20 female entrepreneurs to watch in 2020
There’s nothing more inspiring than witnessing an upturn of female entrepreneurs, who are bucking gender trends and rewriting the rule book.
At Tide, we’re proud to support women in business, and we’ve made a bold commitment to help 100,000+ female-led businesses start out by the end of 2023.
We know one of the biggest barriers holding aspiring founders back is confidence. But with the right support, network, and tools, we can collectively raise the courage and determination within aspiring female founders – and ultimately the number of female-led businesses.
Being able to connect with, and learn from, amazing women who have created their own brand, business or name for themselves is invaluable. Everyone has their own key ingredients to success – and that’s why we’ve asked inspiring business women to share their top tips to start or grow a business in 2020.
- Carina Lepore
- Della Hudson
- Carole Fossey
- Emma Kane
- Gabriela Hersham
- Gemma Went
- Heather Townsend
- Janice B Gordon
- Lilach Bullock
- Marija Butcovic
- Melanie Bryan OBE
- Sara Tasker
- Sarah Goodall
- Sheeza Shah
- Vicky Brock
- Philippa Richardson
- Puja Balachander
- Leo-Amber Maria Johnson
BBC Apprentice winner, Carina Lapore, founded the Dough Artisan Bakehouse in 2018. It’s a family-run, independent bakery in Herne Hill. While Carina manages the bakery, her sister Rachel handles all the day to day running of the business, and their father, Carlo, is in charge of baking all of the delicious products every morning.
Think tasty homemade sausage rolls, croissants, artisan loaves, and a whole host of other delicious baked goods. Dough Artisan Bakehouse also has a wholesale element, which provides Herne Hill’s local restaurants and coffee shops with their baked goods every morning.
“The best bit of advice I was ever given is that there is no substitute for hard work if you want to succeed. I feel like this is the success of us as a family business, and it has been my mantra in any professional challenge I have ever taken on.
“The people who work at the Bakehouse are like a tight-knit family, so if you have a positive, supportive culture underpinned by people who are working hard for each other then I don’t think you can go far wrong. That would be my top business tip for 2020 and beyond.”
Della is a speaker, writer, and coach at Hudson Business Advice. As one of the Top 50 Women in Accountancy and Finance, Della brings her expertise from starting, growing and selling her own successful practice.
Her methodology and the clue to how she did this on just 25 hours per week is captured in her first book, ‘The Numbers Business: how to grow a successful cloud accountancy practice’ which is not just a bestseller but the winner of the Specialist section of The Business Book Awards 2019.
Her second book ‘Growing by Numbers: how to scale up your small business’ captures Della’s passion for helping small businesses to scale up with real-world advice on how to change the key business numbers and achieve their dreams of more profit, more time and/or a higher valuation on exit.
Della is looking to not just grow her own business during 2020, but also to help her clients to do the same.
“Always work with the best people you can afford. You don’t need to travel alone, so make sure that you have a good team around you.
“If you’re too small to have a full board then get yourself a good business coach. Somebody who will help you to set goals, nag you to implement your action plan, and kick your backside to just get things done.”
Carole Fossey is a two-times mum, as well as a public speaker (including TEDx), and has written and co-written four books.
Carole started her first business, strategysocialmedia.co.uk, in 2001, and says that while business is fun, it can also be hard work, lonely and challenging. That’s why she also runs Leading Women in Business, and the Get S*** Done Retreats, along with her business partner, Tracey Jones-Bolding.
These events are for female business owners who need some practical help and support growing their businesses. Carole first got involved with ‘women only networking’ at Greater Manchester Chamber, where she was a non-exec director for 11 years. She never thought of herself as a ‘woman in business’ but she soon realised that women face unique challenges when starting businesses, and most appreciate a more collaborative and less competitive networking environment.
“Whatever it is in your business which does NOT light you up – outsource it, and invest in a coach. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time, so don’t waste it.
“With a coach, make sure it’s someone who is on the same path as you but further along. The time, testing, money, stress you can save yourself by NOT having to reinvent the wheel is absolutely worth it, and so is the accountability.
