Where are you based?

Is your head office the kitchen table? Or is the company address my laptop, c/o my bed? If so, you’re not the only one.

The number of self-employed in Kent has reached an all-time high of 141,000. Many of these businesses will be based from home, as home-based working is attractive and in reach for so many. In fact, that device that you are reading this from could literally be your own home-office.

But currently just 22% of small and medium sized businesses in the UK are majority women-owned. Women continue to encounter barriers that prevent them from moving into business ownership and impede their ability to grow their businesses. Many of the obstacles they face are common challenges faced by all small business owners.

FSB research has found that currently 2.7 million women in the UK want to start a business but have been put off by persistent barriers. Small firms already make a huge contribution to our economy; if we were to harness the still largely untapped potential of women entrepreneurship it could lead to additional jobs, economic growth and a more diverse and representative business community.

FSB has published a report looking at the untapped potential of women in enterprise in the UK. The key recommendations include raising awareness of support for women thinking about starting a business, raising the profile of women in business and helping female entrepreneurs find finance.

Awareness of resources like Business is Great is low among women entrepreneurs (have you heard of it? I have, but only because of my job!) This Government service provides free advice and links to more business support across England. We think that by working with local business networks and local stakeholders, the Government could explore ways to maximise the effectiveness of these resources and therefore support women business owners.

We want to help drive a cultural change towards diversity in business and see more women starting and growing their own businesses. Flexible and affordable training should be provided, particular on digital and marketing skills. Better advice and mentoring should be provided and Maternity Allowance for the self-employed should be brought in line with Statutory Maternity Pay.

We stick up for women in business in other ways than reports to Government ministers! For instance, we’ve joined up with Facebook, as part of its #shemeansbusiness campaign to promote women in business. Take a look – there is heaps of free online advice, webinars and potential contacts that could help take your back room idea out into the open market.

Last summer we launched a Women in Enterprise Taskforce, led by FSB Diversity Chair Helen Walbey. This taskforce includes women from across the UK who are all running their own business in different sectors, shapes and sizes. They come together to forge ideas on how to raise awareness of the benefits of being a women in business and devise ways in which we can help each other out. Kent FSB members Deborah Turner, Annabelle Webster and Nathalie Christmann-Cooper are key players in this taskforce who volunteer at a national and local level to show support for women running their own businesses.

Having kids and working is a challenge even for the most energetic, naturally maternal and well-organised. For the rest of us, we want to make sure that whatever our levels of caffeine and cake, there is the opportunity and support so mums can work flexibly and set a shining example to our kids, whether that be from the kitchen table or from the bed.

Time for brunch?

In Kent we have seen women in business events blossoming over the past few years. Women are keen to get together to learn from each other and share experience and advice. Regular women in business brunches  hosted by FSB Champion for Women in Business Deborah Turner in Dartford have now been launched in Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Hythe due to demand. The times of each event are all mid-morning to accommodate the school-run. More and more female entrepreneurs and business owners are realising the value of ‘finding a tribe,’ collaborating and raising the profile of successful women in business.

We’d love you to welcome you. Find out more via www.fsb.org.uk/regions.