March 3, 2017
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To celebrate International Women’s Day, Polkadot Digital reached out to a handful of female entrepreneurs and asked them about their business journeys, challenges they’ve faced as businesswomen and the advice they would give to young women who want to shatter that glass ceiling.

Marie Drago, Founder Gallinee

‘It’s funny, I never really tend to think about the fact I am a female entrepreneur. In my head I am just an entrepreneur. It might be due to the fact I work in an industry where you find a lot of inspiring women mentors and entrepreneurs, but being a woman hasn’t really presented any problems for me so far. My advice to young female entrepreneurs is to talk about your idea a lot to those around you, it will help refine it. Never be afraid to ask for help; I am constantly surprised how nice and helpful people are when you are passionate about your project. It is quite interesting to see how we tend to naturally network and help each other, even if we would call each other competitors. I hope this new attitude to business will continue to spread.’

Genny Jones, Founder Confident Queen

‘The main challenge as a female entrepreneur is trying to balance child care as a single parent with my business. So my advice to young female entrepreneurs is if you do plan to start a family, make sure you have things in place to help with child care. I hope our future young career women will learn how to develop the confidence to achieve success in their given field. I do this now through volunteering via inspiring the futures programme where I go to schools on a voluntary basis to inspire and encourage young people in finding their career paths.’

Susannah, Director The Shoe Consultant

‘When I worked for other companies, as a woman I was expected to make a concerted effort to get the balance right between not being heard, and coming across as too blunt. I find that I am able to be myself now I’m running my own business, and clients respond well to my honesty. For me, I struggled to aspire to be at the top. The few women I saw in executive roles sacrificed so much of their time with their families to do their jobs. Although working for yourself involves a lot of sacrifice, it helps to have some control, and to be able to schedule work life around time with your family. That often means working evenings and weekends, but it’s hard to resent that when it’s your own business. I believe gender equality in the boardroom will only happen when employers truly embrace equality, and women see that the executive roles offer them what they want in work and life. I think it’s important for employers who already have gender equality in their board rooms to share how this helps their business to be successful.’

Lucy Maisey & Sally Anne Butters, Directors Rev PR

‘There’s no doubt that there are some big male personalities out there who don’t recognise the value of women in senior roles. Many women have so many tasks to get through in a day, not just at work but at home too, and they just put their head down and plough on through. Women should speak up about their achievements; it’s unlikely that someone will do it for you. Get over the fear of self-promotion and you will find you’re on the list more often for a promotion. We will see true gender equality in the boardroom when fathers are taking on a share of paternity leave so career breaks are not so long for women that they lose their place on the corporate ladder. Also chipping away at the old-school perceptions of boardroom politics – what shareholders really want is the right people to deliver profit and success.’

Helenor Rogers, Founder Troo Granola

‘There’s a constant challenge of juggling child care and being perceived as less committed to my business because I have children. I’m sometimes seen as ‘over emotional’ when I just have a really strong opinion; this has been constant throughout my 25 year career. My advice for young entrepreneurs is to have a positive, can-do attitude and you will achieve great things; often more than you even think is possible or have even considered. Seek support – there are no rewards for being a martyr and doing everything on your own. Many women feel held back from senior roles due to self-confidence issues or a lack of self-worth which means they don’t put themselves forward for senior roles in business; they don’t feel ‘good enough’. Ultimately, I would describe myself as a humanist – not a feminist and this has had a huge impact on my business. It’s the reason why we’re not just about profit and it’s why I wake up every morning motivated to make it work. I want to help create opportunities for anyone willing to stand up and take action.’

Niki Hutchinson, Director Step it up Dance

‘My biggest challenge, as I’m sure is shared by all working mums, is juggling childcare and family responsibilities with growing a business. I generally do at least one late night per week to keep on top of things, working into the wee small hours once my children are in bed. Therefore my advice to young businesswomen is get started early, work as hard as you possibly can on your business before you have your family, that way you will have the freedom to focus on it without restrictions on your time. I have found men still occupy the most senior roles in business and they don’t want to be flexible or understanding around women’s availability. This leads to a vicious circle of women not being given the same opportunities and can really dent your confidence as a young woman working your way up within your chosen industry. I hope that women will be viewed as just as valuable as men in the workplace and that the need for flexible working won’t be seen as a negative or equated with an automatic cost to a business. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy and many can’t afford to take on full time staff, so surely people will start to realise soon that flexible working can work well for both parties. We currently offer flexible working for our employees, whether they have children or not, and this benefits the business hugely in terms of employee retention and reducing overheads.’

Stella Heng, Founder & Creative Director Sports Philosophy

‘I am lucky that the fashion and fitness industries have a lot of businesses run by women, so there’s been more co-operation and collaboration than challenges. However, there have been some situations when dealing with big producers and manufacturers, where there has been a tendency to prefer dealing with my partner, or where he would immediately garner more respect than I would, for example. My advice to young female entrepreneurs is if you have an idea, product, or business that you really believe in, go for it or you’ll never know. But you really need to believe in it, and yourself as there are going to be plenty of obstacles and challenges that will make you doubt what you are trying to do, but if you believe in it, you will find solutions and get through it. I’m a feminist in in the sense that women should be treated equally and given the same rights that men are. My team consists of a great mix of strong and determined women who work perfectly alongside really skilled and dedicated men, and I find we have a really good balance. Women generally have more empathy but men are able to take the emotions out of decisions, and that combination makes sure that decisions aren’t taken hastily without thinking of the consequences.’



Letitiah Obiri
Letitiah Obiri
Letitiah Obiri is an experienced content marketer and founder of Polkadot Digital, an online marketing agency providing affordable content, social and PR packages to startups and small businesses. Letitiah has worked with some of the UK’s biggest brands including Tesco, Hiscox, Hilarys Three Mobile, TK Maxx and Littlewoods. With extensive experience in PR, journalism and digital marketing she has the proven ability to launch and manage successful campaigns to drive traffic and subsequently grow sales. As a qualified journalist Letitiah has also been featured in The Guardian, Business Zone and Supercharged Startups writing frequently about small businesses and practical marketing techniques.

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