Women-owned businesses continue to grow in number. But with just 1 in 3 entrepreneurs being female in the UK (HM Treasury, 2019), it’s fair to say that women are still under represented in the business world. This gender gap is equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for women in the current market.
Whether you’re looking to start your own business or you want to be inspired by the women currently dominating the industry, we’re celebrating businesswomen in the UK by checking out these 5 fantastic individuals who mean business.
Justine Roberts, Founder of Mumsnet and Gransnet
Whether you’re a parent or not, online forum Mumsnet is a treasure trove of answers to everyday questions (that we should probably already know but don’t!) about parenthood, adult life and more.
Previously an investment banker, Roberts left her job as an investment banker to focus on motherhood. She stated, “I knew I didn’t want to work in an environment in which I had to pretend my family didn’t matter in order to get on.”
It was during a family holiday in Florida where their ‘family friendly’ resort proved to be anything but, that Roberts found a need for an online forum just for parents. Asking around other parents who were holidaying with their children, Roberts found agreement that it was a fantastic idea.
Mumsnet was founded in 2000 by Justine Roberts, along with Co-Founder and friend Carrie Longton. The site now generates over 7 million visits and 50 million page views every month!
Roberts was named in The Guardian’s Power 100 and voted 7th most powerful women in the UK (along with her co-founder) by BBC voters.
Martha Lane Fox, Founder of Lastminute.com
In the late 90s, Martha Lane Fox joined forces with upcoming British entrepreneur Brent Hoberman to found pioneering online travel company lastminute.com.
Hoberman found that he was able to charm his way into getting discount prices on hotel rooms by turning up at the last minute. Combined with Fox’s passion for pushing technology to its limits in the time of the dot com boom, lastminute.com was a roaring success.
Following this, Fox has launched karaoke business Lucky Voice, joined the Government Digital Society which launched gov.uk and has been made a life peer in the House of Lords.
In 2019, Fox was named the most influential women in digital in the last 25 years in a special recognition category at the Dadi Awards.
Kirsty Henshaw, Founder of Kirsty’s
Another mumtrepreneur, Lancashire-born Kirsty Henshaw arrived on the business world radar in 2010, when she appeared on Dragon’s Den with her business idea for a dairy and nut-free frozen dessert company inspired by her son who was allergic to these ingredients.
The then-24-year-old single mum secured a £65,000 investment through the show and worked with Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne to launch her venture.
Her next mission saw her creating healthy ready meals for people with food allergies and intolerances, as she knew first-hand how difficult this could be. Kirsty’s Ready Meals were launched in major UK supermarkets in 2012.
Henshaw has now bought out her investors and her company has an annual turnover of over £5 million.
Grainne Kelly, CEO and Inventor of Bubblebum
Like Kirsty Henshaw, Grainne Kelly found success for her inflatable children’s car seat company Bubblebum after her appearance on Dragon’s Den.
A mother of two, Kelly invented Bubblebum to meet her own needs when travelling between her native Ireland and England. Car rental companies were not providing her with the booster seats she needed, meaning she had to transport the bulky car seats back and forth with her on the planes. Being able to inflate and deflate the car seat was the perfect solution to this problem!
Bubblebum found further success after launching in the US where she secured a deal with Walmart.
Kelly won the JPMA Innovation award for Bubblebum and now exports the product to 26 countries around the world.
Holly Tucker & Sophie Cornish, Founders of notonthehighstreet.com
Okay, so we’re kind of cheating by sneaking two incredible businesswomen into one section here, but both are incredibly inspiring – and important in the world of women’s business since 90% of customers and sellers on notonthehighstreet.com are women!
Founded in 2006, notonthehighstreet.com is an online marketplace for more than 5000 small creative businesses, creating many personalised and unique, thoughtful gifts and homeware.
The website now achieves more than £1m in sales every year and ships to 154 countries around the world. Both founders were awarded MBEs in 2013 for services to small business and enterprise, with Tucker taking on the role of UK Ambassador for creative small businesses as well as a role as a consultant and mentor for new businesses.
Ready to take the world by storm with a business idea of your own? Or do you need a little inspiration? You’ll find everything you need to know about running your own business in the UK over on our Think Big blog.