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Big rise in businesses founded by women with support for 3 million more pledged

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A government-backed review on female entrepreneurship has pledged to create three million places for women to access business support over the next three years.

The Rose review, led by Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, which was launched by the Treasury in 2019, said in its latest annual progress report that women had established 151,603 companies, up by 6,332 on the previous year. They represented 20 per cent of all incorporations, compared with 16.7 per cent in 2018.

Entrepreneurs aged under 25 saw the biggest leap in activity, setting up 17,489 businesses last year, compared with only 785 in 2018.

The review found that breaking down barriers faced by women entrepreneurs could boost the economy by £250 billion.

Rose, 53, said: “It’s testament to the resilience and entrepreneurialism of female founders that they are creating more companies than ever before.”

Kevin Hollinrake, the small business minister, added that 40 per cent of the government’s Start Up Loans had gone to support women entrepreneurs and that its 12-week Help to Grow management training was “providing business leaders with the skills they need to succeed”.

A total of 190 financial services institutions have now made formal commitments to improve female entrepreneurs’ chances of success by signing the Investing in Women Code, up from 134 in the previous year. New signatories include savings and investment company M&G, lender Funding Circle and technology venture capital firm IQ Capital. Backers of the Code represent over £1 trillion in assets under management. The code requires them to adopt best practices to benefit female entrepreneurs and share data on their performance with government.

The Rose Review is also committing to grow the pool of female angel investors from 14% to 30% of the total number of UK angels by 2030 through the work of the Women Angel Investment Taskforce, such as the Women Backing Women campaign. Work is underway across the country to support more women in offering early-stage investment.

Mustard Made was one of the 785 companies incorporated in 2018. The homewares brand, which Becca Stern, 35, set up with her sister Jess Gray, 31, and is best known for its brightly coloured lockers, has expanded quickly in Australia, Europe and the United States. Sales rose by 20 per cent last year to £6.6 million, despite the UK market being a “challenge”. “With going under that was a warning sign,” Stern said.

However, she added. “We have found an overwhelmingly supportive community and have prioritised working with female-founded businesses, our wholesalers and stockists and the consultants who come in.”

Mustard Made employs 25 people, with four having been hired in the past week, and offers flexible working, aiming to be “family-friendly”. Stern, who has three children, said childcare and a lack of role models were two significant barriers. “Childcare is the gap [preventing] women returning successfully to work and feeling good about it,” she said. “And another of the challenges is who are we looking up to? Who shares the same values but are at a bigger scale?”

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