In an entrepreneurial sense, the UK is severely trailing behind other western countries, especially when it comes to women.
A recent study by NatWest revealed that under five per cent of the UK’s female workforce have started their own businesses, placing Britain far behind countries like the US, Canada and Norway.
Yet more and more women are starting up their own companies, with separate research revealing that the number of women in the UK who went into business over the past decade rose by 45 per cent compared to a 27 per cent rise among men.
Women are coming up with ideas for start-ups every day, but often they don’t have an arena to share these ideas and gather interest for their business.
This is where Fiona Grayson comes in, the 25-year-old founder of She can. She did., a platform shining light on young female entrepreneurs in the UK.
So we spoke to Grayson about the inspiration behind her company and the many wonderful women she’s met along the way.
Can you tell me about She can. She did?
“She can. She did. is an online platform that through a series of informal interviews and events, is putting the spotlight on young women in their teens, twenties and thirties who have dared to go solo and set up their own businesses throughout the UK.
“Documenting their highs, lows and everything else in between, the platform provides young women with honest insights into what goes on behind the scenes to launch and run a successful business - we don’t just chat about the glossy bits! It also provides them with a number of role models who have launched an array of service-based and product-based businesses, to take inspiration from and learn from if they wish to do the same.”
What made you decide to start She can. She did?
“I’ve always wanted my own business but just presumed it would be something I did when I was older. I’d work my way up in my corporate career, earn as much money as I could and then launch a business later on in life. My parents both did that when I was about ten, their salaries disappeared overnight, yes, but they were so much happier for it. It meant that I’ve grown up with an understanding of how much heart and soul goes into running small businesses, the pressures that come with the job – no money is coming in during holidays or if you’re sick - and the knowledge that it’s hard work and is a real test of mental strength, grit and stamina too
“My career and education have always been really important to me and so the day I woke up and realised I was no longer excited to go into work was the day I decided to do something about it.
“I’d always loved research, I’d always loved writing and any excuse to sit down over coffee and biscuits and talk to inspirational women is a good one in my opinion! So with that in mind I decided to reach out to a few of the young women I’d stumbled across, explained my idea about sharing their entire story, warts and all, and fortunately for me, they said yes.”
So you now work on She can. She did. full-time?
“I’ve been doing this full-time since last August which means no more spontaneous trips to Zara for me because I haven’t earned anything in seven months! It’s been a huge lifestyle adjustment because my old career meant I had disposable income, which is now not the case.”
Can you tell me a bit about the women you’ve profiled?
“There hasn’t been a single interview where I haven’t walked away on cloud nine. Georgie Cummings, Founder of Potage was my second-ever interview and I remember when she opened up about her low points I knew this was why I was doing this, because you wouldn’t have a clue what she has been through as a business owner if you scrolled through her company’s Instagram feed.
“I also recently travelled to the coast to interview a young, female farmer who quit her job in property in London, retrained as a teacher, rented some land in the countryside, bought some goats, sheep and pigs, and now runs an educational small holding for young children to learn about caring for animals and life in the countryside.”
You’ve organised your first live event for She can. She did. Was this always a dream of yours?
“It was always in the back of my mind that bringing young female founders and aspiring entrepreneurs under the same roof would be on my ‘to do’ list one day; but I was determined that if I was going to launch a She can. She did. event, it would have to echo the style of the interviews.
“I wanted to bring young female founders and aspiring entrepreneurs under the same roof; give them the opportunity to meet in a down-to-earth setting and provide the opportunity to listen first-hand to honest start-up stories from the young women who have been there and done it; so we can find out how they pushed through the tough bits and out the other side.
“The result is ‘She can. She did. – The midweek mingle!’ on April 4th at The Victorian Loft, Lumiere London. Sitting down with Founders Olivia Wollenberg (Livia’s Kitchen), Alice Audley (Blogosphere Magazine), Safia Shakarchi (one half of Cook + Baker) and Natalia Talkowska (Natalka Design and Doodleledo), guests can expect some chatty ramblings about how each of the women took the initial leap into setting up their businesses; how they’ve dealt with the pressure that comes with their ever-mounting success; the all-important lessons they’ve learnt when it hasn’t always gone according to plan; and the advice they’d offer any young woman wishing to launch her own business or excel the business they’ve already launched.”
What’s next for She can. She did?
“I’d like She can. She did. to become the go-to name people think of if they hear someone say, ‘I’d love to start a business but don’t know where to start...’ I’d love the interviews to inspire as many women as possible that launching a business is possible if they’re willing to grit their teeth and work hard, host more live events and connect many like-minded women together.
“Right now, it’s just a case of keeping an open-mind, saying ‘yes’ to as many opportunities that come my way and remembering that if I have a bad day or a moment where I think, ‘why the hell did I quit my job?!’ all of the women I’ve interviewed have experienced the same feelings - it’s just a case of remembering why you started and to just keep going.”