By Ali Golds Founder of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project
I’m lucky enough to work with some of the brightest and inspirational people in the UK through my company Operation Enterprise – young entrepreneurs of all ages, academic abilities and backgrounds, who combine their college and school studies with developing their businesses.
When my team and I first walk into a room packed with the next group of students ready to engage with our programmes, the excitement and enthusiasm is palpable. These are young people on the most exciting journey they will ever take and they are desperate to pick up as much information, and hints and tips possible, before they leave at the end of the day.
What might surprise you is that the majority of those young entrepreneurs are male.
As a female entrepreneur myself, this perturbed me. Part of the reason I came into this market was to encourage girls to think about running their own business. I wanted them to see the real possibilities available to them; that learning about running a business doesn’t just give you the skills you need for self-employment, but also makes you more work-ready and improves your personal skills to boot.
The Juno Project exists to change the perception of young girls and women that they can’t run a business. To challenge the idea that because they were told years ago that they weren’t very good at this, or would never succeed at that, that that is indeed the case. To put paid to the notion that those women who find themselves as single mums and can’t work due to childcare issues, can’t run their own business. And to put forward positive role models of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds, work histories and academic abilities to show our fabulous females that anything is possible – you just need to believe it.
We deliver enterprise education programmes to a wide cross-section of women, from teenagers upwards. In all types of organisations, and wherever we are asked to go.
Did you know that women account for less than a third of those who are self-employed? Although between 2008-2011 they represented 80% of the new self-employed (Labour Force Survey, Office of National Statistics 2013). They start businesses with less capital, and are definitely less likely to apply for funding.
My experience of working with female entrepreneurs is that they are well-organised, passionate, dynamic and extraordinarily hardworking. They certainly plan their businesses well, often with more detail than the men I work with who are more prepared to take risks but they also know how important it is to embrace the unpredictability and the challenges ahead and to carry on regardless.
Women are fantastic multi-taskers – another useful skill in business – and are also great at diffusing tricky situations, which makes for smoother sales negotiations and quicker outcomes.
Lots of the women entrepreneurs that I know are also mums; so not only are they juggling their work life but they’re also juggling their home lives too. If they work from home, like me, they become super adept at cooking supper, doing the washing and making business calls whilst overseeing homework – all at the same time!
Our goal? To empower. To encourage. To support.
Ali is a hugely successful entrepreneur. She founded her first business in 2000 and, so far, has run and managed five successful businesses. Ali is currently founder and MD of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project and also works as part-time consultant Director of Entrepreneurship at Barking & Dagenham College.