The Government wants to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK by 50 percent by 2030 – the equivalent to nearly 600,000 businesses led by women. This target followed the 2019 Review of Female Entrepreneurship which reported on the barriers faced by women starting and growing businesses in the UK.
The three key barriers to growth were identified as women being unaware of funding available; a need for more local mentoring and networking and greater family care support.
The UK’s community bank, Metro Bank, has a dedicated team tackling funding, mentoring and networking for female business leaders. The team is reviewing all aspects of the Bank’s products and services to make them more accessible to women across a range of backgrounds. Drawn from colleagues across the business, the team has also worked with external bodies to ensure they are maximising the opportunities for women in business and encouraging start-ups to get off the ground.
“We know from industry research that not only are fewer businesses led by women, but also female-led businesses receive less funding at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey and are less likely to scale up in size and turnover,” explains Kerry Reynolds, head of Metro Bank’s investing in women committee. “We are specifically trying to address these issues by targeting female-led industries and providing more opportunities for women to build businesses skills and increasing our business networking events to help women meet advisors and find mentors.
Metro Bank is working to ensure colleagues have a greater awareness of the issues that women running businesses face including running education events led by female business owners and presentations from external bodies like UK Finance. Ironically the pandemic also helped.
As Kerry Reynolds explains; “We quickly realised that by being forced to short circuit the loan process when we supported the Government’s pandemic Bounce Back Loan scheme – women found using our 24/7 portal more convenient, less formal and scary. We are now looking to offer this short circuited process going forward, cutting our reliance on the more formal face to face meetings and presentations of old.”
Each Metro Bank store has a dedicated local business manager to support all local businesses and start-ups in its community. The business managers give practical support for business customers – be that the complementary use of an office in the store to conduct business meetings or advice on the business. Lisa started Daisy’s Dog Empawrium selling accessories for dogs. When the pandemic hit, her Metro Bank local business manager, Kelly helped Lisa get funding to switch her business model to online and she hasn’t looked back since.
Raising money for growth is a key issue facing lots of business owners. Metro Bank offers an invoice finance lending facility – literally as a company raises an invoice they can borrow against it, before the invoice has been paid. This proved to be the perfect solution for Debi Scott based near Exeter.
Debi was experienced as a logistics recruiter and in 2012 bought part of a franchise from Driver Hire which helps businesses find the help they need. Debi soon realised she would be infinitely more profitable if she owned the whole franchise, but as a single person with sole responsibility for her mortgage, was not keen to take on any more traditional debt.
Debi approached a number of banks, but found Metro Bank the most innovative and responsive. “By borrowing against the invoices I raise, my business presents a more diverse, less risky portfolio and invoice finance lending also circumvents gaps in cash flow helping me to keep the business on a more even keel.”
An established publican based in Liverpool, Fiona Hornsby decided to launch a new pub right in the middle of a pandemic at the end of 2020. “Not an ideal time to launch a pub I grant you, but the site came up and it was too good an opportunity to miss. Metro Bank has always been very supportive and whilst I managed to fund the purchase without taking on any more debt with the bank, I knew their continued support would make growing the business easier as I have an excellent working relationship with their local business manager.”
Metro Bank business customers also receive free membership to Enterprise Nation. Enterprise Nation provides access to its 100,000 members with networking advice and support through blogs, webinars, business news and services. Blogs include advice on everything from how to impress a lender, how to successfully speak in public to the five tax mistakes to avoid as a company director. A full calendar of webinars includes everything from how to start up a business with no start-up funds to pricing your products and services.
Metro Bank regularly runs exclusive networking events for women which includes presentations from successful female entrepreneurs. For more information visit here.