- Start-up support for female entrepreneurs
- How entrepreneurial are women in NI?
- How to become a successful female entrepreneur
- Develop a business idea
- Support for women in business
- Networks and mentors for women in business
- Starting a business: steps for female entrepreneurs
- Starting a business as a female entrepreneur - DELI LITES
How entrepreneurial are women in NI?
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report shows that women in Northern Ireland have a very positive view of entrepreneurship as a career choice. The report indicates that increasing the level of entrepreneurial activity among women will make a huge contribution to the diversity and success of the local economy.
Many women work part-time while setting up a business. This gives them the chance to develop their business idea while reducing the financial risk that may be involved. See starting a part-time business.
Others work flexible hours in their new business to allow them to look after a home or fulfil other commitments while getting the business off the ground.
If you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, it's important to realise that you don't have to go it alone. There is a lot of support available to help female entrepreneurs - see support for women in business.
Setting up a business is an exciting career option that is flexible and open to anyone. So whether you are currently working, are taking a career break or are just starting out, you can find help to make your business idea a reality.Also on this site
How to become a successful female entrepreneur
If you want to become a female entrepreneur, there are a number of things you can to to increase your chance of success.
Running a business requires a range of skills. As well as producing a product or delivering a service you will need to deal with finance, marketing, administration, legal issues and perhaps recruitment, health and safety or other specific areas.
All of these skills can be acquired and there are many excellent courses available locally. Some of these have been developed particularly for women. The Training for Women Network provide courses for women interested in business.
First steps for your business
If you are considering starting up a new business, you need to consider a number of factors to ensure the best chance of success. If you don't have a business idea yet, our business idea profile tool provides information on over 600 small business trades, sectors and professions.
As well as your product or service, you will need to think about:
- what you will name your business - see choose the right name for your business
- what business structure you should use - see legal structures for businesses - an overview
- how you are going to market your business and attract customers - see create your marketing strategy and preparing to sell
- how you will finance your business venture - see business financing options - an overview
For further information see step-by-step guide to starting a business.
Support from other female entrepreneurs
You will also benefit from speaking to other people who have set up a business - there are many organisations and networks that can offer you practical support. For further information see networks and mentors for women in business.
Women in Business (WIB) provide digital workshops, mentoring, regional events and networking opportunities with other female entrepreneurs, They also provide a yearly female entrepreneur conference and other business events.
Write a business plan
A business plan is a written document that describes a business, its objectives, its strategies, the market it is in and its financial forecasts. It has many functions, from securing external funding to measuring success within your business. It is essential to have a realistic, working business plan when you're starting a business. See write a business plan: step-by-step.
Develop a business idea
Some people have a very clear idea of what they want their business to be. Maybe you have identified a gap in the market for a particular product or service that you know you can provide.
Or perhaps you want to set up a business but don't have a definite idea of what you want to sell. Whichever is the case it's important that you develop a well-defined product or service before you launch into setting up a business.
You need to be sure that you can offer the market something different, or better or cheaper. Good market research is the cornerstone of developing a sound business idea - see market research and market reports.
Invest NI's Business Information Centre has extensive market research and worldwide company directories that you can use.
Women are now setting up and running successful businesses in sectors that were once considered male territory, such as construction and IT. Equality of opportunity in these areas has been promoted through professional bodies and trade organisations. Search the Trade Association Forum's directory of trade associations.
You may find it helpful to identify a mentor from within the sector that you have chosen, who can be a role model and adviser - see benefits of business mentoring.
Women in Business (WIB) offer a mentoring programme and may be able to connect you to someone from your sector through the members directory.Also on this site
Support for women in business
You can become a successful female entrepreneur with the right support, good planning and the will to succeed.
Specific support for women
There are some support initiatives specifically designed for women.
Women in Business (WIB) is Northern Ireland's largest and fastest growing network for business women and entrepreneurs. WIB has over 3,000 members and offers events aimed at helping women develop both personally and professionally, make connections and ultimately grow their business.
Support programmes include Yes You Can, which offers business start-up and growth support to local women who are interested in business and their Centre of Learning.
WIB also have a mentoring programme with almost 150 mentors providing business support and guidance to network members.
WIB offer a variety of free marketing benefits to all members including publication of their news articles in a bi-annual magazine and in a monthly ezine, as well as their Members Monday promotions. Find out more about WIB.
Councils and local enterprise agencies run specific initiatives for female entrepreneurs.
- Find your local council contact details in Northern Ireland
- Find your local enterprise agency with Enterprise Northern Ireland
Find finance and advice
The NI business support finder is a searchable database that can help you find publicly-funded and not-for-profit sources of assistance you may be eligible to apply for.
Support may be available in a number of forms, including financial assistance and free or subsidised advice services.
Back Her Business is a NI crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs. The crowdfunding is available via time-limited competitions taking place throughout the year. For more information see crowdfunding websites.
My New Business
My New Business is a free online service that covers everything you need to plan, start and run a business. It has videos and tools, plus other learning resources - like tutorials and case studies. All of them are aimed at helping you get your business started.
It also includes checklists that cover everything from coming up with a strong business idea and developing it, to identifying and reaching your customers to turn that idea into a successful business. See My New Business.Also on this site
Networks and mentors for women in business
If you feel nervous about setting up a business, that's normal for everyone - don't let that put you off. A good way to build your confidence is to speak to others who have set up a business and find out what the experience is really like.
