EntreprenHER: it pays to have women in business

By Press Office

“If you start with an optimistic nature, it doesn’t matter if you fail. Start with an idea that you really care about – that’s what matters.”

Those were the words of leading entrepreneur, businesswoman, television personality – and Queen Margaret University (QMU) Chancellor – Prue Leith CBE at an exciting event at QMU yesterday (Tuesday 19 March).

The event, EntreprenHER, formed part of QMU’s celebrations of International Women’s Day which took place earlier this month, and focused on women in business and the challenges facing female entrepreneurs.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, commissioned by the UK government and launched on 9 March 2019, states that up to £250bn of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. 

Women do not lack ability or ambition yet only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female. At QMU we are proud to be bucking the trend; of the 37 start-ups in the University’s Business Innovation Zone (BIZ), 20 are run either solely or in partnership by women.

 A survey of companies by Unilever Foundry found women who started their own businesses often encountered discrimination such as investors being less willing to invest in their firms on gender grounds.

EntreprenHER provided a platform for a panel of female entrepreneurs based out of the BIZ to take centre stage and provide real-life experiences of the challenges – and discrimination – they have faced in establishing and running successful businesses. Chaired by Elaine Jackson from East Lothian Business Gateway, the panel discussion covered a range of topics including finding time for self-care, the self-perceived lack of ability some women hold, and the role of universities in supporting and developing entrepreneurs at all stages of the process.

QMU is the only University in Scotland to have a Business Gateway facility on campus, and is an excellent example of partnership working to simplify the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The sold-out event also gave the audience the opportunity to gain insight into the world of business as experienced by Prue Leith.

While perhaps best known today as one of the judges on the hit television show, The Great British Bake Off, Prue is no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship. She launched events and contract catering company Leith's Good Food in 1962, opened her restaurant Leith’s in 1969 which earned a Michelin star, before going on to establish Leith’s School of Food and Wine in 1974. She also launched Prue Leith's Chef's Academy in South Africa in 1997, was a journalist, a teacher, and has written 14 cookbooks, eight novels and one autobiography. A far cry from humble beginnings catering for people’s dinner parties where one hostess – in an effort to take credit for Prue’s efforts – told her guests, “The girl in the kitchen? Oh, she’s just here to do the washing up.”

“I found that the best marketing tool at my disposal was to do my job well,” said Prue. “Talk to your customers, find out what they want and do it better than they expected. That’s the best advice I can offer you.”

Kim Stuart, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange Development at QMU, said: “The prevalence of ingenious, innovative and ambitious women is a prized strategic strength of QMU. As society challenges existing cultural bias, QMU in partnership with the East Lothian Council Business Gateway is committed to creating the conditions that will strengthen and fuel the foundation for personal and economic growth in the region and beyond.”

QMU’s work in this area has been supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) University Innovation Fund (UIF) which encourages the promotion of interactions between universities and the wider world, maximising advantage to the Scottish economy and society.  This has also reinforced QMU’s partnership with the East Lothian Business Gateway in streamlining access to innovation support. 

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), said: “Growing female entrepreneurship is important for Scotland’s future prosperity and I am delighted that QMU was joined by Prue Leith and other successful women entrepreneurs at yesterday’s event. 

“SFC’s University Innovation Fund exists to help universities make a difference to our economy and society and QMU is to be congratulated on its work in supporting women to set up businesses to do just that.”


Notes to Editor

1. EntreprenHER, hosted by Queen Margaret University (QMU) on 19 March 2019, was a unique opportunity to discuss women in business and the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. The event featured keynote speaker Prue Leith CBE (Chancellor of QMU), and an expert panel discussion. The panel was facilitated by Elaine Jackson (East Lothian Business Gateway), and featured four businesswomen from QMU’s Business Innovation Zone (BIZ)

* Fiona Ogg (QMU graduate and founder of Lead a Bright Future); 
* Nikki Welch (QMU graduate and founder of Quenchable and Tube Map Ltd); 
* Hannah Gordon (current QMU student and founder of CIC Crossroad Games); and
* Gillian Robinson (director of Health Design Collective).

2. Alison Rose, Deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings and CEO of Commercial and Private Banking, was commissioned by Robert Jenrick MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, to carry out a review into barriers to female entrepreneurship. The report was published on 9 March 2019 (external PDF). 

The goal of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship is to tap the huge unrealised economic potential of female entrepreneurs by making the UK one of the best countries in the world for women to start and grow a new business. Up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. Even if the UK were to achieve the same average share of women entrepreneurs as best-in-class peer countries, this would add £200 billion of new value to the UK economy.

3. The University Innovation Fund (UIF) incentivises universities to work collaboratively to design and adopt innovative new approaches to exploiting the research base that will lead to a significant positive change in Scotland’s already good economic performance.

4. Caption information
From left to right: Hannah Gordon (founder of Crossroad Games and third year media student at QMU); Nikki Welch (QMU graduate and founder of Quenchable); Professor Petra Wend (Principal of Queen Margaret University); Prue Leith CBE (Chancellor of Queen Margaret University); Fiona Ogg (QMU graduate and founder/director of Lead a Bright Future); Gillian Robinson (director of Health Design Collective and Physiotherapy Lead at Lothian MS Therapy Centre); and panel facilitator Elaine Jackson (Business Advisor at East Lothian Council Business Gateway).

5. For further media information please contact Karen Keith (Media Relations and Content Officer) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: kkeith@qmu.ac.uk T: 0131 474 0000.

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