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 “While there are many women out there successfully raising families and businesses, attitudes need to change”, says Chika Russell

Hands up if you can name a female founder in our industry. As a sector with many thriving women-built brands, I’d like to think many hands are up. But here’s the reality: a recent survey of 11 to 18-year-olds in the UK found a staggering 80% were unable to name a single female entrepreneur. In fact, children are four times more likely to think of a man than a woman when they hear the word ‘entrepreneur’. We need to make this right, and fast.

Right now, in the UK, we don’t have enough women starting businesses. In fact, we are 30% behind other developed countries when it comes to female entrepreneurship. If women started businesses at the same rate as men, £250bn would be added to the UK economy.

Buy Women Built, which launched this month, is a movement to close the gender entrepreneurship gap in the UK, make positive change for gender parity, aid economic recovery, and inspire the next generation of talent.

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As a female founder in this industry, I’ve had to fight my corner every step of the way. Fundraising is part of the picture. As a startup, you often see male counterparts getting funding more quickly and easily. That’s not a coincidence. Old stereotypes are very much alive, and while there are many women out there successfully raising families and businesses, attitudes need to change.

Self-belief is important too. The best piece of business advice I was given when starting out is that if you truly believe in what you’re doing, don’t go to someone asking for funding, distribution, or a listing as though they’re doing you a favour. Go to them with an opportunity to invest in you, because you’re going to make them money.

Don’t be deterred by the size of a task or hurdle. Challenges are there to be overcome, so if something seems too big, break it down and keep breaking it down until you can digest it. There’s no shame in reaching out and asking for help. I can’t remember a time where anyone has said no. Even people I’ve never met, and before I had a brand to my name.


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As a business, we’re tackling the issue head-on. Through our ‘Empowering Girls’ programme with World Vision, we’re aiming to support 30,000 girls through education by 2025. And this month, Chika’s is launching in Africa, with the aim of creating 300 jobs and a 70% female workforce. It’s about raising aspirations and creating a culture where success is celebrated.

Being a female founder is an amazing thing. But it is tough. There are so many great women-built brands I’ve come across that could be really successful if given a shot. More could and should be done to incentivise and support female entrepreneurship in this industry, at government level and among retailers.

It’s up to us to turn the stats around and show the next generation what women can do.