not ‘one size fits all’ and the more we share, the more we learn and empower the next wave of female founders.

Have you got a story to share? Join our Women in Business campaign today.