Starting a woman-owned small business

Woman-owned small businesses are a minority in Ireland. In 2019, only one-fifth of all business owners were women.

In 2021, men accounted for 86% of Board Chairpersons, which, despite being a decrease from 93% in 2019, still paints an image of an overwhelmingly male-dominated senior workforce.

Data like this suggests female-run enterprises are still the underdogs in Ireland. But, if you’re looking to start your own small business as a woman, don’t let these statistics put you off. We’ll share the many resources and schemes in place to support woman-owned small businesses.

Surge of female-owned businesses

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of woman-owned businesses around the world. In 2020 32.37% of UK businesses were owned by women, a dramatic improvement from 2016 when just 17% of business founders identified as female.

Although female-run businesses only make up 20% of Irish entrepreneurs, it’s a huge increase from 7% in 2005, which suggests there is a real opportunity for change. In fact, the Local Enterprise Office reports that about 1,000 women in Ireland start a new business each month.

This change is reflected globally, with female entrepreneurs making a significant impact on the global economy. According to the Women’s Entrepreneurship 2020/21 GEM survey, 274 million women are involved in business start-ups around the world.

Some of the rise of female entrepreneurship in Ireland can be attributed to initiatives put in place to support woman-owned businesses. For example, Visa’s She’s Next programme launched in 2021 and offered grants to woman-owned small businesses to provide support with resources, insights, and tools to run their business.

4 businesses leading the way

If you’re looking to start your own small business, these successful female-run companies can provide inspiration:

1. Lulabelle Seller Story
Leaving a background in design, Betty Stuart went back to her roots and established Lulabelle Flowers in the heart of her hometown – Dun Laoghaire in Dublin. Betty runs a floristry, clothing store and flower school alongside Good Vibes Cafe.

In both her businesses, Betty uses the finest local and sustainable Irish suppliers. Betty partnered with Square to streamline both of her business, so she can focus on staying in the heart of her community and celebrating female entrepreneurs.

2. One Kinda Folk Seller Story
Inspired by her days working in the coffee industry in Australia, Rachel Elliman created a unique outdoor coffee shop called One Kinda Folk in the heart of Dublin. Her focus was to become the centre of the community – during lockdown a long queue formed outside her shop, waiting for her delicious coffee and fresh vegan and gluten-free treats from local suppliers.

Rachel chose to partner with Square for its simplistic pricing structure and ability to process her large volume of daily payments.

3. On the Go Seller Story
Andrea Kelly started her business in 2019 when she saw a gap in the market for coffee ‘on-the-go’. This developed into a self-catering truck and On the Coffee Go Co. was born in Buncrana, County Donegal.

Business blossomed during lockdown as a safe place for friends to meet for socially distanced coffee and chats and it soon became a pillar of the local community. Andrea turned to Square Online to make pre-ordering her baked goods easy and convenient for her customers.

4. Killiney Barbers
During the pandemic, Leslie Quigley closed her salon in Killiney after recognising a need for a barber shop in the business community. She retrained as a barber and opened her new company.

As a customer-focused community business, Killiney Barbers benefited from Square’s seamless online payment system, which helped make her service easy to use and efficient for her customers.

As you can see, there is a huge variety of successful woman-owned small businesses in Ireland, ranging across all industry sectors. The number of female-run companies is expected to grow even higher in the coming years, especially with the help of these resources:

What resources are out there?

If you run a woman-owned small business, or are thinking of starting one, there are a large number of resources in place to support you. A few of these incentives include:

She’s Next, Empowered by Visa

During the autumn of 2021, Visa launched a global programme for woman-owned small and independent businesses, in partnership with IFundWomen funding marketplace. It provided an opportunity to win one of five grants worth €5,000, as well as an IFundWomen Coaching membership.

Funds for female entrepreneurs

Enterprise Ireland launched a new fund offering up to €150,000 towards female entrepreneur development programmes. This initiative is designed to offer support by providing funds to woman-led business teams, sponsorship for awards and events, and networking tools for women in business.

Other funds are also available from Enterprise Ireland, including the Competitive Female Feasibility Fund and the Female Competitive Start fund. The Competitive Female Feasibility Fund offers up to €25,000 to help female entrepreneurs determine the likelihood of their business becoming a High Potential Start Up (HPSU). The Female Competitive Start fund offers a maximum of €50,000, with a 10% ordinary equity stake in the business, to increase the growth of female-led businesses that could be successful in global markets.

Networking opportunities

It could be helpful to join networking events in your local area to broaden your business horizons and connect you to other female business owners. An event such as the UCD Woman in Leadership Conference in Dublin discusses the challenges that women face in business and methods to overcome them.

Find your female-led small business community

Running a woman-owned business can have its challenges, so it can help to find a community of like-minded people to share your ideas with. These groups or communities can help support you in your business journey:

Going for growth – offers mentoring to female entrepreneurs to achieve their business growth goals.

Acorns – a programme for early-stage female entrepreneurs based in rural Ireland. The course consists of interactive sessions from successful Irish businesswomen.

Women in Business Network – a Local Enterprise Office initiative offering access to a network of industry experts and likeminded individuals.

Network Ireland – supports female professional and personal development while connecting women from a diverse range of backgrounds. It organises events for collaboration and celebrates occasions such as International Women’s Day.

Women Mean Business – online platform for businesswomen in Ireland, dedicated to tackling workplace gender inequality. It shares inspiring stories of female-led business success and advice for female entrepreneurs.

Ellevate Network – global professional women’s network providing advice and support to women at every stage of their career. Ellevate have programmes ranging from Virtual Roundtables to 12-week courses to share and receive business advice from other women.

AllBright Collective – connects women with a global community and provides training courses, live events, and the opportunity to connect with inspiring businesswomen.

Women Who Start Up – professional network connecting female entrepreneurs from around the world. Membership provides access to resources to support women starting their own businesses.

Reach your full potential

You may face certain challenges running your own company, but there is plenty of support in place to help your woman-owned small business reach its full potential.

Square can help make the day-to-day running of your company that little bit easier with payment solutions – so you can offer easy and efficient options for your customers. And you get support every step of the way with industry advice on our blog.

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