Let’s cheer louder for the lionesses, (And lions) of small business

It’s fair to say that 2022 hasn’t been the year many of us were hoping for following the pandemic, where we could rest, recuperate and get back to normal life – whatever that is for each of us.

Opening a paper, anyone could be forgiven for feeling a bit overwhelmed looking at the range of challenges this country has to tackle. That’s why it’s more important than ever to accentuate the positives and celebrate success among ourselves and those around us. 

Since time immemorial many of the most inspiring, feel-good instances we’ve commemorated as a nation have come from sport. It is likely that this year, alongside the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, England’s victory at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 final will be remembered as one of our proudest sporting achievements – transporting millions away from their everyday lives into a moment of national joy. Additionally, it has done a great deal to inspire girls and women all over the country to pursue their goals and ambitions with even more grit and determination.

Through the lens of small businesses and entrepreneurship, new data suggests that sport may have a meaningful correlation with company performance. Looking specifically at the connection between sport and female-led businesses, Visa recently published a ‘Women thriving, on and off the pitch’1 report that said 28% of women entrepreneurs who play sport frequently say their company has grown in the last two years, versus 12% of female-led enterprises whose founders don’t.

It also found that just shy of three quarters (73%) of women who participate in team sports report it having a positive impact on their businesses. When we look at the skills needed to be a successful sports player or athlete, it’s perhaps no surprise that people who demonstrate these qualities can also apply them to growing a successful business.

Visa’s report goes into some detail to list which are the most transferable skills between the sporting and business worlds, including stress management, mental resilience and decision-making abilities – all qualities many of us will have associated with successful leaders for some time. It references self-confidence as being one of the biggest barriers to women’s progress in the commercial world, noting that sport’s ability to build confidence could be a correlating driver in enabling women to then transfer that into their role as strong business leaders. All very interesting, but what if we look at the inverse and what we can learn from sport in our approach to supporting business leaders?

Across the UK, we are asking more of our small business leaders in 2022 than ever. We are relying on their tenacity and innovation to boost the economy, drive growth and stimulate local communities. Therefore, the help we are able to offer them, particularly those who have traditionally found it harder to access finance or strong support networks, is paramount. While that will always include financial assistance from loan providers and lenders at a government and high street level, this year it also means treating them like our lionesses; cheering them on, celebrating their successes and making clear the potential they have to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Start Up Loans is lucky enough to have worked with a whole host of female business owners, who have used the scheme to access loans and support in order to get their enterprise off the ground. In fact, since the scheme was founded it has provided more than 38,000 loans to women in the UK worth more than £320 million.

There should be nothing to stop any person from taking a good idea and turning it into an implementable business plan. Since I began my career, I’ve seen the prominence and achievements of women in business receive ever greater value and appreciation. The support that the working world offers budding entrepreneurs of any gender or sex has gone through a major sea change – but we can still do more. There are hosts of groups, associations and initiatives on and offline that help support business owners build confidence, test new ideas and learn from one another. If we can use these platforms in partnership with the media to be a bit noisier in the stands; create more hype for the effort and energy of small business leaders, our economy could still score the last minute winner.

1 https://www.visa.co.uk/dam/VCOM/regional/ve/unitedkingdom/PDF/sponsorship/visa-womens-euros-report.pdf

Louise McCoy
Louise McCoy

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