Female small business owners from around the UK, each of whom had taken bold steps to change their lives and those of others by starting up a new business, took centre stage at the launch of f:entrepreneur, a new campaign launched on International Women’s Day to celebrate British female entrepreneurs.
The campaign shares inspirational stories from female-led small businesses, including some of the things they have done differently and how, in some cases, their businesses have been created as a response to challenging life events.
Speakers at the event included Claire Hearn, a former Metropolitan Police Officer who swapped her handcuffs for cakes to start Rose & Olive, a business staging vintage tea parties from Edenbridge, Kent, which she now runs full time with her husband Nick.
“I wanted to choose when and where I worked and to be able to spend more time with my family,” Claire told an audience of more than 100 small business owners. “I had no prior business experience and took over a vintage tea party business whilst still in police. It was single handed the most scary and exhilarating decision I have ever made.”
Precious Jason, a former lawyer, set up her business, Etieno Skincare, after collapsing at Hammersmith Station and being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in 2012. Last November, the business launched a range of natural, therapeutic and effective products to soothe the side effects of cancer treatment on the skin. She told the audience that the purpose behind the business was to educate women going through a similar ordeal and, through the products, to give them back some self-esteem.
Karen Campbell, whose business, Your Dreamcatcher, works with businesses large and small to bring their brand dreams to fruition, told the audience: “I realised that I wanted to use what I had learned in corporate life to help small businesses with their marketing. I wanted to be the person who could talk to small business owners in layman’s terms.”
And Martha Keith, formerly a business director at a large healthcare company who created Love Give Ink, an illustrated personalised stationery, greeting cards and gifts company in 2013, told the event she had found it invaluable to build a network of other small business owners with whom she could exchange ideas, ask for advice and use as a sounding board.
Michelle Ovens, Director of the annual Small Business Saturday campaign, who hosted the event, said: “Throughout the first four years of Small Business Saturday we have come into contact with incredible female entrepreneurs, whose stories should not only motivate other women, but will enthuse everyone running and starting a small business.
“This event and the whole campaign are aimed at both men and women, because we all have something to learn from these stories of challenge and success be inspired by these incredible women. It seems to me that equality is not women only inspiring women, it is women inspiring everyone.”
Other speakers included Caroline Plumb OBE, CEO of FreshMinds, a growth and innovation consultancy she co-founded in September 2000 straight after graduating from Oxford University, and Ruth Thompson of Digital Mums, a social media business that trains mothers with in-demand digital skills to help them create stimulating, flexible careers that fit around family life.
The event – f:entrepreneur – will herald a series of female-led speaker events around the country; assisted networking events; all female panel q&a events, and a showcase of case studies to be made available online.