I recently read a new study from Pepperdine University in America that found women-owned businesses have a tougher time raising funds from venture capital and private equity investors than businesses led by men. Their study (http://bit.ly/1061mhm) found that women-owned business were 18.7 percent less likely to receive funds than businesses owned by white American males. This is not because of a shortage of female entrepreneurs, in fact, the U.S. Small Business Association indicates that women accounted for 36 percent of business owners in 2012. Is this discrimination, a lack of faith in female-led businesses, or just other unique factors affecting these businesses? Either way, it's not a difficult figure to believe with wage inequality still rife between men and women.
And there's no doubt it's a similar story here in Europe. My previous business, http://www.handbag.com, operated a Women In Business programme. Working alongside Barclays bank on this initiative, we discovered that there were 100,000 new businesses conceived by women every year in the UK that did not get off the ground. Consider these figures in the context of Home Office statistics that reveal there were 270k business births in 2012 and just 18% of SMEs are female led. It's therefore likely that less than 50k of these business births were led by women but this figure could be three times higher if we were creating a more supportive environment to get those 100k additional female-led new business concepts off the ground.
It was this figure, and also the personal experiences shared by the Women in Business members and handbag.com readers that led me to feel so passionately about women's talent and business potential that was being so under served. From this, the idea of http://www.myshowcase.com was conceived. I wanted to empower women to start their own business, but for them to have all the support, tools and shared community at hand to sustain and grow their business. You're your own boss, in control of your business, but you are not doing it alone. And you don't require VC funding to create a really fabulous & thriving business!
MyShowcase Stylists are women who want to work flexibly, and on their terms. They organise events (largely in homes, but in offices too) where they showcase an edit of the best independent beauty brands under the MyShowcase banner. All Stylists are self-employed, however they each have the full support and expertise of myself and the head office team, and vitally, their fellow Stylists. Often the barrier to starting a business can be the daunting initial investment, but starting your own business with MyShowcase is achievable, with an initial payment of £199, which gives Stylists £500+ worth of products & business supplies - their own pop up shop in a bag.
I also wanted to harness the potential of the beauty industry with the concept of MyShowcase. Firstly by supporting independent brands, who can often get lost in the aisles of high street chemists and department stores. Many of our brand founders are fantastic female entrepreneurs, whose brands developed from their career as a makeup artist, facialist or aromatherapist. We can offer them a unique platform where their products can stand out from the crowd and actually be put into the hands of potential customers.
Online beauty retail is a drop in the ocean compared with the traditional beauty retail route and also online fashion retail. Less than 10% of beauty retail transactions take place online. MyShowcase shakes up the way consumers buy beauty, with our multi-brand approach, the ability to try the products in your own home surrounded by friends and then place orders online, conveniently delivered direct to you.
I say bring on more of these type of disruptive opportunities for women to work flexibly, creating great businesses without the seemingly tougher requirement for our gender to bridge the VC funding gap and get something exciting off the ground!