We’ve onboarded more than 100,000 female members. Here’s what they’ve told us about starting a business 

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #EmbraceEquity, we want to share with you the latest from our Women In Business programme. 

And in light of this important celebration, we wanted to give our female members a voice. That’s why earlier in February, we surveyed* our members from across the UK to understand both the challenges and the opportunities they face when starting up, and the support they’re looking for to help them grow. We received close to 2,000 responses, which gave us a wider perspective on how to continue to help more women start their business. 

Empowering women is a topic that’s close to home for me: whether that’s the women on my team or the women in business we serve at Tide. To this day, female entrepreneurs continue to be an under-represented group – that means championing each other is a priority, so our strengths are recognised.

We’ve fulfilled our commitment to helping 100,000+ female-led businesses

Back in 2019, we set a target to welcome 100,000 female-led businesses in the UK by the end of 20231 , to support them in starting and running their own business.

This initiative was in response to the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship2, first published in March 2019, which found that only 32% of UK entrepreneurs are women. It revealed a huge untapped potential for the UK economy, as well as a real need for greater support for women entrepreneurs.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we exceeded our target almost a year early, and have welcomed over 100,000 women** to our platform. It’s a great achievement and one we’re very proud of: a testament to our desire, at Tide, to support more women in entrepreneurship.

But our work doesn’t stop here. We’re continuing to push boundaries with new targets, starting with our new UK commitment that we’ll announce later this year to support more women in entrepreneurship. We’ve also committed ourselves to empower 500,000 women-led small businesses in India by 20273.

The top roadblocks for women in business

Recent figures show that all-female-led companies accounted for a record 20% of all new businesses created in the UK in 2022, up from 16% in 20184

That’s why supporting women isn’t just a wise step to take but a crucial one if we want to see the UK economy thrive. 

While there has been great progress in recent decades, women are still more likely to be underrepresented, with wider society not recognising the huge potential that female entrepreneurship has.

After sending out our survey, we found that 19% of women cited gender as a barrier to successfully launching their business – three times more than the response from men.

Also, 1 in 2 (53%) women across the UK said that they find it challenging to start their own business. This was mainly due to major barriers. 

Limited access to finance

The number one barrier holding more than half (54%) of women back from starting their own business is access to funding. 50% of our survey respondents said they got rejected after applying for a loan or investment to fund their new business.

Other challenges that jeopardised their path to starting their business included:

  • No business mentor or a role model – 11% 
  • Limited knowledge of how to set up a business – 9% 
  • Lack of self-confidence – 8%
  • Limited knowledge of the business areas – 7%

Ethnic and regional barriers 

Our survey showed that there’s still lots of work to be done to ensure equality for women with an ethnic minority background. More than 2 in 3 (68%) Black female business owners reported that the process of launching a new business is challenging – 20% more than their white and Indian counterparts (49%).

Location was also an important factor in the success of women-led SMEs. We found that Northern Ireland was the toughest place in the UK for women to start their business (73%), followed by Scotland (64%) and North East England (59%). On the other hand, London (21.3%), South East (18.6%) and North West (10.4%) were named as the top regions for women to start their business.

Caregiving duties

Even in the modern era, the majority of caring responsibilities continue to fall on women5, and they’re far more likely to have to care for children and elderly family members. 

Among the women who responded to our survey, 42% of them had dependents under 18 years old. 55% of them said it was challenging to start up their business, while 7% of them mentioned that lack of caregiving was their primary roadblock. Not to mention the difficulties of getting access to funding, as noted above, which could help them pay for additional care for their dependents.

We’re listening to you. And here’s how we’re taking action today

We believe that gender shouldn’t be a barrier for women to start their own business. However, we still have a long way to go in making it easier for them to do this, including tackling hurdles in funding and mentorship. 

In the meantime, we’re still listening. We’re working on providing further support to help our members expand their networks, improve their operational know-how, secure finance and reach their full potential as successful SMEs. 

One of the ways we’re doing this is through our contribution to closing the gender parity gap in SMEs. We’re planning to announce our new commitment in the UK later this year, to empower and support more women to start and grow their own business. 

We’ll also continue to give our female members a voice and celebrate their achievements in our Member Spotlight series.

To all our members who took part in the survey, I’d like to express my gratitude to you. Your contribution helped us shed light on the many roadblocks that are standing in the way of women in business, so we can continue to support them in achieving their deserved success.

Read more about our Women In Business Programme and our latest survey results6.

*The Tide member survey was conducted between 3 and 7 February 2023, with 1,961 total respondents

**Based on an average sample survey of Tide members

Sources used for this article (checked as of 8 March 2023):

  1. Our 2019 commitment to supporting female entrepreneurs
  2. The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship
  3. Tide commits to empowering 500,000 women-led small businesses in India by 2027
  4. The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship – 2023’s progress report
  5. Women’s progression in the workplace
  6. Supporting women in business

Heather Cobb

Heather Cobb

SVP Member Engagement

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