Revealed: The top regions for women starting a business

By Jess Leyshon, below, Director, Research and Thought Leadership, Sage

One in three female entrepreneurs felt unsupported in their startup journey, a new study by Sage has found, in an investigation into the landscape of women-led startups across the country. The study delves into the areas where women entrepreneurs have found their footing, the obstacles they have faced, and the support systems that have helped aid their startup journey.

The research found that while a majority of both male and female business owners expressed a sense of readiness when launching their startups in terms of skills and knowledge, a notable portion still felt unprepared. Around 27% of women and 23% of men admitted to not feeling completely ready for the challenges they encountered. Strikingly, 97% of all entrepreneurs acknowledged the need to continually develop and enhance various skills to effectively run their businesses.

A regional breakdown of the data also revealed which areas of the country are the best for women-led startups. Sage’s index considered factors such as the female employment rate, the gender pay gap, the cost of office space, as well as data from the study detailing how many women in each region felt they were sufficiently supported and how well they have been able to manage their work-life balance.

These factors, among several others, saw the North East rank highest, with 81% of female entrepreneurs in this region reporting feeling supported as they embarked on their business ventures, and 69% of them highlighting their ability to manage the delicate balance between work and life commitments.

The study also found that 51% of women were more inclined to start their own business to seek out more flexibility and improved work-life balance, while the top reason for men entering the business world was the pursuit of financial opportunities (48%).

The research shone a spotlight on the distinct challenges that women entrepreneurs encounter, revealing a disparity when compared to their male counterparts. Areas of struggle encompassed profitability (77%), the intricate balance between work and life (72%), the imperative of environmental sustainability (65%), the art of cost minimisation (71%), adept financial management (74%), comprehensive tax understanding (75%), and seamless technology adoption (69%).

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Confidence in the pursuit of future success emerged as another compelling dimension where women entrepreneurs stood out from their male counterparts. The survey illuminated that women exuded heightened optimism regarding various milestones to be achieved within the forthcoming year, including:

  • Increasing profitability (68% vs. 67%)
  • Expanding brand awareness (67% vs. 64%)
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction (74% vs. 72%)
  • Boosting sales (66% vs. 61%)
  • Pursuing environmental sustainability (61% vs. 53%)

Equally noteworthy was the finding that a greater percentage of women (12%) reported not having accessed any funding resources or options during the startup phase, in contrast to the 6% of men. This discrepancy underscored the presence of an evident gender-based gap in accessing crucial financial backing and resources. Furthermore, the study laid bare the fact that women frequently encountered a lack of support, ranging from financial assistance to governmental and local council backing, trade organisations, and industry networks, with 32% of women saying they could have had more support or had no support, versus 29% of men.

You can read more about the study from Sage here

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024