Businesswomen urge females with a great idea to seek crowdfunding

Judith Totten

A TRIO of top Northern Ireland businesswomen have urged budding female entrepreneurs to sign up to a fresh initiative aimed at enabling women to start up on their own.

The ‘Back Her Business' programme, created by Crowdfunder UK in partnership with Ulster Bank, aims to drive up the number of female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and close the business gender gap.

Set up to help women raise money for business start-ups through crowdfunding with the potential to attract additional support from Ulster Bank, the programme is already benefitting female entrepreneurs in the province.

Crowdfunder's creative director Simon Deverell has encouraged females contemplating self-employment to draw inspiration from three local entrepreneurs who starts out with nothing and today run successful multi-million pound businesses.

“We have been amazed to hear some of the stories of female entrepreneurism in Northern Ireland. As we talk with successful businesswomen the feedback is consistent: get out there and do it, and that's very much our message too.”

Judith Totten, founder & managing director of Upstream, an alternative finance company with expertise and experience in trade and invoice financing, started her business with nothing but a vision and drive for success. With no customers, staff, cash or clients, she had to raise her money from friends and family, and even had to re-mortgage her home.

She now has 12 full-time staff, over 100 clients, and has provided more than £100 million in funding.

Judith says: “If I was to give advice to my younger self I'd say: leave mainstream employment earlier to pursue your dream. Go for it, don't be afraid. There will be doubters and there will be people who tell you not to change. If you've got a dream then follow it.”

Edel Doherty, founder & managing director of Beyond Business Travel, which specialises in delivering and managing cost-effective business travel solutions for corporations across the UK, started the business in 2010 amidst the economic crisis.

The former one-woman company now has 24 employees, offices opening in Dublin and turns over approximately £16m a year.

Her top tip for women beginning their entrepreneurial journeys is to focus on self-development: “Invest in yourself, educate yourself, there are a lot of things to business and a lot more things you need to know. For me it was one of the best investments I've ever made.”

Jackie Reid, co-founder & sales director of Deli-Lites which produces and sells. an array of pre-packed lunch products across the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe started her business in 1999, in Newry.

Locals loved the fresh products they would make and so Jackie, and her husband Brian, saw a market opportunity and demand for freshly made pre-packed lunches. They now own a 25,000 square foot facility where their sandwiches are produced and boast a staff of around 300 people.

Jackie urges would-be female entrepreneurs to concentrate on building a team with complementary skills. “Surround yourself with good people. You're not fantastic at everything. I've got skills which are good, and I've got some that aren't, so get people to help you with your business.”

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