Accelerating funding for women in business

How can female entrepreneurs grab their share of the funding pie? Here are some insights from our recent event on female-led start-ups and access to finance.

The event featured inspiring personal stories from successful entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped, built and sold profitable companies. It gave women who are in the early stages of their business journey practical tips and insights to help them write a killer business plan, value their business, nail the pitching process and secure the investment they need to grow.

The value of women in business

There was a growth surge of  37% year on year in 2021, for businesses started by females, according to the Rose Review, led by our CEO, Alison Rose. But these businesses secure less than 5% of available venture capital funding, according to the British Business Bank’s Small Business Equity Tracker.

As the review points out: “Over 140,000 firms were founded by women last year. This is a record high. However, female-led businesses often are not able to reach their full potential, and this is partly because they are so under-funded compared to male-led enterprises.”

Against a backdrop of the cost of living crisis and challenging conditions for small business owners, investment has never been more important. “If women start and scale businesses at the same rate as men, that would bring an additional £250nm to the UK economy,” said Heather Waters, our North West Regional Enterprise Manager. “At this particular time, we need that, so we do need to champion more women to move forward.”

The right investor: a mentor and a funder

Fund Her North wants at least 30% of all UK investing funding to go to female founders by 2030, but finding the right investor is not just about the money.

A panel of inspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs who have raised capital and been on their own funding journeys shared their insights on why an investor should be someone with skills and experience that will add value to your business. Sophie Milliken, founder and CEO of Moja Group, told the audience how she walked away from shares worth seven figures in a company she built because the values of her investors did not align with her own.

The panel’s top tips for getting funding included:

  • Ask for help – you might be surprised how much people will share what they know
  • Know your numbers and be prepared
  • Build a network
  • Don’t be scared to say what you don’t know, but go away and find out
  • Be bold – don’t underestimate how much money you need and then have to fundraise again in 12 months
  • Know who you’re pitching to and what they invest in
  • Don’t neglect your business while you’re fundraising
  • Try to enjoy it

Pitching perfection: create a one-page ‘business model canvas’

NatWest Accelerator manager Jess Grocutt knows all about supporting entrepreneurs with a key part of the growth journey: pitching. To start, she suggested entrepreneurs create a top-down view of their enterprise, for their own understanding and to share with funders.

“This is one of my favourite tools in business planning, you can use it in early stages of your business, later on, whether you’re planning a new concept or you just want to gain confidence and see your business from a bird’s eye view,” she said. This can help you identify gaps and see where you can improve.

Pitching tips

  • Make every minute count – you often get only 10 minutes maximum to pitch to make that first impression, so really think about the key details you want to share
  • Start your pitch with a ‘hook’ to grab the audience’s attention, such as a statistic or a personal story
  • Outline the problem your business sets out to solve and how you came across it
  • Show what sets you apart and why people will pay for your product
  • Know your figures – the numbers give you credibility

The types of funding available

The type of funding to target is a key question for entrepreneurs. During the event, finance specialists explained what equity investment is and the differences between seed and pre-seed capital, venture capital and private equity.

Each of these types will be more appropriate for different stages of a business’s growth journey. Not every entrepreneur wants to give away a piece of her business or borrow money to secure the funds she needs to grow.

Dr Guilia Sirigu talked through some of the grants available through her organisation, Innovate UK EDGE, showing participants that there are more funding options out there than they might think.

The legal details

Taking legal advice for things like non-disclosure agreements, due diligence questionnaires, and contract terms is another consideration. A good legal professional can:

  • Check the terms of a deal to make sure they are fair
  • Help you protect your company’s intellectual property
  • Get your paperwork in order so you’re ready to meet potential funders


Many entrepreneurs are great at running their business but struggle with the accounting side. To get investment, you need to be on top of your company’s numbers.

Corporate finance experts or chartered accountants could take you through the ins and outs of forecasting, cash flow, and how to value a company even when it is not yet making a profit. Or you might explore accounting software that helps you keep your admin and accounting in one place.

Find out more about how NatWest could help support you on your startup journey.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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