Northern Ireland's first female-only crowdfunding programme re-launched for 2020

L-R: Mary-Louise Fellowes, co-founder, LOOLYN; Bruce Fletcher, RBS Group chief risk officer; Les Matheson, chief executive personal banking, RBS; and Gabi Burnside, Aceleration Manager, Ulster Bank

THE north's first female-only crowdfunding programme has been re-launched for 2020 in a bid to reduce the gender gap when it comes to entrepreneurship.

‘Back Her Business' is a partnership between Ulster Bank and Crowdfunder.

Most of the funding will come via crowdfunding, although the bank has said it will provide a top-up in funding of £1m per annum and will offer up to 50 per cent of an individual's fundraising target (capped at £5,000) for certain successful projects.

Les Matheson, head of personal banking at RBS, visited Belfast on Wednesday to confirm the scheme will be renewed for 2020 following a successful first year.

Last year the Rose Review found that only 5.6 per cent of women run their own business, compared to 11.2 per cent of men.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Matheson said: “Backing female entrepreneurs helps everyone. It helps our economy, the entrepreneurial eco-system of cities and the eventually, the wider consumer.

“For too long women have been out off from starting a business so we want to make this a thing of the past and support them on their business journey.

“I've been encouraged by meeting such a vibrant group of female entrepreneurs in Belfast this morning and am confident that this programme can help many more women-led businesses going forward.”

Mary-Louise Fellowes, co-founder of the e-commerce sustainable marketplace LOOLYN, which sells eco-friendly, plastic free items from a base in Holywood Co Down, said ‘Back Her Business' had helped her business to gain profile.

“Being part of Back Her Business gave us access to crucial funding which is so vital in those early days when we were trying to get LOOLYN off the ground. We'd had the idea of a marketplace for more sustainable products for quite some time but were struggling to know where to go to validate our idea and gain feedback from both investors and people who would use our business.

“Finance aside, we found being part of the programme and meeting other successful female entrepreneurs to be extremely beneficial, too. It's true that you cannot be what you cannot see so being surrounded by like-minded, inspirational women, really spurred myself and my business partner on and helped us bring our idea into fruition.”

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