Female Entrepreneurs

15 min read

Our guide contains top tips from a range of women entrepreneurs designed to inspire you to start a company and become a future business founder.

Female Entrepreneurs

Introductory guide to entrepreneurship

What is an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is someone who creates a new business and can make a difference.

Entrepreneurs can also be seen as innovators who have new ideas for products or services and will put money into an idea to generate a profit. The term entrepreneur constantly evolves, and many people starting new businesses will not only look at how they will make a profit, but also what their social purpose will be. For example, can they support their local communities and make the world a better place along the way?

We know that there can be myths surrounding how achievable it is to become an entrepreneur. Our research has shown that there are a range of barriers that face young people today when considering entrepreneurship as a career. We’re keen to challenge these misconceptions and support a new generation of female business owners to believe they're capable of realising their ambitions. So, if you’ve got entrepreneurial spirit, this guide is designed to help you.

Recipe for success

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?

Running a successful business doesn’t just happen overnight - it takes a significant amount of time, planning and dedication to find success. The most successful business ideas are often solving an existing problem or meeting the needs of customers, so it’s important to find out very early on what the demand for a product or service is in order to find real opportunity.

Having the right attitude is also key to becoming a successful entrepreneur and will shape the journey of your business. Perseverance and the determination to make things happen are key attributes entrepreneurs need. The journey to success is not always plain sailing, so maintaining a positive outlook when things get tough is also important.

Being realistic about your abilities as an entrepreneur is also something to consider. Know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can ask for additional support to make sure your business can thrive.

Taking an online aptitude test which assess your strengths and weaknesses is a really good place to start if you need help in finding out whether you have the personality traits that are needed to become a successful entrepreneur. To find out how entrepreneurial you are, why not have a go at this online test.

Where do I start?

Top tips for starting your own business

When developing your business idea there will be a number of different things to consider before getting things off the ground. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when establishing the basics of your new venture:

  • Why would somebody want my product or service?
  • Who would be interested in buying the product or using my service?
  • Is there anything similar already on the market?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, you’ll be ready to take the next step. This can seem daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be.

To help get started, we’ve pulled together some top tips to help you build the foundations of your new business:

  • Test your ideas as soon as you can. The sooner customers can start to give you feedback, the sooner you’ll know if your idea has the potential to sell. There’s no point asking friends and family for feedback - you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and speak to real customers.
  • Get to know your target market. In other words, get to know the people who will be buying your products or using your service. The more you understand them, the more you’ll be able to work out the best ways to communicate with them and to provide a product or service which they need.
  • Use tools like the business model canvas (https://www.strategyzer.com/canvas) to help you capture and test your ideas. At the very early stages you don’t necessarily need a business plan, but you will need to start mapping out who you’re selling to, how you’ll sell it and promote it to them, and what you’ll charge for your product or service.
  • Take a look at your competition. Every business has competitors, and the more you know about yours the more you can make sure you stand out amongst the crowd. The British Library’s network of Business & IP (intellectual property) Centres  (https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/national-network) are a useful place to start when carrying out industry research.
  • Choose the right legal structure for your business. The majority of businesses register as a sole trader (you run your own business as an individual and are self-employed), limited company (an organisation that you set up to run your business, with finances that are separate from your personal finances) or a partnership (a simple way for two or more people to run a business together). But there are other options, especially for social enterprises, so for more information on each as well as registering, take a look here: https://www.gov.uk/set-up-business.
  • Get a business bank account. If you’re aged 18 years old or over and a UK resident then our Business Relationship Managers based across our branch network can speak to you about our business current accounts. See here for more details.
Starting up on a shoestring 

The internet has made it more accessible than ever to start a business. With quick tips, advice, and guidelines available to all, there really couldn’t be a better time to consider starting your own business.

However, when starting out, no matter what position you find yourself in, your budget may never seem quite enough. Even more so when you’re starting out on a truly small scale, it can make it hard to know what to prioritise.

