We explore the effects of COVID-19 on female entrepreneurship and give practical tips and advice to any new businesswomen.
It may seem unlikely, but lots of women have been starting their own businesses in the wake of COVID-19. We’re here to let you know that you can do the same. Becoming a successful entrepreneur may seem like a distant dream to many women, but with the right guidance and knowledge, anyone can turn their passion into a business.
In this article, we’ll discuss the positive and negative effects of the pandemic on female entrepreneurs, give practical tips for starting your own business and give advice on how to succeed as a woman in business.
How COVID-19 has affected female entrepreneurs
The effects of COVID-19 have been felt by everyone around the world, but it appears that women have taken a greater hit. This is also true of female entrepreneurs compared to their male counterparts. One of the reasons for this is that domestic and child care duties have disproportionately fallen to women. With school and office closures, some female entrepreneurs are multi-tasking with childcare and homeschooling alongside running their businesses. This will be especially true for single mothers.
Of course, this is not the only reason female entrepreneurs are struggling. Pre-covid, female business owners in the UK were much less likely to ask for and receive business funding, meaning that they have most likely been worse off during the pandemic.
Research by British Business Bank in 2019 showed that for every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, businesses with all-female founders get less than 1p, mixed-gender founding teams get 10p, and all-male founders get 89p. This unequal distribution of funding is a blemish on the idea that this is based on pure meritocracy and is subject to many studies to find out why.
A professor of entrepreneurship at King’s College London suggested that while businesses led by women were performing just as well as male-led businesses before the pandemic struck, women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to their worse starting conditions. Another thing to mention is that COVID-19 has largely affected industries such as travel and personal services, where women are more likely to own businesses.
The positive impact of COVID-19 on female-owned businesses
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for female entrepreneurs. There has actually been a surge in new female-owned businesses during the pandemic. The Printing company, Print-Print, analysed hundreds of print orders received from start-up business between April and November 2020. They found that 78% of these orders were from women, which suggests that many women have actually taken the pandemic as an opportunity to begin working for themselves.
While some women may have just decided to finally invest in their passion, there are a few other reasons why there has been an influx of women starting businesses. Thomson Reuters found that 133,000 more women than men were furloughed during the first wave of COVID-19, and other research has suggested that out of the 19 sectors in the economy, there were more job losses for women than men in 14 of these sectors.
Alongside pre-existing issues for women, such as lower pay than men and lower chances of promotion, these high rates of furlough and redundancy may have pushed women towards becoming entrepreneurs. The combination of dissatisfaction with work and a great deal of extra time has encouraged women to take a chance on themselves and take control of their professional lives.
What are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?
If you’re considering starting your own business, it’s important to consider whether you have the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Women from all walks of life with totally different personalities can achieve success with running a business, but it might help to have some of these qualities.
This is a given with becoming an entrepreneur. Even if your idea is scientific or highly technical, you still must have the creativity to come up with a fully-fledged idea and think about aspects such as branding and design. If you want to work on your creativity, why not try our Creative Problem-Solving course.
You don’t need to be an incredibly loud or confident person, but having great leadership skills is essential. You must be able to think about the bigger picture, delegate roles and pay attention to employee needs.
Excellent communication skills
Even if you’re the one with the idea, you won’t always be doing everything alone. This means you must be able to communicate your ideas effectively to other people, verbally and in writing. The better you are at communicating, the better relationship you’ll have with your team, clients and customer-base.
Patience and determination
It’s pretty rare for a new business to become successful overnight, and this includes making money. You have to be determined about your business even if it doesn’t pay off immediately, and you must find the courage to see it through.
Passionate about ideas
Passion is the energy that fuels a business, especially at the beginning. Passion is what will make you excited to go to work, and passion will be what draws customers into your business. Don’t underestimate the power of loving your idea and believing in yourself.
How to start a business
Now, down to the more practical advice. How does one actually start a business? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here we’ll provide you with a brief overview of the steps you’ll need to take when starting your own business, but make sure to check out our How to start a business series on the FutureLearn blog for much more detail.
Coming up with a unique business idea
Maybe you’ve been sitting on an incredible business idea for years, but you never had the time to carry it out. Alternatively, you might be waiting for that lightbulb moment. If you need some tips on how to come up with a million-dollar idea, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Does this idea solve a problem that currently exists?
- Who do I want to target with this idea? Which age group, gender, sector?
- Is there something that I’m completely passionate about and want to make my work?
- Can I do something that’s already been done in a better and cheaper way?
Writing a business plan
Once you’ve got a great idea, it can be helpful to write a business plan. This will help you clarify your ideas, identify potential problems, outline your business goals and measure progress. You can also use your plan as a means of securing funding and convincing customers, clients and suppliers to support your business idea.
You can also decide on a suitable business structure that will best suit your current goals and ambitions. For more information about writing a business plan and getting started, take a look at our detailed blog post about evaluating and planning a business.
