So often the unsung heroes of Britain’s business environment, female entrepreneurs are rapidly changing the face of what it means to be successful today.
Michelle Mone, Karren Brady, Emma Bridgewater – there are recognisable names that will always reappear when discussions turn to female entrepreneurship in the UK. But what of the many less heard of women who are raising capital, launching ventures, and building businesses that are quietly sweeping the nation? This International Women’s Day, we take a look at some of the UK’s emerging entrepreneurs, and define the characteristics that make each one a success.
Entrepreneurs: Roshni Assomull and Shaleena Chanrai
Company: Bella Kinesis
Fitness enthusiasts turned business partners Roshni Assomull and Shaleena Chanrai launched the social enterprise Bella Kinesis in December 2014. A unique CSR concept, Bella Kinesis is a women’s sportswear brand that funds a business education for a woman in rural India for each item of sportswear sold. “We’re both in our mid-twenties and launched the company with really no business experience at all,” reveals Roshni. “Exercise not only makes women physically stronger, but also leaves them feeling more confident and empowered. We wanted to give this same feeling to other women by helping them start their own businesses.” All of their garments are made in Britain using premium performance Italian fabric, and on what Roshni calls a “shoestring budget”, the duo has set about publicizing their brand. So far, so good – Bella Kinesis has recently been featured in Glamour and the Guardian, and has just been awarded a PEA Award for promoting conscious consumerism. “We also won Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Challenge in December 2015, and were shortlisted for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards for Social Enterprise (International), Micro Business and Manufacturing,” adds Roshni.
Entrepreneur: Anna Jacobs
Company: Anna Jacobs
London-based designer Anna Jacobs possesses the definition of entrepreneurial spirit. Having studied art and interior design at school, Anna lost “everything” five years ago. “To get back on my feet, I started my own business as an artist and homewares designer and completely changed my career path,” she reveals. “My business has grown hugely over the last 18 months and I’ve recently been named as one of ‘Five super talented new homewares designers to know’ by Good Housekeeping magazine. I’m just expanding into Europe and have been chosen as one of a group of British designers to be launched in America at the end of March.” In addition to this, Anna has also launched a social enterprise aspect of her business through which she aims to help other single parents and women. “As such, one of my new cushions is being sewn by women in a high security prison. I have other plans too!” she adds.
Entrepreneur: Amy Crabtree
Company: Cakes with Faces
Nominated for a NEO Award 2015 (Best Specialist Company), Cakes with Faces is the brainchild of graphic artist/designer and owner Amy Crabtree. The brand features a range of colourful t-shirts and gifts inspired by Japanese culture and kawaii (cute) design. “I started my business as a hobby five years ago and in 2014 it became my full time job,” says Amy. “I sell online and at events like London Comic Con and Hyper Japan, and I also run a YouTube channel to promote my business.” Cakes with Faces was part of the top 100 small businesses in Small Business Saturday, and has been featured on BBC Radio, The Guardian Christmas Gift Guide, and nominated for 4 NEO Awards (Best Specialist Company). Amy’s eye-catching designs certainly haven’t gone unnoticed: “George Osborne once called me ‘the most colourful person who’s ever been at Downing Street!’”
Entrepreneur: Katrina Aleksa
Company: Predella House
Predella House is an online art gallery based in London, curating art for the so-called “culturally curious”. Predella House is run by a small, all female team looking to break down barriers in the art world through the medium of social media. “We believe the art world should not be gated by art critics and auction houses, but that everyone should be entitled to join the debate, and thus opening the gates of the art world,” says Katrina. With the online art market now valued at £2.6 billion as of 2015, Katrina is determined to push the art world forward and make this market more accessible to users on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.
The characteristics they have in common
The ability to recognise a gap in the market, ambition and dedication, fearlessness – a number of buzzwords are used to describe entrepreneurial characteristics on a daily basis.
While the women behind Britain’s start-up businesses may have this in abundance, they also possess so much more. “It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness,” once said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. When looking at the profiles of Britain’s female entrepreneurs, it can be seen that each venture was born out of a willingness to combine passion and contribution. There is an increasing focus on not just running a business, but building an enterprise that puts back into the community. In an article penned for Entrepreneur.com, Founder and CEO of Market Domination Media Jonathon Long outlined eight entrepreneurial qualities that contribute to success. Coming in at number eight?
“It is important to understand how lucky we are, as entrepreneurs, to do what we love,” he writes. “When you are appreciative of what you have accomplished and then take a step back to see what you can do to give back, it gives you a feeling like no other.” Whether it’s helping women in India access education or helping women in the UK rehabilitate, many of the business ventures helmed by women are seeking not just to turn a profit, but to make a palpable change and leave a mark on society.
With nearly one million SMEs run by women in the UK, the time to recognize women’s accomplishments in launching and running British businesses is now. This International Women’s Day, Formations Direct, is proud to support women’s enterprise and help entrepreneurs put businesses of any size on the path to success.