We’ve pulled together the essential seven things to consider when figuring out how to make the most of your budget and still dream big:

  • Think lean: In the early days, even when your business starts making money, remember to continue being smart about spending, saving and investing by ensuring you don’t spend on the things you don’t yet need.
  • Do your research: “They say you shouldn’t ask your mum whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you.  This is technically true but misses the point. You shouldn’t ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It’s a bad question, and everyone will lie to you at least a little. It’s not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It’s your responsibility to find it.” (Source: The Mom Test by Rob Fitzatrick).
  • Wear different hats: “The best way to start a business on a shoestring budget is to become an expert and do all the work yourself. Learning new skills while building your business will save you a lot of start-up money until you can afford to outsource. But you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.” (Source: Forbes: Eight things to remember when starting a business on a shoestring budget).
  • Focus on building your customer base: When you start your business there won’t be many people who know your products or services and they may not have heard of your brand so it will be difficult to find customers. Make sure you ask for referrals, reviews and recommendations, look for ways to incentivise potential customers, and do your own sales.
  • Do one thing well: At the beginning it's important not to spread your resources too thinly, whether that’s launching too many products or ideas at once or trying to master all areas of the business in one go. Focus on what you do best, take out the bells and whistles and make the business easy to understand.
  • Go digital: This will enable you to reach a larger audience of customers and compete with bigger businesses. Starting to build your website doesn’t have to be expensive when there’s so many ways of building one on a budget, without the need for coding skills. For example, check out https://www.squarespace.com/. If you want to build an app, you can create one without needing app development skills, find our more at: https://appinstitute.com/. You can also shout about your business on your social media channels and begin building up your following!
  • Start-up tips and tricks: This directory of tools and resources can show you even more ideas to kick start your business the right way: https://startupstash.com/ 
More than just a business

Although business studies is taught as a subject at school, one thing that cannot be taught during these lessons are someone’s own personal values, something which is key to running a successful business.

What are personal values?

Values are “simply the things that make you feel truly alive and passionately committed to what you’re doing.” (Source: Nesta page 30). Each person’s values can range from anything such as always being truthful and honest, to showing strength and determination. They are the characteristics and behaviours that are important to each and every one of us. They will motivate and guide the principles and decisions you make about your business.

How can I align my values and beliefs with my business?

In order to differentiate your business from any others out there, it’s essential you set out and implement personal values when creating your business. These values will impact how you work, how you want your work to be received and subsequently how you interact with customers and suppliers. As your business grows it’s important not to lose the core values set out at the start of your entrepreneurial journey no matter what, as it's these values that are the foundation of your success.

Take a look at the DIY toolkit aimed primarily at social entrepreneurs or those looking to have a purpose driven business.

Women and entrepreneurship: support at Santander


We’ve launched our Women Business Leaders Mentoring Programme, powered by Moving Ahead, to deliver a mentoring scheme for the next generation of fast-growth female entrepreneurs.

Breakthrough events

Our unique Santander Breakthrough programme of events held up and down the country is a great way to gain new knowledge, resolve problems and expand horizons. Although the events are designed to support all SME business owners grow their business, we also include activities that are tailored to support success for female entrepreneurs.

Business pitching competition

The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards launched in 2011 has grown to be one of the UK’s largest entrepreneurial business pitching competitions for students and recent graduates, where the best and most forward-thinking entries can receive equity-free seed funding, mentoring and start-up support.

The competition is open to everyone, but we’ve had a number of fantastic female entrepreneur winners along the way who we have supported and are showcased as part of this guide. This includes Lauren Bell, our 2019 winner!

Pioneering research

We’ve joined forces with PRECIOUS, an online magazine, network and resource for women of colour, to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by women of colour in the business world. The research is being collated and we'll be publishing our findings in 2020 to understand what support activity is required to help people and businesses prosper.

Investing in women

We’ve signed up to the Investing in Women Code which is a commitment to support female entrepreneurship by improving women’s access to the advice, resources and finance needed to build a business. It represents a determination to tackle the barriers that are still faced daily by female entrepreneurs and ensures a great business idea has the chance to succeed.

Related content

28th Feb 2022

Top tips from UK businesses for international trading success

SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, accounting for 99.9% of all UK businesses and generating around 50% of turnover in the UK private sector1 . They also account for an increasing amount of the UK's international trade,...