The Santander Breakthrough Women Business Leaders' Mentoring Programme

8 min read

The Santander Breakthrough Women Business Leaders' Mentoring Programme

Supporting women and entrepreneurship

Santander is a signatory member to the UK government Investing in Women Code, which was launched in 2019 and founded from the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship.

The code is a commitment to support the advancement of female entrepreneurship in the UK by improving access to tools, resources and finance from the financial services sector.

As part of our commitment, we're very proud to deliver the Women Business Leaders' Mentoring Programme powered by Moving Ahead.

About the programme

This mentoring scheme is for the next generation of fast-growth female entrepreneurs.

We match women business leaders from across the UK with carefully selected mentors from a variety of industries and backgrounds, who will support their mentees as they consider their next stage of business and professional growth.

To help our mentees think differently and innovatively, we match them with someone from a different sector, and both male and female mentors are involved.

From the outset, mentors and mentees will have regular contact with each other and decide together on the business objectives and support required.

Pairings will use materials and a framework provided by Santander and Moving Ahead, to work together to establish areas of development that enable and foster business growth and professional development over the nine month programme.

The programme will run from March to November 2021.

What we look for in a mentee

You don't need to be a Santander customer to apply, but you must be the female owner or majority shareholder of a business with an annual turnover up to £6.5m. 

You'll need to:

  • be keen to develop your business 
  • be prepared to take responsibility for progressing your business
  • be capable of scaling up your business and boosting local employment
  • be ready to be mentored, with a willingness to receive feedback and advice
  • have an awareness of your own strengths and limitations
  • have not previously taken part in this programme as a mentee.
What we look for in a mentor

You don't need to be a Santander customer and can be any gender. You'll need to run, or own your own business (or have done so in the past), or be a business leader with corporate experience. And if you’ve previously been a mentee then we’d welcome your application as a mentor.

We're looking for mentors who want to make a difference and help someone work through a challenge. You'll need to:

  • understand how entrepreneurial organisations work and be happy to share perspectives based on experiences
  • act as a positive role model
  • be committed, reliable and maintain confidentiality
  • have great listening skills and be easy to talk to
  • be comfortable completing introductory mentor training.
Business mentoring

Apply for your place

Registrations for this year’s programme are now closed. If you would like to register your interest for the 2022 programme, please use the link below.


Alongside the many activities that Santander Breakthrough undertakes to support all SME business owners, we’ve always ensured that we build in activity that offers a specific level of support to Women Business Leaders.

The strongest determinant for success for a female entrepreneur is about being able to take considered risks, to be resilient and to learn quickly when things go wrong. Working through issues, discussing opportunities, developing links and a support network with other entrepreneurs can be hugely valuable, which is why we’re launching our Breakthrough Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring programme.

Louise Robinson

Head of Breakthrough, Santander

Moving Ahead is delighted to be partnering with Santander to deliver this programme. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand just how exciting, yet also challenging it can be. It’s a massive yet rewarding step and one I am grateful to have made and never regretted.

I’ve personally beneffited from mentoring at all stages; from start up to now in year seven – and it was in fact a mentor that supported and challenged me to make this very step –to found Moving Ahead, my social impact organisation seven years ago. Mentoring enabled me to make this leap, embrace the (many!) challenges, and to always process and learn from the setbacks and acknowledge successes along the way.

Liz Dimmock

Founder and CEO, Moving Ahead

Case studies

Sophia Loren, CEO and founder of Just Nevaeh

Hazel Russell, Co-founder of The Wood Life Project and her Mentor Keeley Hazelhurst, Director of Financial Pathways Ltd

Heather Barrie, Managing Director of Harries Coffee and her Mentor Paul Gosling, Relationship Director at Corporate Planning Financial Services Ltd

Hannah-Ruth, Founder of Sayaw

Dr Narisa Chauvidul-Aw, Founder and CEO of KogoPAY

Effie Dower and Sophie Swallow, Founders of Sleep Thief

Did you know?

  • Currently fewer than 6% of working age women are engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship activity, compared to more than 10% of men. Increasing female participation in the sector to 10% would take the overall economic contribution of women-led SME’s to more than £180 billion by 2025.
  • Covid-19 has posed significant challenges to most companies, but data from Beauhurst indicates that female-led, high growth companies have been disproportionately impacted throughout the pandemic. Despite this impact, more than 60% of female founded, equity backed businesses are now operating with minimal disruption to their business, showing that female led businesses are fighting back.
  • Women are more likely to start businesses in sectors worst affected by the pandemic such as Retail, Hospitality and Leisure.
  • A UENI UK wide study of 22,000 SMEs in Jan 2020 showed that 7,205 were launched by women, setting the UK number of businesses currently owned by women at 32.37%. This highlights a remarkable uplift from four years ago when just 17% of founders were female.
  • The Rose Review found that female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey, launching with 53% less capital on average. Family care responsibilities also limit the ability of female entrepreneurs, with women twice as likely as men to mention family responsibilities as a barrier to starting a business. 
  • Many female entrepreneurs stress the vital importance of good professional and technical advice on topics such as funding, marketing and exporting. Many describe a struggle to access such advice, especially in rural areas. 
  • Networks are a powerful mechanism to inspire and support entrepreneurs and increase the likelihood that they will be successful. Women are less likely to know at least one entrepreneur. The Rose Review highlighted a strong desire among women for relevant, relatable, local networking options that are accessible to those with family care responsibilities or living rurally. 
  • Up to £250 billion of value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. (The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship 2019)

What's Moving Ahead?

Moving ahead

Moving Ahead is a social impact organisation working to improve workplace inclusion and diversity. Their mission is to create an inclusive society in which individuals and organisations can be at their best. They work cross-sector, cross-company and cross diversity-strand, designing and delivering mentoring, development programmes and research that helps organisations achieve diversity of thought and perform better. Moving Ahead’s flagship mentoring programme – run on behalf of the 30% club – campaigns for greater female representation on company boards. Over the last 8 years this award winning mentoring scheme has supported over 9,324 women from 194 companies globally.