“When you run your own business, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. If you have a great coach, they won’t let you!”.
Emma Kane is the CEO of Newgate Communications, which is focused on creating positive change using strategic communications, advocacy and research.
“Be extremely focused. It’s easy to get side-tracked into things that aren’t going to have a sufficient return on investment. So, understand your key stakeholders and what drives them, and focus your efforts on the things that matter.
“Know your enemy; know everything about them. Identify your key competitors, how you can differentiate your business, and ensure you know who their ‘fan club’ is on social media, traditional media etc so you can ensure you are influencing the right people.
“Get brilliant at telling your story and ensure that you are communicating the key elements that potential investors need to be reassured about: why back this management team, is what you offer what the market wants, what’s your growth strategy, why will you be a winner and why buy now?
“Make your colleagues your best ambassadors by ensuring they understand your vision and enable them to articulate it. Have clear values and live these – this will avoid behaviour that could damage your reputation.
“Collect data responsibly and in a way that will create value – ensure it is GDPR compliant. Build your database and network as much as you can, it really is who you know.
“Don’t try and do everything yourself – use your skills to do the things that you are best at and outsource things such as bookkeeping, which will not add as much value as you focus on driving your business but will impact on it if not done properly.
“Use the best lawyer you can afford to ensure you protect your business.
“Don’t give away your equity, it is the most valuable thing you have.
Gabriela is the CEO of Huckletree, one of London’s original co-working spaces. Naturally, that means that her company comes across hundreds of startups on a daily basis. They’ve supported founders and entrepreneurs working across a myriad of industries – from hardware, connected devices and HealthTech to FemTech, SexTech, EdTech and SaaS.
As a result, Gabriela is able to see a strangely similar thread amongst the most successful startups within her community. It’s not totally about the strength of the leadership team, their ability to access capital, enjoying high MRR or having a great culture – although she appreciates that these things can only be positives.
In fact, the thing Gabriela’s found that has had the most direct impact on the success of the startups is the very foundations that the businesses are built on. HuckleTree’s seen so many startups grow too quickly and on overly-fragile foundations. They’ve seen entrepreneurs over-state their beliefs on the profits their business can generate. Gabriela tells us that yes, it’s fine to be ambitious in pitch meetings – the investors expect it – and we all know that in order to make true impact entrepreneurs need to be ambitious, but massively over-stating projections is something else entirely – it’s immoral.
What happens in businesses like this is that they tend to grow at the sacrifice of profitability, hire at the sacrifice of culture, and lead in a way that sacrifices honesty. Which brings us nicely on to Gabriela’s top tip…
“Build a business that speaks the truth. Create a culture of accountability. In today’s world, people don’t buy hype, they buy value and substance.”
Gemma Went is an award-winning business mentor and growth strategist, helping small business owners and entrepreneurs grow and scale with her online programs, masterminds and one to one business coaching.
She’s helped businesses achieve great things and smash their goals through her proprietary frameworks and systems, all based on three core principles: Mindset + Strategy + Action, which make up her MSA Method™.
Winner of the Entrepreneurs Champion at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Gemma is a podcaster, writer, speaker, panellist and awards judge. She’s led the marketing at a range of businesses, been the social media director at two award-winning London agencies and delivered successful digital strategies across many industries.
She’s run two businesses of her own (the first she won an entrepreneur of the year award for) and helped hundreds of small business owners get the results they crave to take their business to the next level.
“Deepen the human connection with your customers. In this automated, online world, us humans are craving connection. Those who understand how to do this, while still using the technology available to us, will reap the rewards.
“Customers are far more savvy and can see through the traditional push methods of marketing. Instead thinking creatively about those moments at each touchpoint will make all the difference. And the beauty is, we have amazing, affordable technology that allows us to do that, even as small business owners. It’s really levelled the playing field.”
Heather Townsend is an award-winning author, international professional speaker and the founder of The Excedia Group, aka the company behind “The Accountants Millionaires’ Club” and “How to Make Partner”.
