News Opinion

Female founders essential to economic recovery

Scottish innovation and entrepreneurship has been put to the test since the onset of the pandemic. With many sectors being severely impacted by two nation-wide lockdowns and ongoing social restrictions, we have seen many businesses forced to adapt and focus their efforts on new markets, while a number of start-ups have also emerged to leverage opportunities created within the adversity of Covid-19.

During this time we’ve seen some great examples of collaborative working to promote innovation across a range of businesses, including those which are women-led.  With support from the Women’s Business Station and its wider network, Dundee-based businesswoman Audrey Glen pivoted her focus from her wedding and events business, which was severely hit from the early onset of the first lockdown, to a new virtual Admin/PA company, Audrey Virtual Assistant, which she launched last summer.

Companies like these, being set up by inspiring and enterprising women, not only demonstrate the resilience of Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem but are also an essential aspect of our future economic growth.

Women owned businesses currently contribute £8.8bn to the Scottish economy (Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), 2021) and it’s estimated that helping more of them succeed could add a further £13bn in economic value and create over 300,000 jobs (WES, 2021). As the Scottish Government reported last year, closing the existing entrepreneurial gender gap and helping create more female-founded businesses could result in economic growth of up to 5% as well as 35,000 new jobs.

Increasing the level of female-founded businesses has also been a key focus for the UK Government. In 2019, Alison Rose reported on her Treasury-commissioned independent review of female entrepreneurship which shed a light on the barriers faced by women in starting and growing businesses and identified ways of unlocking this untapped talent. In response to her report, the UK Government announced a plan to increase the number of the nation’s female entrepreneurs by 600,000 by 2030 with a series of phased steps being taken in collaboration with industry to help achieve this ambition.

Extra support for female entrepreneurs is more vital than ever given the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women, especially those in lower income households. Women are more likely than men to work in sectors such as hospitality, retail, leisure, tourism and travel that have been most affected by lockdown restrictions. Changing work patterns, due to home schooling and increased caring responsibilities, have also taken their toll on women who have been found twice as likely to give up paid work to care for children, elderly relatives and ill family members during the Covid crisis.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland have launched the Women’s Business Centre as a free digital resource to help women bring their business ideas to life and flourish as business owners. Since launch the site has supported hundreds of women to start up with practical support and inspiring stories.

The Resilience and Recovery report, based on data from Beauhurst’s Covid-19 Business Impact Tracker, cited a continued equity funding gap between male and female-led companies last year. It reported that just 13 per cent of total equity investment in 2020 went towards female-founded start-ups. Where investment was made, it tended to be for smaller amounts even though research shows that once female-founded businesses have received an initial investment, they are just as likely to raise additional rounds of funding compared to male-founded firms. Mint Ventures is a new business angel investment club on a mission to enable more women to become investors and support diverse teams so more female founders can access capital.

Jackie Waring, Founder & CEO Investing Women Angels & AccelerateHER comments,

“Increasing investment in female founded companies in Scotland is an imperative for the future health and growth of our economy.  At Investing Women, 90% of our investment has backed female founders leading often pioneering scientific and medical breakthroughs and ground breaking technologies. We have such incredible female talent here in Scotland; it’s time for transformational change in the level of investment we make in that talent and the depth of ‘readiness’ support we give to these founders whose innovations improve health, lives, the environment and Scotland’s international competitiveness.”

There is clearly an opportunity to reset the business landscape in Scotland beyond the pandemic and support women by promoting a can-do attitude within an entrepreneurial society. This is where the Can Do Collective has a significant role to play, by demonstrating ways in which collaborative working between Scottish female-led businesses can help to inspire others, nurture a stronger entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately accelerate economic growth.

The Can Do Collective has established itself as a driving force for post-COVID recovery plans across the nation. Working in close collaboration, the Can Do Collective is a community of 70+ enterprise support organisations whose mission is to build a world-leading entrepreneurial, innovative and creative society.  Can Do Partners such as Association of Scottish Businesswomen, Women’s Business Station, Women’s Enterprise Scotland, Investing Women and Business Women Scotland, among others, will continue to focus on how Scotland can further promote female entrepreneurship across the nation.

Bronwen Thomas, Digital Projects and Marketing Manager at Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) comments,

“By working together to enable women to start up and thrive in business we can build back better and close widening gender gap in enterprise participation to create a significant boost for the Scottish economy.”

Hazel Jane, Convener of the Can Do Collective, comments:

‘We must ensure that the impact of the pandemic serves as a catalyst for positive change, which includes increasing the level of female-founded businesses in Scotland – not simply to readdress the disproportionate impact that Covid has had upon women but also as an effective means of rebuilding the Scottish economy long into the future’

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International Insight with Andy Stoll

Social entrepreneur & Senior Programme Officer, Andy Stoll, shares his thoughts and perspectives on entrepreneurial ecosystems and the power of friendship.

Responding to a New Era

In December 2020, Scotland Can Do Partners were honoured to be joined by Andy Stoll, Social Entrepreneur & Senior Programme Officer at the Kauffman Foundation. Andy shared his thoughts and perspectives on entrepreneurial ecosystems and the power of friendship, as we respond to a new era. Reflecting on Scotland he shared..

‘What I found so fascinating was the work that was going on across the entire country right across all of Scotland everybody working together, and how there was the grass roots bottom up and top down more government orientated, government funded work and that the bottom up and top down were coming together. I was so impressed, and I said at the time and still say that I am yet to see another sovereign state country saying we are going to do this across the entire region, in the United States we struggle with even doing it with the US states and you’re doing it across all of Scotland… I’m really impressed and inspired by what you have done.’ – Andy Stoll

Key themes covered in this talk:

  • Creating the environment for collaboration
  • Benefits of mainstreaming entrepreneurship
  • Reinforcing the Scotland Can Do vision and values

Andy Stoll wrote the Kauffman Ecosystem Playbook, leads their EShip summit and has done great work as a social entrepreneur especially in place building at Cedar Rapids.

To learn more, visit Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation |

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Living in Unprecedented Times

A message from Rachael Brown, Convener, Can Do Collective

“We have brilliant minds, innovations, impacts and most of all, kindness.”

It feels like the last week has brought home how much of a defining moment in our history this is, the world has changed.

It’s times like these that entrepreneurial thinking shows it’s true value, yes we are in troubling times, very troubling, but we also choose how to behave and can create the next steps ourselves. We have brilliant minds, innovations, impacts and most of all, kindness.

We, as humans, are defined by what we do in difficult times, I have read many stories over the last few days about local businesses cooking meals, creating food packs, sharing resources and taking time to support the most vulnerable in our society. 

This is leadership, this is community

The Can Do Collective is a community of enterprise support organisations from across Scotland, who represent each sector and are committed to building a world-leading entrepreneurial, innovative and creative society. 

We are focused on enabling entrepreneurs to flourish. We believe that innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are key to the economic, social and environmental success of Scotland. We are committed to Collective Impact, collaborations and collective communications. We work in an environment that is supportive, challenging, honest and trustworthy. We believe that by sharing good work, high standards of engagement and continuously measuring for improvement we can and we do contribute to Scotland being the most entrepreneurial, innovative and creative society in the world.

We take seriously our responsibility, our place in the world. 

Over the coming weeks and months we will be visable and proactive in our efforts to support businesses and enable good work to happen. This will not be in traditional ways but we are not in traditional times.

Please stay safe,

Rachael Brown,

Convener, Can Do Collective 2019 & 2020