Cumbria's female entrepreneurs lead the way
Last updated at 09:42, Tuesday, 15 February 2011
You might assume young women in 2011 lack ambition – they are, after all, growing up in an age where footballers’ wives are role models and ‘living the dream’ can be achieved not by hard work but by auditioning for X Factor.
But a new report by Alexandra Beauregard, a professor of employment relations and organisational behaviour at the London School of Economics, reveals more women than ever want to start their own businesses.
Of the 2,000 women aged between 16 and 24 she questioned, 60 per cent aspired to be their own boss one day, hoping to join the likes of lingerie whizz Michelle Mone, Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox and The Body Shop’s creator, the late Anita Roddick.
She also predicts there will be an “explosion” in female entrepreneurs, with numbers set to double in years to come.
“Currently, three-quarters of all self-employed people are men but this is set to change,” says Alexandra.
“These women seem determined to do something despite the economic climate. There was no apathy about them.”
Figures released by Barclays in early 2010 showed a marked increase in female entrepreneurs. Women choosing self-employment increased by 4.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier, while male self-employment rose by just 1.1 per cent.
Alexandra, whose research was commissioned by Avon cosmetics, says external factors have forced the hand of many women. “Perceptions of the economic climate were the main driver for people wanting to start their own businesses.
“And although we didn’t measure this directly in the study, I expect the increase in university tuition fees is going to have an impact as well. A lot of people will be put off by the prospect of having long-term debts.
“In the harsh light of today’s economic realities, Avon’s research reveals young women are well aware of the challenges that face them and are prepared to meet those head on.”
And indeed one of Carlisle’s youngest entrepreneurs is female.
Emily Hudson-Harris opened Miss Beautique, a beauty salon on Port Road, in September last year at the age of 18.
She says that having drive, determination and confidence is crucial for any woman starting her own business.
After leaving school, Emily moved to Bolton to study beauty. While training, she worked for Aileen Williams, owner of Carlisle’s DreamsDay Spa, at her hair and beauty salon on Port Road.
When Aileen asked her if she wanted to take over the business she was unsure.
“I thought I was too young at first so I said no,” Emily says. “I then went back to college and thought about it and I realised that I might never get this type of opportunity again.”
Emily invested her own savings into the business and gave it a new name.
She had got to know the clients when she worked for Aileen and asked them to stay with her when she took over the business.
She decided to stick to offering instant beauty treatments as it is a small salon – nails, tanning, waxing, lash extensions, pedicures and manicures.
“I was really scared at first,” she recalls. “I had to put in a lot of money. It was all very daunting.
“My dad said I probably wouldn’t make any money for myself in the first year but December was my first month of making money.”
Emily is no stranger to the world of business as her parents Bruce Harris and Mary Hudson-Harris run George Hudson & Sons Funeral Directors.
“I believe you can own your own business at any age,” Emily adds. “If you have confidence in yourself then people will believe in you.
“I think that paying attention to every detail is important.”
Sonya Haandrikman, 28, who co-owns Celebrations shop and cafe in Carlisle with mum Tanya, was crowned Young Entrepreneur at this year’s CN Group Business Awards.
She’s appeared in the Who’s Who of Britain’s top young business leaders for the last two years and at 24 became the youngest person ever to address a seminar at an international card industry fair in Birmingham.
Sonya believes that to get ahead in business you have to be “firm but fair” – a quality she always saw her mum demonstrate.
“We know what we want and how we are going to get there. You can’t be too nice or people would walk all over you.
“But you’ve got to have good morals, and that’s something my mum has always shown. She’s been amazing, a real inspiration.”
Since they moved the shop to larger premises in 2004 business has been booming. Even the grim state of the economy hasn’t had an adverse effect.
“It just makes you work harder. There’s no point in thinking too much about it and letting things pass you by, you’ve got to get out and about and do more,” Sonya adds.
But it’s not just Cumbrian women in their teens and twenties who are setting up their own businesses.
Victoria Relph, 52, runs Victoria Relph Millinery Designs from her home at Yanworth near Penrith, which she started up just three years ago.
“From a young age I loved drawing, painting and making things. I knew nothing about what careers were available in art and design. I was brought up to consider safe options and a career that you can go back to after motherhood,” she says.
Victoria planned to go back to nursing after a 10 year break and while doing a computer course at Newton Rigg, realised it could be combined with art and design.
She enrolled on a BA (hons) in contemporary applied arts at Cumbria Institute of the Arts (now University of Cumbria) and considered specialising in ceramics but found her forte with hat making.
Returning to study at her age didn’t worry her.
“There are lots of things you can do in life, it doesn’t matter what stage you do it at. And I was very fortunate because I was in the right place at the right time. The institute was a wonderful place to be.”
Victoria runs a smallholding and uses both her own and locally- sourced wool and feathers in combination with natural dyes. Each hat, created entirely by hand, takes up to four days to make.
She doesn’t feel comfortable with the entrepreneur label but there’s no question her business is taking off. She exhibits around the country and her order book is filling up with commissions.
“Most of the time I’m working on my own in my studio all day. I need to have everything else sorted then I can get on with it, but as a woman that can be hard if you have children or elderly parents.
“It’s still in its infancy. I’m building it up by word of mouth. I’m a creative person and starting a business has been a learning curve. I’m not a great networker but I enjoy the camaraderie at shows and talking to other designers – it’s good to have these outlets to discuss ideas.
“Other than that it’s about having a self belief that you can produce beautiful things people will want.”
First published at 11:45, Monday, 14 February 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk