How Start Up Loans supports female-owned businesses

Start Up Loans has always been proud to support female entrepreneurs on their journey to business ownership. Since the programme’s inception in 2012, it has supported over 44,000 female-run businesses, providing almost £400m in loans

How Start Up Loans supports female-owned businesses

Around 40% of all our loans go to female business owners, a figure which has been rising incrementally in recent years. While this figure is significantly higher than the proportion of female-led businesses in the population, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to take stock and recognise we can do even more and support more aspiring female entrepreneurs to set up a business. 

Our ambition is to reach a 50/50 split for loans between men and women. That’s not just for reasons of fairness and unlocking potential regardless of sex, but it has a strong, positive economic benefit for the UK. 

The Rose Review of female entrepreneurship revealed that if women founded and scaled businesses at the same rate as men, the UK economy would be boosted by £250 billion1, about the same value as the whole New Zealand economy each year. This figure demonstrates the importance of diversity and inclusion in the business landscape, emphasising that empowering women economically leads to stronger and more vibrant local economies and a bigger national economy, which helps to fund public services. 

International Women’s Day is such an important date for taking a moment to reflect on the brilliantly ambitious women from across the UK. For female entrepreneurs at the helm of small businesses, the day provides the British Business Bank and others an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments, resilience, and innovation. While it’s just one day, the upside is it concentrates minds on both the challenges but also the achievements to date. By recognising and supporting female-led small businesses, we hope to reinforce our commitment to fostering an environment where all entrepreneurs can thrive.

Start Up Loans exists to support groups in society that may otherwise struggle to access finance. Women are one of these groups. As a microcosm of our 50:50 aim, of our 12 Start Up Loans Ambassadors for 2023/24, half are founded by women. Here are what three of those female entrepreneurs have to say about being a woman in business:

Shelley Smith is founder of Finnegan’s Whiskers, a cat café in Suffolk. She commented: “Seeing other women succeed is so important in convincing the next generation of female founders that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to. Supporting other women and sharing advice and experiences is equally as crucial. At the Start Up Loans Ambassador event it was amazing to meet so many other strong female business owners who shared similar experiences to me. It made me feel supported and uplifted to learn about their journeys to success, and also relieved that it wasn’t always smooth sailing for them – as it certainly wasn’t for me! Being a business owners can sometimes be quite isolating, so feeling like part of a community is such an important part of it.”

Verity Clarke, Director of Amity Brew Co, said: “Being in the beer industry, we make sure our efforts go into working with and learning from other women in our industry. For the past two years we have brewed our own beer for International Women’s Day and this year we invited a very strong, female founder to join us in collaboration which was incredibly empowering for me. I get some much value from supporting and sharing experiences with other women both on a business level but also being able to talk about the challenges and expectations of being a modern founder.”

Bex Osman, founder of the vintage clothing store Love of Lemons, said: “As a female small business owner, International Women’s Day is not just a celebration, it’s a powerful reminder of the invaluable contributions women make around the world. For me it’s a day to mark the resilience, creativity, and determination of women entrepreneurs everywhere. It’s also a beacon of inspiration for future generations of women, showing them that no dream is too big and no obstacle too daunting. I hope people will use this day to amplify women’s voices, support each other’s endeavours, and strive for a world where equality isn’t just a goal, but a reality.”

Female business owners supported by the Start Up Loans programme consistently feed back the value of having other women to talk to and consult for advice. Networking helps to expand the knowledge base of a business and a broader support network gives founders a better idea of what it takes to succeed, and how to achieve those steps. Start Up Loans offers mentoring and support for each loan recipient through its post loan support partner Newable.

Last year we provided nearly 4,000 loans to help woman set up businesses – exactly 40% of the total. By next year’s International Women’s Day, we hope to be able to report even further progress. If you would like to learn more about how Start Up Loans supports women in business, or are looking for further inspiration from women who have become their own boss please visit: 


Louise McCoy
Louise McCoy

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