Business groups in partnership to fast-track equity for women founders

Announcing the women founders partnership are (from left) Mary McKenna (AwakenHub co-founder), Lorraine Acheson (managing director at Women in Business), Clare McGee (AwakenHub co-founder), Roseann Kelly (Women in Business chief executive), and Sinead Crowley (AwakenHub co-founder)

TWO leading business organisations have carved a new partnership to accelerate equity for women founders in Ireland.

Women in Business NI is collaborating with AwakenHub as part of a shared vision to create greater gender parity for women founders and investors across the island.

September’s Women Angel Insights report from Beauhurst and the UK Business Angels Association revealed that, of the more than 5,000 women making angel investments in the UK, less than 1 per cent are investing in Northern Ireland.

As a first step in the partnership, the two bodies joined forces to run an event alongside Ulster Bank, British Business Bank and UK Business Angels Association focused on demystifying angel investment and increasing the number of women angel investors in the north.

Over the past two years AwakenHub’s all-island community has grown to 2,200 members at various stages on their founder journey.

This pool of talent comprises those women founders who may be looking to raise pre-seed and early-stage funding and those raising additional investment to scale, along with hand-picked ‘big sisters’ with backgrounds as founders, investors, innovators and company builders looking to give back and get involved in a dynamic, impact-driven community.

Women in Business has been an integral part of the business ecosystem in Northern Ireland for more than 20 years, with a membership base of 7,500 and community of 60,000 united in a common drive to build relationships, develop professional skills and achieve impact which complements that of AwakenHub and ultimately brings about change in the eco-system for women.

AwakenHub co-founder Clare McGee said “We are a registered social enterprise on a mission to change the landscape for women founders for generations to come. This can only happen by removing barriers to investment, scale and success.

“So we are thrilled to partner with Women in Business Northern Ireland and are keen to work in partnership with like-minded allies. Together we are committed to real change for women founders and those looking to support them on their journey.”

Lorraine Acheson, managing director of Women in Business NI, added: “There has never been a better time to support women founders and this partnership allows us to accelerate and increase our support for women founders.

“The barriers facing women founders are well understood, as are the opportunities to overcome them. We need a coordinated and focused approach to make a step change and our partnership with AwakenHub will lead to a tangible difference.”

As part of their partnership, Women in Business NI is also supporting AwakenHub’s all-island female accelerator programme SheGenerate. The eight-month programme of activity for very early stage founders begun in mid-October 2022 with 32 women founders from across Ireland representing sectors including edtech, digitech, health/fitness, construction, design and tech enabled retail.