New data from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which was used in a special BBC report, shows the UK’s high streets have seen a dramatic increase in the number of women starting up businesses.
Half (49.5 per cent) of small firms established in the past two years in the retail, hotel, catering and leisure industries are owned primarily by women.
This is in stark contrast to businesses in the same sectors set up more than 20 years ago, for which only a quarter (24 per cent) were female owned.
In an exclusive report, Helmsley in North Yorkshire was chosen as a perfect example of the wider shift across the UK, with increasing numbers of women entrepreneurs driving economic growth in town centres. Sixty per cent of the businesses in Helmsley are run by women.
Further research by the FSB shows women business owners are less likely to take financial risks, borrowing an average of £18,700 for their business compared to £28,800 borrowed by male business owners.
The FSB has also found that access to finance remains an issue for small firms in every sector, with 40 per cent of firms applying for finance having their applications denied.
In addition, the FSB research found that women are more likely to work for a micro business than larger firms.
Unemployed women are only 75 per cent as likely to secure a job in a firm employing 11-250 employees than they are to work in a micro firm.
Carolyn Frank is a business woman in Helmsley, and has owned Libby Butler Jewellers since 2009.
“Having previously worked in big corporations, I chose to buy a small business during the recession because I felt I would be in control of my own destiny and it presented a new challenge to me.
“In a small business you are every department, so there is a lot of variety and no two days are the same. One day you’re the IT lady, the next the accountant – and I think women thrive at that.
“Helmsley is a great place to have a business. I feel far more support here from the other female business owners than I ever did from my colleagues in multinational companies.
“We share skills and knowledge and help each other. It is such a pleasure to live and work here because of all the independent small businesses and the community spirit – it makes Helmsley a very special place. Initiatives like FSB’s Keep Trade Local and this year’s Small Business Saturday are increasingly giving small business a voice too.
“I hope that this story inspires other potential business women to give it a go – it’s a great time to be a woman in business.”
John Allan, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:
“How fantastic to see more women in business and in particular taking a leading role on our high streets.
“The UK’s town centres look a lot different today than even five years ago. We really need to keep small businesses at the heart of the local community generating wealth, employment and opportunity.
“We are witnessing a welcome change with more women entrepreneurs establishing businesses than at any time before.
“And it is striking how this trend only seems to be speeding up since the recession – it shows many women have the guts and a real entrepreneurial spirit.”