Heather and her team of growth experts help professionals in practice grow a profitable and sustainable practice. Their clients come from all over the world, and they as a company have grown by on average 20% year on year over the last three years. The group is addicted to using the latest technology (such as Tide!) to help deliver a better service to their client and member base, but also run a more efficient company.
“Really and truly back yourself. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Don’t let the little voices in your head or others sabotage your dreams and ambitions. Others have made the leap and jump and so can you!”
Janice B Gordon
Janice B Gordon is an impressive customer growth expert. She uses her 20+ years of customer, sales, and business growth experience to help enterprising companies unleash hidden potential and exponential growth, all by investing in customer relationships. One company Janice worked with increased their revenue by $6 million in less than one year!
Janice is the founder of Scale Your Sales, a framework to gain trusted relationships and profitable partnerships to create predictable increasing revenue growth. She’s also the author of ‘Business Evolution: Creating Growth in a Rapidly Changing World’, which helps entrepreneurs to grow their business using the essential 4P’s framework: Personality, Purpose, Pleasure and Process.
In addition, Janice is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur and keynote speaker with recent features in The Sunday Times and Forbes, and is listed #25 of Sage Top 100 Global Business Influencers.
“Stay close to your most valued key customers and accounts, these are the people and businesses that get who you are and love what you do and value your service.
“To stay close, you must know who they are, understand what’s important to them and what is on their agenda. Do not assume – take them out to lunch and find out more about them, do this with no ulterior sell in mind. Just ask strategic searching questions and listen (get permission to record their answers).
“Be sure to thank them for helping you. Listen to the recording and note the words they use – this could be the basis of your marketing message. Listen to how they describe the problem, the issues and the challenges – this could provide opportunities for product enhancements or new business opportunities. Now you have some real-life assumptions you can test with other most valued customers.”
Lilach Bullock is the founder o Lilach Bullock Ltd, a digital and content marketing boutique agency that works with B2B and tech companies worldwide. They work with businesses of all sizes, offering a variety of services including content creation, creating strategies for content marketing, advertising, and other digital marketing tactics, conversion optimisation, search engine optimisation, and strategic consulting, among others.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you can try all the strategies and tactics the world, but if you’re not productive with your time, you can’t grow and scale your business. And even if you can, you might just crash and burn afterwards if you’re not able to keep up.
“That’s why I think as entrepreneurs/business owners, we need to focus on ourselves and our teams first and namely, how to become more effective, more productive and get things done every single day.
“Take a deep look at how you spend your days (time tracking tools can be of huge help) and see where you’re losing time, what’s taking up too much of your time, and what you can do to make your days more productive. This will not only help with your productivity, but it can even help with your mind state, seeing that you’re getting things done, day by day.”
Marija Butkovic is a digital marketing and business consultant who has worked across a range of projects in different industry sectors, including legal, journalism, tech, IoT, wearable tech and fashion tech. She is a founder and CEO of Women of Wearables, the first global organisation aiming to support, connect and mentor women and diverse groups in wearable tech, fashion tech and IoT.
Marija has been featured in major tech and business publications such as Forbes, TechCrunch, The Next Web, Huffington Post and many more, and regularly appears as a public speaker and panellist on conferences, meetups and corporate events.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Marija was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in UK tech by Computer Weekly. She has also been included in the Top 100 Influencers on Gender Equality and Diversity and Top STEM Entrepreneurs by Onalytica. She regularly writes and blogs on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, diversity, startups and entrepreneurship. She collaborates with startup accelerators and incubators in London and worldwide on delivering help as a startup mentor and advisor and is also a STEM ambassador.
“Finding the right partners to collaborate with is very often the key to success. Surround yourself with other like-minded people that will inspire you, help you and guide you along the way, because having the support network is invaluable to any business.
“Never underestimate the importance of mentors and advisors. Simplifying and outsourcing things you don’t like doing and focusing on creative work or anything else that you are passionate about will save you a lot of money, energy and time.
“Remember, running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is no overnight success – it usually happens after ten years. Last but not least, always have fun in what you do – there will, of course, be some bad days along the way, but as long as you genuinely believe in what you’re doing and why you are doing it, you’ll be fine.”
