Lorraine Acheson: Female founders should be free to scale new heights

Sonya Lennon (Work Equal) is among the renowned female trailblazers who will feature at the all-island Female Entrepreneurs Conference on October 11
Lorraine Acheson

THE number of entrepreneurial women across UK and Ireland is on the rise. Encouraging figures from 2021 revealed that, in Northern Ireland, the number of companies established by women peaked above 1,500, a two-fold increase on 2018.

What was a significant sea-change for female entrepreneurship locally has in many ways been a long time coming, given Northern Ireland has lagged behind the rest of the UK in entrepreneurial activity since the early 2000s, with women, in particular, largely underrepresented in our arena of self-starters.

We are beginning to see tell-tale signs that Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial tide is beginning to shift. Parity will always be the longer-term goal, however it’s now crucial that we fan the flickering flame of female-founded businesses so they may grow and scale just as they would if they were led by male entrepreneurs.

Only through women-focused entrepreneurship programmes can we truly move the needle on long-term entrepreneurial change in Northern Ireland. Which is why we’re proud to have launched the new Women in Business Grow It programme, enabling female founders to take time out from their company and join a collaborative network of entrepreneurial thinkers to spark creative business ideas.

It's a real joy to bring together female leaders of all levels, enabling them to learn from experts in the fields of finance, marketing and expanding overseas into national and global markets. Launching in October, we see the programme as a catalyst for long-term growth, helping female founders across Northern Ireland take the next step and ultimately propel their business to new heights.

For those edging closer to the start of an entrepreneurial journey, oftentimes it’s the personal anecdotes of business success which hold the power to inspire. How to overcome challenge, or how to scale effectively in years two and three of owning a business. All of this, and much more, will anchor conversations at this year’s all-island Female Entrepreneurs Conference.

Taking place on October 11, the 400-strong event will interactively link audiences across Titanic Belfast and Dublin’s Gibson Hotel for the very first time, uniting women from all four corners of the island to take part in this important discussion as we help kindle a female enterprise ecosystem across the island.

We’ll hear from the trailblazers and the rising business start-ups, the game changers and the bias breakers, who each did it their way, with panel discussions focused on access to finance, mentorship support and how best to grow and scale.

Featuring renown female trailblazers like Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella) and Sonya Lennon (Work Equal), the all-island conference is a place to platform the next generation of female self-starters. Visit for details and the last remaining tickets.

:: Lorraine Acheson is managing director of Women in Business