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How Facebook's partnership with FSB will help women in business

Nicola-Mendelson_feature

One in 10 women in the UK wants to start her own business, but many fail to do so. An initiative from Facebook and FSB aims to provide the practical support they need, writes Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice President, EMEA, of Facebook.

Four years ago, Virginie Charles-Dear was at home with her young children when she had an idea. How convenient would it be if parents could sign up to receive a regular delivery of arts and crafts materials straight to their front door? A treasure trove of fun and education for them, and a no-fuss time-saver for mum and dad.

Within a day, Virginie was turning her idea into reality, and ToucanBox was born. The company is growing at 20 per cent month-on-month and has delivered more than a million boxes to parents, creating new jobs as a result of its success.

Just like Virginie, one in every 10 women in the UK is thinking about starting a business. It’s likely you have a sister, mother, aunt or friend who dreams about becoming their own boss. However, unlike Virginie, these women haven’t yet taken the plunge.

Encouraging women to pursue their aspirations isn’t just good for the individual. It has a knock-on impact on jobs and the wider economy as well. If just one-fifth of women who wanted to start a business did so, it would unlock a potential extra £10.1 billion into the UK economy, build 340,000 new businesses and create 425,000 jobs by the end of 2020. Yet just one-fifth of the small businesses in the UK are run by women.

At Facebook, we wanted to get to the bottom of why more women in the UK don’t start up. We’ve come together with FSB to understand the barriers that are holding women back, and what support they need. A lack of self-belief is the key barrier for women when starting a business. Why is that, and why is this lack of confidence more prevalent in women? When we asked women to identify a female role model doing what they’d like to do, a staggering three-quarters of women couldn’t identify a fellow woman running a business similar to the one they’d like to.

We believe there is a real opportunity to help get more of these potential businesses off the ground. And we think Facebook has a big part to play. Our platform is used by more than 50 million small businesses around the world. It’s free and easy to reach existing and potential customers. Facebook Pages are giving millions of small business owners an instant mobile shop window to the world.

It’s also our job to shout about the women who are using our platform to create brilliant businesses. Take Tricia – 68 years old and the founder of Look Fabulous Forever. She started her first business three years ago, after feeling frustrated that beauty brands seemed to speak only to women of a certain age. She uses technology – such as video on Facebook – to promote her make-up range, created specifically for more mature skin.

We need action. So, alongside partners including FSB and the British Chambers of Commerce, we’ve launched She Means Business – our initiative giving women the training and support to start up. We’ve created a dedicated online hub – shemeansbusiness.fb.com – full of tools, inspiration and online learning sessions, and we’ll be holding ‘Boost your Business’ events across the country.

We’re calling on all the women with an idea to realise their potential to get involved in our initiative and inspire others to do the same.