Melanie Bryan OBE
WhyNotChange is the brainchild of multi-award-winning growthologist, Melanie Bryan. She specialises in enabling founders and leaders to grow businesses, social enterprises and charities, to make a bigger positive difference along the way.
As a founder, imagine how powerful it would be to seek advice and support from somebody who has helped thousands of people in similar situations – owners and leaders of organisations of all shapes, sizes and stages. That someone is Melanie.
Melanie prides herself in being able to join the dots to spot opportunities that founders may not have thought about, anticipate challenges, and suggest approaches that have worked elsewhere, ensuring that nothing gets missed. She’s also helped organisations to win more than £170m of public sector contracts and grant funding.
If that’s not enough to impress us, Melanie is passionate about giving back and holds a number of voluntary roles, including serving as a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester.
“Be yourself, be open, and be kind.”
“Be yourself: Many women tell me that they have put off starting or growing their business because they doubt themselves. Often comparing themselves to others through social media plays a part in this. But nobody can have a business like yours. Nobody else has your unique experiences and perspective. People buy from people – and you have your own unique story to share.
“Be open: I have often been criticised for sharing my ideas widely. But it almost always leads to amazing opportunities (and often not the ones I expected!) and meeting fabulous new people along the way. Sharing builds trust. In my experience, people are usually willing to help if they can – but they can’t if you don’t reach out and share your thinking!
“Be kind: Both to yourself and to others. Kindness is contagious! And remember, as the African proverb says, if you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been to bed with a mosquito!”
Sara Tasker is an online marketing guru who specialises in helping creatives and business owners who want to carve new paths and make money – without selling out on their heart and values. She uses her own business, Me And Orla, to demonstrate just how much is possible.
Sara also has a podcast, Hashtag Authentic, full of brilliant advice, along with free blog posts and downloads on her website.
“I’m a huge advocate for giving results ahead of time. What can you offer your customers right now, for free, that lets them experience first-hand just how wonderful your products or services are? What problem can you solve for them that will help them see your worth?
“Whether it’s podcasts, blog posts, live Instagram videos or taster sessions, giving your customers a generous no-strings gift shows faith in yourself, in your work and in their ability to see your value.
“Nothing shows people how much you can help them like actually helping them. No questions, no objections, no niggling doubt. So many people feel like they need to keep their best work under lock and key, but letting people experience a taste of our value ahead of time means they come to know and believe in your work, and is a recipe for fast and powerful growth.”
Sarah Goodall is the Founder & CEO of Tribal Impact, helping B2B organisations activate their employees on social media. She’s an inbound marketer turned business owner, self-builder and mother to three little girls. She’s passionate about putting the ‘social’ back into social media by connecting employees to customers via authentic conversations.
“Surround yourself with people who know more than you. Trust them, listen to them and believe in the decisions that you make – even when they feel scary.”
Founders Sheeza and Sharjeel launched UpEffect, a crowdfunding platform designed to eliminate the biggest problems plaguing the $2 billion crowdfunding industry: low success rates and harmful products. UpEffect is a unique platform for companies dedicated to improving lives and the planet – through tackling social injustice, climate change, illiteracy and more.
Instead of simply providing another platform for campaigns to raise money without any help, UpEffect employs industry best practices to ensure founders are supported in creating exceptional campaign pages and building a “crowd” to back their projects. In essence, UpEffect allows smaller fish that get neglected on larger platforms to convert their powerful ideas into successful campaigns.
This is especially important for social entrepreneurs who have powerful ideas but don’t know where to begin.
“Building a business is undoubtedly a gruelling process, but acceleration should not come at the expense of you or your team’s happiness. Taking external capital can often jeopardise your vision and control, which ultimately impacts your relationship with the business.
“Consider raising capital from customers rather than investors; this way you will always have an insight into your market’s needs and you’ll always have a good understanding of how the market is responding to your product or service. Focusing on profits and revenues enables you to create a healthy cash flow, happier customers, and a sustainable business.”
