By Lu Li
The number of women who go into entrepreneurship in the UK has risen rapidly in the past decade. According to a report by Aston University in Birmingham, the proportion of women who went into business rose by 45%, compared with 27% among men between 2003-06 and 2013-16. Most of these women are sole founders just like I was back in 2012, when I left my corporate job to start my first business. After three years of doing everything on my own and seeing lots of other women doing the same, I realised how much more efficient we would be if we would come together to support and learn from each other. The Blooming Founders network was born from this realisation and has seen tremendous growth and retention in the past couple of years. Recently, we have created a home for our community and launched Blooms London, the UK’s first workspace and members club with a focus on female entrepreneurs.
Around 70% of women who venture into entrepreneurship start out on their own and then discover an ecosystem that has been designed by men for men, which makes it more challenging to succeed. This is made evident by the results published in the same Aston University research that shows that even though the number of female entrepreneurs starting out in the UK has risen far faster than men in the past decade, overall men are still nearly twice as likely to become established entrepreneurs (10.4% of men versus 5.5% of women).
The testosterone-driven mentality of the current startup industry is excluding a huge group of aspiring entrepreneurs, which provided the opportunity for me to create a workspace designed around the needs of this underserved segment.
Being female-focused does not mean female only. It means that we lead with design elements that appeal to women, such as a stylish and inviting work environment, our on-site crèche and super flexible membership packages that cater for any working style – whether you need a desk occasionally, full-time or for a certain amount of time.
The unique thing about Blooms London is the fact that it has been created as a physical space for an existing online community of female entrepreneurs called Blooming Founders, whereas most other co-working spaces acquire members first and then have to build a community around it. Within a month of opening we already have 90 members, so it is fulfilling to see how our space has been validated through the community.
Blooms London is a new milestone in the Blooming Founders’ mission to build a support infrastructure for female entrepreneurship. We wanted to create an environment that serves the needs of female founders, but is open to everybody as we believe in diversity of thought. There are 20% men amongst our current membership and I hope that a few more will join us.
Having said this, there is definitely a lack of role models for aspiring female founders, which can hold them back in fully committing to become entrepreneurs. As Sheryl Sandberg said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” However, by joining Blooms London, you will be immediately surrounded by other ambitious and driven women who are also building businesses.
The value that comes via proximity to other entrepreneurs is huge and often underestimated. In fact, we believe that a membership to Blooms London shouldn’t be seen as a cost as we are already seeing members collaborate and trade with each other, and in doing so, their membership is practically paying for itself!
One of our main goals is to smoothen out the transition from a corporate career into entrepreneurship for as many people as possible. We do this by offering club sessions with mentors, experts and investors, allowing our members to build their own business network and access mentorship.
Our plans for the future is to keep changing the landscape of entrepreneurship by expanding Blooms London to more locations and also with the launch of a new online platform, where founders can showcase their companies and connect with investors. Currently, there are only 9% of funded businesses in the UK that are led by women, so we still have a long way to go.
Lu Li, pictured above on the right, is the founder of Blooms London, UK’s first workspace and members club with a focus on female entrepreneurs