Women's networks are a good way to do this. They offer a forum for discussion, sharing experiences, peer mentoring and practical and emotional support. Just knowing someone else is facing the same challenges as you makes it easier to keep going.
Networking is a highly effective way to build up a business. It offers a potential market for your goods or services and can be an invaluable way of building up a client base and track record.
Women in Business (WIB) is Northern Ireland's largest and fastest growing network for business women and entrepreneurs. Find out more about Women in Business.
WIB also have a mentoring programme with nearly 150 successful and inspirational business women who provide expertise to support to local women in business.
There are also many UK sector specific women's networks including:
- Women in Technology - aims to promote women in the technology industry. Find out more about Women in Technology.
- Aurora Women's Network - provides networking opportunities and events for women in business. Find out more on the services available with Aurora Women's Network.
- Prowess - an online hub for women-friendly business support, inspiration and information. Find out more about Prowess.
Starting a business: steps for female entrepreneurs
Taking the first step is easy if you have done as much planning and as much market research as possible.
It's useful to write down where you are now, where you want to be in a year and the steps you need to take to get there. This should be as detailed as possible and will help you take a logical and systematic approach to getting started in business. The following guidance should help you:
- ten steps to a successful start-up
- write a business plan: step-by-step
- step-by-step guide to starting a business
- choose the right finance when starting up
The next step is to identify and contact the organisations that can offer you advice and support.
The business support organisations will be eager to sit down with you and help you work out what you need to do to get your business up and running. They will help you with:
- sourcing finance
- ongoing business advice
- specialist technical advice
- finding premises
- legal issues
There is a comprehensive network of support in Northern Ireland and specific initiatives aimed at helping more people get started in business. See:
- business support in Northern Ireland
- support for women in business
- how to start a business in Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland business support finder
Invest NI also provide support for local businesses.Also on this site
Start-up support for female entrepreneurs
Starting a business as a female entrepreneur - DELI LITES
Jackie Reid, the Co-Founder and Sales Director of DELI LITES, explains how she used her skills and expertise to develop her business idea into a successful, well-run business
DELI LITES Ireland is a food-to-go producer of sandwiches, wraps, salads, and artisan bakery products that uses local ingredients. The business was founded in 1998 and currently employs 300 staff.
Jackie Reid, the Co-Founder and Sales Director of DELI LITES, explains how she used her skills and expertise to develop her business idea into a successful, well-run business.
Finding my business idea
"My husband, Brian, and I founded the company in 1998 after I had spent a summer working in New York. I came back full of inspiration from the amazing colours, textures, and flavours I had witnessed in the vibrant New York scene."
"We originally ran the business from my sisters' café of the same name. People loved the food we were making, so we decided to make the most of these products and start a pre-packed sandwich business, which today is DELI LITES Ireland."
Developing my idea
"When the business was beginning to form, food-to-go was not a familiar concept to people in Northern Ireland. After having been inspired by the futuristic food trends of New York, and in noticing this gap in the market for quality food-to-go products, we wanted to offer customers a product that is quick and easy to consume, without compromising on taste."
"I have always had a passion for food and for fitness, so a goal throughout the journey was to create a product offering that was honest feel-good food. As such, since the beginning of the business we have been able to invent innovative products that are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein, and low-calorie, as well as the more traditional options."
"I found that research was everything. I had to look into every aspect of my idea so I knew what the market was lacking and how I could provide answers to consumer needs. I wanted the focus of our products to be about the quality Irish ingredients that we use. As we began securing those initial deals with local suppliers, it got easier to network our way through the food industry and make a name for ourselves."
Believing in myself and finding hidden talents
"There are many preconceptions and expectations of women in business, but I use those doubts and fears and turn them into my driving power. Exceeding expectations is a powerful motivator, and one that I use often."
"Apparently, women are half as likely as men to start their own business, which is a shocking statistic! Aside from the obvious benefits of working for yourself and doing something you love, putting yourself out there in the business world can help you learn more about yourself. You will come to realise just how resilient and strong you are, as well as finding out how far you can push yourself. It's a real soul-searching journey."
"When we originally started the business, I don't think I had realised just how passionate (and good!) I am at sales. All my entrepreneurial skills came out when we were deep into the process."
Finding the right support
"I understand how overwhelming starting a business can be, especially if you're starting the venture alone. I also think that many women are not aware of the financial, advisory and networking resources that are readily available to them. For example, you'll find there are numerous financial schemes, LinkedIn support groups, and local events that will provide help and guidance which are great for women that need to find their supportive crowd."
"Make sure you take the help that is offered. I often struggle with always wanting to do things myself, but you have to realise (and I have to remind myself sometimes) that you can't do everything yourself. Surround yourself with a positive crowd and take advantage of the help they offer."
Inspiring and supporting other women
"I would love for potential and current female entrepreneurs to be inspired by the successful work done by not only myself, but all of the talented female employees of DELI LITES. Innovation is a key value to us, and I'd like to think that the work we do is revolutionising the idea of women working in business."
"As a woman, I also believe I am somewhat more in tune with the family needs of my employees. In order to work on employee wellbeing, we allow flex-shift patterns and are open to working closely with our team to allow employees to accommodate to family needs, as well as any other internal or external support they may require."
Prioritising progress and improvement
"I am always seeking ways to improve the business, from working closely with our Product Development Team to implementing training and tactics to help encourage employee morale. This drive to constantly push the business to its absolute limits in all aspects has helped us go from that small venture in the back of my sisters' café making 30 sandwiches a day into a thriving powerhouse of food-to-go products."Case StudyJackie Reid