Building a team you trust
In order for your business to succeed, you need to build a team that you can trust to carry out your wishes to the best of their ability. This may start out as a tiny team, but it’s even more important to get on well and co-operate in a small team.
Begin by outlining your vision, defining your skills gap and considering the different experience you need for your team. You might also want to think about cultural fit when you hire people since you’re going to be spending a lot of time together. For more information about building a team, try our course from the University of Leeds, Starting a Business: People and Networks.
Creating a marketing and social media strategy
In this current day and age, creating a great marketing and social media strategy is one of the best things you can do for your business. Especially with COVID-19 forcing most businesses to live and run online, it pays off to invest time and money into your online presence.
Take a look at our article about business branding and marketing, where you can learn about market analysis, targeting audiences, building a brand, marketing strategies and analytics. You’ll get insight into social media marketing, email marketing, SEO and creating a website. You can also enrol onto our ExpertTrack for Creating a Social Media Strategy, where you will learn everything you need to know about advertising your business online.
Understanding money matters
The financial side of running a business can feel a little daunting at first if you haven’t done it before, but it is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. For more detail about handling business finances, check out our course Create a Robust Financial Plan for your Business by EntrepreneurNOW. For now, we’ve listed some steps you can take to begin your financial journey below:
- Create a business budget
- Figure out your business funding
- Open a business bank account
- Record all your financial transactions
- Gain an understanding of tax and VAT
- Hire an accountant
Know your worth as a female entrepreneur and businesswoman
Being a female entrepreneur in a sea of men can have its challenges, but its rewards are priceless. However, you must know your worth as a businesswoman because you’ll likely come across people who underestimate you. Below, we discuss some things that will help you become happy and successful.
Believe in yourself
Self-belief is a top priority for female entrepreneurs. Women are often used to doubting themselves, but it’s really important to have confidence in yourself and your abilities when starting out with your business. You won’t always be able to rely on support from others, and your team might look to you for a morale boost when things get tough.
Overcome your fear of failure
Many businesses fail the first time around. That’s just life! But you can’t be afraid of failure when starting a business. Even if it works out, there will be aspects that fail, and you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes and improve over the years. Fear will only stand in your way during decision-making.
Women are very good at saying yes to things, but make it your mission to also say no. You don’t need to accept less than you deserve, whether that’s concerning unfair funding, mediocre work performance or exploitative requests. This advice also relates to not taking on too much work – one woman can’t be expected to do everything. It’s perfectly fine to hire more people or accept support.
Don’t let criticism get to you
As the owner of a business, you have to develop a thick skin. Many potential clients and investors won’t like your idea, and you’ll have to keep searching and convincing people until you find support. This doesn’t mean that your idea is terrible and that you should give up, it’s merely about targeting the right people and honing your sales pitching skills.
How to continue your professional development
Once you’ve come up with an excellent business idea, don’t just stop there. Even after you’ve achieved success, there is so much more for you to learn. Venture into different territories, brush up on new skills and keep meeting new people from your industry.
Learn a new skill
There will always be areas within your business that you don’t fully understand, but maybe if you try them, you might surprise yourself and find a new talent. For example, you may have never tried coding before, but you might find out that you love it. Then you have the added benefit of being able to use your new coding skills for your own business and build software that suits your needs.
Hire a board of directors
As your company expands, you might want to think about hiring a board of directors in order to gain some more expertise. You can recruit talented and knowledgeable individuals who can offer their experience to you and help you make decisions. They also help ensure that you’re correctly implementing corporate governance.
Take online courses
If you want to improve on skills you already have or learn new skills, taking an online course can be a really great investment. Here at FutureLearn, we have courses for every area of business and more, created by top universities and organisations from around the globe. Whether you want to learn about analytics or successful negotiation, we have the perfect course for you.
If you want to delve even deeper into your professional development as a female entrepreneur, you can check out our ExpertTracks. They are carefully curated series of online courses that focus on specific areas of learning. ExpertTracks help you fast-track your studies across various topics, subject areas, and industries. Take a look at our How to Supercharge your Career ExpertTrack specifically for female entrepreneurs, or try How to Become an Entrepreneur.
Go to workshops and conferences
Not only are workshops and conferences a great way to keep up to date with the latest industry trends and innovations, but they also help you to network with fellow entrepreneurs and potential clients. This can increase your business’s credibility and support, helping to put your business on the map. There are plenty of online workshops and conferences at the moment as a result of the pandemic.
Network with other entrepreneurs
Networking is the process through which we build and develop connections with others, and it can help you learn new things, exchange ideas or even advance your career. There are many ways you can effectively network, including attending networking events and online networking using social media. To find out more about how to build a network, try our Effective Networking course from The Open University.
Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 has brought, female entrepreneurs have not been deterred from launching their own businesses, and neither should you. Creating a start-up can require a lot of hard work, but we hope these tips and practical advice will encourage you to get started. It’s time to begin the journey to supercharge your career and work for yourself in 2021!