What it is that drives women to start up their own businesses? For some, it’s a path they may have always been committed to, for others a change in circumstances might lead them into business ownership when they had never considered it before.
There are so many benefits to running your own business, chief amongst them being the mistress of your own destiny. The flexibility and freedom which running your own business can bring does, for me anyway, far outweigh the possibility of some challenges and struggles along the way.
For many women, a better work-life balance is a key driver for moving into business ownership, especially if you’re trying to juggle domestic and childcare responsibilities. Being able to shift your schedule to suit family commitments brings huge benefits and can ease many of the stresses working families experience trying to make strict work day timings fit alongside school timetables and holidays.
But why do we need more women to start and grow businesses? And why is the gender gap in enterprise so stubbornly persistent? Current research shows that less than 16% of SMEs in Scotland are women-owned employer businesses. This is a pretty grim statistic. Quite simply, this is ideas unexplored, potential untapped and billions of pounds which could be going into the Scottish economy simply lying on the table.
Micro-enterprises and SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy. They create jobs, play a vital role in their communities and are a hotbed of innovation and ideas. There are currently over 350,000 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) operating in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs. SMEs account for over 99% of all private sector businesses, over 55% of private sector employment and nearly 42% of private sector turnover.
So yes, micro-enterprises and SMEs are really important. Communities need them. The economy needs them. What is holding women back from starting up in business and what can we do to overcome these barriers?
Recent research by Capify suggests that over 30% of women in the UK would be put off starting their own business due to fear of failure. 45% of those surveyed regarded the initial start-up costs to be a real barrier to starting-up whilst 29% believed it would be scary.
It would seem that inherent characteristics such as lack of confidence in their skills to be entrepreneurs and also a more risk-averse nature may be holding many women back. That’s why we believe resources such as the Women’s Business Centre are so valuable, with the many stories of women who have started up their own businesses, helping to inspire other women to give it a go. These visible role models show what’s possible. We want to help women get over the self-doubt hump and get them taking the leap into business ownership.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy is likely to see many people considering business ownership as an option. Not only is there huge uncertainty in the jobs market, but family lives have been turned upside down and women have borne the brunt of unpaid work, with many trying to run the house, home school children and look after vulnerable relatives, all whilst carrying on ‘working as usual.’ This simply isn’t possible and many women are burnt out trying to be all things to all people.
Now might be the perfect time to explore business start-up and the resources on this site can be a great place to start, with information about everything from getting start-up ready to accessing finance, the importance of networks and role models and how to cope when things don’t go according to plan.
Business ownership isn’t always easy. It brings many challenges and can often feel daunting and overwhelming. The flip side of this is the number of immense rewards it brings, from feeling in control of your schedule to the incredible satisfaction you get from starting and building something which you feel passionate about.
I have spent more time in my working life being self-employed than being an employee. Running my own business has given me huge flexibility whilst my children were growing up and the chance to choose who to work with and what projects to work on. The juggling between work and home life can sometimes be fraught and the lines can get blurred but that’s when I know I need to press the reset button again and get things back on track.
Never doubt that you can do it. If you’ve always been employed, it can take a while to adjust to the different mindset that comes with running your own business but it’s a great learning curve and I’m not sure it’s possible to put a value on the flexibility, independence and satisfaction that comes from being a business owner.
“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” ― Marissa Mayer, Former CEO, Yahoo