Bedford business owner says upskilling female entrepreneurs will grow local and national economy

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Sophie Turner of the herstory consultancy. Image: Sophie Turner
Sophie Turner of the herstory consultancy. Image: Sophie Turner

A Bedford business owner has called on the government to do more to support the upskilling of female entrepreneurs and business owners and help boost the UK economy.

Sophie Turner, CEO and founder of the herstory consultancy, has spent a decade working in business development and public relations and is now campaigning for a serious commitment to gender equality in business.

She wants the UK government to address the gender gap and also support women to gain the communication skills needed to build their gravitas and break down the barriers to funding.

2% of funding

Data shows that, unlike in boys, a ‘confidence gender gap’ starts in girls from as young as six years old. This can then hinder how women develop communication and self-promotion skills in later life, skills that are vital in entrepreneurship.

This in turn creates a negative impact on their sales and networking abilities, which are vital for business and funding opportunities.

So much so that, according to government research, less than 2% of all venture capital funding in 2023 went to female-led businesses.

This lack of diverse representation at a funding level shows that investors are often more likely to connect with a business with the same gender, ethnicity or social background.

With only 14% of all Angel Investors being female, entrepreneurial women are therefore struggling to access funding networks and secure financial support.

The Prime Minister has said he wants the UK to be the “best place in the world” for women to start a business and at a business event last month, announced a new Invest in Women taskforce to create 600,000 women-led businesses by 2030.

PM Rishi Sunak (Conservative) said the new task force, led by Hannah Bernard from Barclays and serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow is, “Going to raise a female-focused investment fund to address that gap directly”.

Taskforce

He added, “We are going to make the UK the best place in the world to be a female founder… they receive just 2% of equity investment and that figure hasn’t budged in a decade.”

Ms Turner welcomes the PM’s commitment but believes that if the UK government were to invest more in upskilling female business owners it could add even more to the UK economy, with Bedford is a great place to start.

Bedford was recently found to be one of the most entrepreneurial places in the UK, thanks to research from InstantOffices.com. With a significant proportion of female-led businesses calling Bedford home, upskilling these businesses could give Bedford a boost.

“Through my work with female entrepreneurs, I’ve seen first-hand how detrimental a lack of confidence and in turn strong communication skills has on business growth,” said Ms Turner.

“This is why I’m campaigning for investment at a grassroots level, from education in schools to mentorship for business owners. Until this issue is addressed female entrepreneurs will continue to fall behind.”

Her comments have attracted the attention of Bedford and Kempston MP, Mohammad Yasin (Labour) who has pledged his support for her campaign.

“When Sophie came to me with her campaign I was immediately willing to see what I can do with her locally to help close the gender gap for women entrepreneurs,” said Mr Yasin.

“Female-founded businesses face so many barriers to growth and this is an example of how when we lift them up, we can drive positive change.

“Sophie is doing powerful work for female founders but the government need to do more. Our female entrepreneurs have the potential to add a hugely significant amount of value to the UK economy and we need to be doing everything we can to help them.”

The Bedford Independent is 2/3 female-led and is backing Sophie Turner in her campaign to help boost Bedford’s economy and beyond with more support for female entrepreneurs. If you’d like to find out more, follow herstory on Instagram.