FemaleSOCCER.net: Salma Rana

Salma Rana realised there was a gap in the market for a women's football website. She's since scored a spectacular success with FemaleSOCCER.net.

Football has become the country’s national obsession – acres of newsprint and hours of television are dedicated to the sport every day, pushing sports such as rugby and athletics firmly into the background.

But within the sprawling coverage of football, you will find little mention of the women’s game, despite the fact that female participation has exploded in popularity in recent years. The increasing interest in women’s football, combined by the lack of media exposure, provided Salma Rana with an ideal gap in the market for her business, FemaleSOCCER.net.

During the last World Cup, in 2002, Salma realised the potential of launching a resource for women’s football. There are currently over 5,000 teams and 100,000 players at various levels in England alone.

“After overhearing a conversation about the topic, I researched women’s football and found there to be a gap in the market, even though women’s football is the fastest growing sport and the most popular sport for women to take part in,” she explains.

“”It became obvious that there was plenty of female participation in soccer, but there was no significant coverage. My husband, Idris, set up a basic homepage and the response was tremendous. We saw a daily increase in hits and out site guestbook indicated we’d discovered a large market.”

With Idris agreeing to look after the technical aspect of the site, the couple used their savings to fund the development of the business, along with two grants secured through Business Link.

Soon, both female and male football fans were flocking to the site, which contains match reports, league tables, team profiles and features. FemaleSOCCER.net now attracts over 2.5 million hits a month.

Salma has always wanted to run her own business, having come from an entrepreneurial family.

“My grandfather owned several businesses and was always seeking new opportunities, often in very niche markets,” she says. “For most of the companies I’ve worked for, I was a key person when it came to new ideas and revamping old ideas.

“I always knew in my heart that I would run my own business one day. I reached a point in life where I wanted a business for myself and something that my family could benefit from and be involved in.”

However, Salma admits she has encountered difficulties in juggling family life and the business and says she regrets not building up a management team earlier. She also claims that the stereotype of women’s football initially hindered attempts to get advertisers on board.

“Originally a few potential advertisers that I contacted didn’t understand or fully believe the popularity of the ladies game,” she explains. “However, once I supplied them with some statistics about how many girls and women were getting involved in the sport, attitudes quickly changed.

“Stereotypes still remain concerning women’s football, but the reality of the situation suggests it’s something worth investing in. There’s a massive market out there and it’s growing quickly.”

Salma has launched a sister site, www.euro2005.net, to coincide with the European Women’s Football Championship, which takes place in the summer in England. She’s also planning to expand the original site, which now dominates the online market of women’s football.

So what would her advice be to budding entrepreneurs?

“Do your research,” she says. “Make sure you’ve got enough savings, or have arranged sufficient funding for the business until well after you expect the business to achieve profitability.

“Listen to advice, but also take into account your own gut feeling and experience. Advice can often be nonchalantly given and may not be the right advice for you.

“Get a good management team set-up from the start, including people with the right expertise in all aspects of your business, particularly focusing on those areas that you lack yourself.

“Always keep exploring new ideas and possibilities.”




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