Vicky Brock is a serial entrepreneur who recently co-founded her 5th technology company, the consumer protection software startup, Vistalworks. Their mission is to empower people with information that can help them make wiser choices as they shop online and protect what they care about most.
Vicky and her team have developed data technology that helps consumers and their families stay safe from the risk of dangerous, fake and illegal products. They’ve created a series of free browser plugins and apps that automatically warn shoppers when the products being offered to them on online marketplaces and social media platforms that are not all that they seem.
The creative spark that drove Vistalworks’ solution came from Vicky’s personal experience of being scammed buying coveted trainers online – instead of bagging a pair of hard to find shoes, she ended up with her bank accounts compromised by criminal sellers. The company came about when the team won an innovation challenge set by public bodies tasked with tackling illicit trade, including Trading Standards Scotland, Police Scotland and HMRC. This provided them not just with their first revenue, but also very supportive ongoing feedback that has been valuable for shaping and improving the service.
“For aspiring entrepreneurs, find a problem worth solving, and quickly validate whether anyone else cares enough to commit their time and money so you can make small steps towards solving it.
“I’m a complete opportunistic problem solver. I spot problems everywhere and have quite a structured process for validating whether problems can be solved through a startup. But the most important step from moving from an idea to a business is the validation that comes from a customer willing to commit their time and money to your vision – that way you create the solution together.”
Philippa is the founder of The Circle Line, an online therapy platform. She has turned her experiences with mental health into a movement, with the aim to help people work towards living the life they truly want.
The topic of mental health has been a taboo for a long time. The Circle Line team want to change this perception and remove the stigma, so that we can all better understand ourselves and each other, and so manage and improve our mental health. This innovative new platform for therapy and self-development makes accessing professional support with your mental health easy, affordable and convenient.
“Stay patient. Stay flexible. Stay honest.
“Stay Patient: Against my usual tendency, I’ve learnt fastest isn’t always best. How can you work sustainably without burning out? Sometimes the time just isn’t right and pushing or rushing won’t help. Are your current decisions and actions coming from a place of fear, or trust?
“Stay Flexible: Sometimes we need to change course. If we listen we can realise that we were on the wrong course or that someone else has a better way. I’m learning not to get too attached to any particular ideal or solution. There may be better ones out there.
“Stay honest: For me, there is no other way. Honesty underpins good relationships, which underpin good business. I find blagging, evading, exaggerating or hiding things pointless and obvious in the end. It’s so tempting but usually just makes things far too complicated.”
Puja Balachander’s business, Devie Coach, is a digital coach which supports every parent to help their child grow, through daily 2-5 minute AI-powered chats.
Parents chat about their hopes and challenges while being asked questions to understand their needs. They also receive feedback about what’s going on developmentally with their child, and Devie recommends research-based activities that might help.
Puja’s aim is to ensure Devie makes the process fun, with a positive, non-judgmental attitude, and lots of parenting gifs and memes along the way! You can chat with Devie via their app for Android or iOS.
The business’ mission is to support every parent to help their child grow. Puja’s vision is that every child starts school and life with an equal chance for success and that every parent feels confident and satisfied in their ability to provide their child with this start
“Be scrappy and, when in doubt, focus on your end-users.
“Finding ways to test your assumptions that take the least amount of money and effort is such an important way to vet and evolve an idea. And when you’re in doubt about the direction in which to take your product, default to what your users do, not what they say.”
Leo-Amber Maria Johnson
Leo-Amber is the founder of Glow N Chill, a Pop-up Beauty parlour, located in Restaurants and Cafes around London. Leo-Amber also founded Hello Leo in 2019, which her clients call ‘the best Hospitalitarian Tech’ for Property and Hospitality Management.
“Don’t stop thinking about being innovative. Innovation is what makes a simple idea, a great idea.”
Celebrating our community of inspiring women
We asked you, our followers and community of small business owners, to nominate the inspiring women in your life. Thank you to everyone who reached out. We’ll be adding new names to this blog throughout next week, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, so watch this space! 🎉