Last week I headed to The Festival of Female Entrepreneurs by Enterprise Nation. I was really unsure what to expect as women only events aren’t usually my thing but I had the best day and felt super lucky to be a part of such an awesome event sat alongside some brilliant ladies and hearing from some of the best entrepreneurs across a range of industries.
Emma Jones, thank you for putting on this event, especially in Bristol it really showed what female empowerment is all about. <3
We heard from Nisha Katona MBE – Founder of Mowgli street foods. After leaving a flourishing career as a barrister to spread the word about Bengali cuisine, Nisha has defied the naysayer by opening SEVEN Mowgli sites, with plans for more in the pipeline – one being Bristol and I’m so buzzing to try it!
Jenny Tooth OBE – CEO, UK Angels Business Association & Della Hudson – Accountant and Business coach spoke about how every £1 of money venture capitalists invest in start-ups, only £0.10p goes to female founders. They spoke about how female founders can explore the best finance options and how to built confidence to take a leap into the next phase of business. Jenny also discussed the lack of angels in the South West and something she is working on improving!
Ruby Lee, – Studio 77 Emma Alexander, – Mother Bran Martina McDonnell – Facebook and Rachel Wilkins – Dell. They spoke about trends and opportunities for women working in digital with one stand out piece of advice ‘don’t be put off by the lack of female digital role models. Prove them wrong and just bloody do it’ #justbloodydoit get it trending 😊
And Rebecca Linnell and Sarah Barrett – Make me famous: How Rebecca converted a farmhouse into one of the most in-demand dog hotels in the country.
Everyone was amazing, and then Dame Stephanie (Steve) Shirley took to stage, we sold out her book ‘Let it go’ I cried, we clapped – a lot and clapped again from a lady with the most amazing story, energy, wit and intelligence. So yeah a lot of people asked if she could adopt us and we also asked what it is like having a dame title? – she said – ”it’s pretty good as you always get a table at a good restaurant.” 🙂
If you haven’t heard of Steve Shirley she is a workplace revolutionary and successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist who exercises every day 😊
Her life story begins with her 1939 arrival in Britain as an unaccompanied Kindertransport refugee. In 1962, she started a software house, freelance programmers that pioneered new work practices and changed the position of professional women, especially in hi-tech. She went on to create a global business and a personal fortune which she shared with her colleagues; she made 70 of her staff millionaires at no cost to anyone but herself.
Since retiring in 1993, her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in giving back to society. In the words of her friend Baroness Martha Lane Fox ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and it’s a line she often deploy when talking to people about the complex issues of equality in the rapidly growing technology sector. How can girls chose careers in tech if they don’t see opportunities for them in companies, How can women apply for jobs in the sector, or start technology based businesses if the world looks so unlike them? Well if we looked in the right direction we would see Dame Stephanie Shirley, the woman we should all aspire to be.
We seem to have gone backwards or at least sideways in using Steve’s creative ways to build successful, diverse companies. What Martha says I also completely agree with from hearing from her and also reading her book.
It’s not just how to be a woman in a male-dominated industry but more importantly how to have a life that is meaningful for its entire length. Too often, especially in the culture of start-ups and technology we lionise founders who build huge monopiles or who achieve some massive company valuations. Steve did this but she did far more of more importance as well. I highly recommend this book and that you take inspiration as I do and I think everyone else in the room did from this brave and brilliant woman. “We can see what we should all be. Let’s just make sure we are all looking” – boom!
Her advice – “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, have energy self-belief, determination and be the very best that you can in your own way.”
And that my friends is why Women Rock will always be a platform to share the best stories from fascinating women who are bossing it and just lovely humans. I came away inspired and a brain buzzing of ideas of how to take all of this to the next level.
Link to Dame Stephanie’s book (do something today and buy it) : here
Info from Enterprise Nation: here
Thank you again, I’ll be back next year
An interview by Alicia Teagle
a voice of diversity in tech.