They say that female entrepreneurs are more focused and think tactically while men are more confident and come up with really ambitious business ideas.
Some of that might be evident at Entrepreneurial Spark, where Jim is certainly the main ideas man. He’s always coming up with new schemes and thoughts for our fast-growing venture, which currently has ten business accelerator Hatcheries in the UK and India with more to open in the near future, and it is often me who puts them into a strategic context and thinks about exactly how they could work as part of our nationwide business accelerator programme.
However, people also tend to say women are better at multi-tasking. I’m not sure that the experience here at Entrepreneurial Spark bears that out, as Jim seems to be able to wander through a Hatchery juggling several tasks and firing out ideas. I, on the other hand, like to concentrate on one thing at a time and make sure it has come to some sort of conclusion before I start on the next thing – although of course that’s not always possible!
If we look at the Chiclets in our Hatcheries, the stereotypes break down further. They say that female entrepreneurs, for all their dedication, are not as good at dealing with a crisis, and their businesses are more likely to fail when they hit a serious barrier. That didn’t seem to apply to Jackie Dalziel, a former NHS worker who set up a business making luxury soy wax candles.
Men and women have differing needs as consumers and that can inform the businesses they set up. But as far as differences in approach, there are so many exceptions that the stereotypes don’t hold.
Her firm, Darceys Candles, was growing at a rate of knots and she was just preparing for a rush following her first TV adverts when disaster struck – fire gutted the premises which housed her moulds and machinery. She was left with nothing, but she somehow managed to find some moulds and get some kind of production up and running again almost immediately. Not only that, she very quickly arranged for new, bigger premises and updated equipment, and is now on course to triple her turnover this year.
Another criticism that is sometimes levelled at women in business is that they are less bold and more afraid to challenge convention. However, I’d argue that this is definitely not the case as Chiclet Diary Dolls proves. Its celebrity owners, TV presenter Carol Smillie and tennis player Annabel Croft, are happily tackling a taboo subject with their range of underwear that copes with life’s little leaks. Admittedly, this is a niche it would probably take a woman to spot, but still, they are daring to take on convention.
Naturally, men and women do have differing needs as consumers, and that can inform the kinds of businesses they set up. But as far as differences in approach, there are so many exceptions that the stereotypes don’t really hold.
On the other hand, women really do face barriers in the shape of social expectations, prejudice when seeking funding and partners, and often the very real need to be committed to family as well as their business. They are also statistically less likely to set up a business than men, although those that do often enjoy greater success.
Whatever the explanations for those statistics – and they are unlikely to be due to lazy stereotypes – they are not reflected at Entrepreneurial Spark either: we have a 50/50 split of male and female Chiclets, which we have arrived at without any focused attempt to do so. So, half of our 660 supported businesses, which have generated £85m in turnover, are run by women. It is probably beyond our remit to go around getting more women to start businesses, but we hope that the success of those female entrepreneurs we help through our accelerator programme will inspire others to believe in themselves and their ideas and #GoDo.