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It’s high time we put more women in business in the spotlight

Only 27% of UK businesses are led by women and male entrepreneurs get 86% of venture capital funding. These five successful business women are shaking up the status quo...

They say you can’t be what you can’t see. And, while mammoth strides have been made over the last few decades to address the imbalance of women in business, there’s more to be done.

According to Prowess Women in Business, since the financial crisis of 2008, 58% of the UK’s newly self-employed have been female.

Research shows that female entrepreneurs generated £3.51bn for the UK economy and created 77,000 jobs in 2015. But, despite this, male entrepreneurs are still 86% more likely to have secured venture capital funding and 56% more likely to have received angel investment than female entrepreneurs.

And, according to an analysis of Companies House data by in January 2018, 72.92% of the country’s business owners are male.

In short, it’s clear that there’s a huge economic opportunity to be had if we ensure the UK’s enterprise environment encourages and supports female entrepreneurs.

The Startups Awards has been championing female entrepreneurship throughout its 15-year history with the AXA Business Insurance-sponsored Women in Business Award celebrating the achievements and contributions successful business women in the UK.

AXA is committed to equality and inclusion, launching the Women in Businesses for Good accelerator programme last year, a media and mentoring programme to help women-led businesses addressing social change.

So, to inspire the next generation of women in business, we take a look at a handful of the UK’s up-and-coming and famous female entrepreneurs…

Pip Murray

Winner of the Women in Business Award 2016, Pip Murray is the founder of nut butter brand Pip & Nut. Its products are free from palm oil, refined sugars, additives and preservatives and come in a range of delicious flavours including Coconut Almond Butter, Crunchy Maple Peanut Butter, Honey Almond Butter and Chocolate Orange Almond Butter.

Pip & Nut only launched in 2015, but saw rapid growth with listings in more than 3,000 stores across the UK by this time last year and was already eyeing up several international locations.

With no previous experience in the F&B space, and having started the business in a garden shed, Murray has proved that it’s possible to succeed in an established sector with a strong brand and a fresh approach.

Suzi Wong

Suzi Wong had been in practice as an architect for four and a half years (only 26% of architects are women) and, though she enjoyed the projects she was working on, found that the industry could be impersonal.

It was a drawing of a bird cutting loose of a rock that was attached to its wing by a thread that spurred her into action; starting her business. The metaphor of the bird setting itself free really resonated with her.

Seeing her gender as a differentiator rather than a weakness, she started Grey Rose Architects to challenge industry norms and promote more female involvement in architecture.

A few years later and the company’s projects cover everything from grade-listed buildings to brand new bespoke homes and eco homes, with a 90% tender win rate.

Tricia Cusden

Tricia Cusden is the sexagenarian founder behind pro-age make-up brand Look Fabulous Forever (LFF).

The inspiring entrepreneur beat stiff competition from the likes of Everlasting Brows and Digital Mums to take home the Women in Business Award in 2017.

Cusden built her reputation on YouTube, with her make-up tutorial videos racking up millions of views since she started it in 2013. LFF was started to cater for what she saw as the often overlooked over-55 market. In the last five years, it has grown to serve tens of thousands of customers across the UK, the US and Australia.

The cosmetics mogul is proof that age is no barrier to business success.

Holly Tucker MBE

Holly Tucker scooped our Women in Business Award a decade ago as the co-founder of, the curated marketplace of original and innovative products.

She was awarded an MBE for services to small businesses and enterprise as part of Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2013 and is the UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses.

She left in 2016, but has continued to champion the needs and interests of creative small businesses with her new venture Holly & Co.

This multi-faceted enterprise shines a light on “the remarkable creatives, small business owners and Artisans who are the backbone of our societies” through an online shop, events, a blog and a podcast.

Debbie Williamson

The co-founder of Swoon Editions took home the Women in Business Award at the 2015 Startups Awards.

Debbie Williamson spent 10 years in digital marketing and product development with M&C Saatchi and the Telegraph Media Group, before becoming disillusioned with the corporate world. In 2012, she had the lightbulb moment to launch a retail site that would offer hand-made, quality furniture for affordable prices.

Williamson launched the service that same year with business partner Brian Harrison and, by the time of her award win, had scaled the company with the help of £5m funding to triple figure growth and a team of 58 staff across London, Vietnam, India and China.

Today, Williamson has shown that the Startups Awards judges made the right choice – in 2017, Swoon raised £15m investment from Octopus Ventures. This funding has enabled the brand to launch a debut TV ad campaign, run pop-up shops, and to roll out more out-of-home advertising.

Speaking to The Huffington Post back in 2016, Williamson highlighted her biggest issue surrounding women in business as ‘not enough” – “There are not enough women in senior positions; there are not enough role models.”

Will you join Williamson, Murray, Cusden, Wong and Tucker to make it ‘enough’ by starting a business and becoming a role model?

You don’t have to beat the odds on your own. With the help of AXA Business Insurance, you can get a level of business protection that’s right for you. So, you can focus on executing your vision and building a legacy to be proud of.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.