First female-only crowdfunding platform set to boost entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland

Alison Rose, chief executive of commercial and private banking at NatWest, launches Ulster Bank Back Her Business. Photo: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye

ULSTER Bank has launched the first female-only crowdfunding platform in Northern Ireland, offering up to £5,000 to support individual projects and boost entrepreneurship.

‘Back Her Business', developed in partnership with established provider Crowdfunder, forms part of the bank's wider ambition to reduce the gender gap when it comes to entrepreneurship.

The programme was detailed at an event in Titanic Belfast, where NatWest's chief executive of commercial and private banking Alison Rose participated in a panel discussion around ways to tackle real and perceived barriers to female entrepreneurship.

Women are able to join the programme and launch their business idea for crowdfunding. The programme forms parts of Ulster Bank, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland's wider commitment to help, inspire and support a further 400,000 female-led businesses by 2025.

Crowdfunder will provide the infrastructure and access to its wider network of partners and entrepreneurs, with the bank acting as a connector and enabler.

Though most of the funding will come from ‘the crowd', the bank will provide a top-up in funding of £1 million a year and will be offering up to 50 per cent of an individual's fundraising target (capped at £5,000) for certain successful projects.

The initiative will not be equity crowdfunding, it will be donation and reward based – i.e. funders will be given a discount towards products or services in return for their donation in some instances.

The recent Rose Review unearthed the fact that only 5.6 per cent of women run their own business and further bank data also shows that women are half as likely as men to start a business.

Alison Rose said: “Back Her Business is one of the important steps in giving women the confidence to start and grow their own enterprises and overcome their inner imposter.

“Backing female entrepreneurs helps women of course, but it also helps our economy, the start-up and business ecosystem, and in the end – the wider consumer. For too long women have been put off from starting a business by a number of factors, we want to make this a thing of the past.”

Ulster Bank's regional director of entrepreneurship Lynsey Cunningham said: “Entrepreneurial success is heavily linked to mindset, and it's hard to be what you can't see.

"Back Her Business helps to tackle this by enabling more women to gain profile and feedback on their ideas at an earlier stage. Female entrepreneurship is part of what we do as a bank, and of the entrepreneurs we supported in our Accelerator programme during 2018, over half have been women.”

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