£10m loan fund to accelerate growth of women-owned businesses


Enterprising Women, the business community for women entrepreneurs, announced today that it has agreed a £10m loan fund for its members with partners Lloyds TSB Commercial.

Women looking for funding to start or grow their business will receive training through a unique investment readiness programme, and further support from a new mentoring programme, also launched today at the Enterprising Women’s 2nd birthday celebrations.

Bev Hurley, experienced entrepreneur and CEO of YTKO Ltd, the creators of Enterprising Women, has seen the research evidence of inferior funding deals for women-owned businesses, but says it’s a complex area that needs to be addressed in a more holistic and pragmatic way.

‘Women say that they are often discouraged from seeking business loans, have been advised that re-mortgaging their homes would be a better, or the only, way of financing their business, charged a higher interest rate, despite all the evidence showing women are a good credit risk, and so on. They also report that some funders still have very traditional assumptions and stereotypes about women’s enterprise.

‘But we also know that women on average undercapitalize their businesses by about a third compared to men-owned business for various reasons, that they have different motivations, values and approaches to enterprise, and a more cautious attitude to risk and debt.’

‘And our long experience shows that many entrepreneurs, both men and women, still don’t robustly test and validate their business plan against the commercial reality of the market. Lack of knowledge about the challenges, costs and timescales of getting customer revenues can lead to struggling and unsustainable businesses.’

The new loan fund, training and mentoring programme aims to address all these different challenges in a joined up way. Generally, women-owned businesses also tend to grow more slowly than men’s, and Enterprising Women wanted a strong financial partner who would add long-term value to their members, not just with a great product, but with the right experience and attitude.

Steve Elsom, who spearheaded the partnership from Lloyds TSB Commercial, was enthusiastic about the great fit between Lloyds TSB’s business ethos and Enterprising Women’s rapidly growing community, which encompasses women at all stages, from pre-start entrepreneurs all the way to established high growth businesses.

‘Being there “for the journey” is our approach to providing a value-added banking relationship’ said Steve. ‘Just like Enterprising Women, we are there at every step of the way too, supporting clients with Relationship Managers who have understanding, experience, strong local knowledge, and who are empowered to make quick decisions. Our Relationship Managers are also going to receive extra training from Enterprising Women to really enhance their understanding of women-owned business – we want to go the extra mile to ensure that we provide the best possible service.’

Women will be able to apply to borrow up to £30,000 in any one application. Bev Hurley underlines the strength of the offering: ‘This is a £10 million fund, with no hidden extras or penalties, and with up to four year repayment terms. The application process is simple and straightforward. It’s a great source of funding and personal support for women looking to start or expand their business.’

The Enterprising Women training course, called Market and Finance Readiness for Women (MRF4Women), has been developed from YTKO’s highly successful Investment Readiness programme. Whilst still focusing on the most critical and challenging part of any business – the ability to get the right number of customers at the right price, it has been designed to address more specifically the needs of women-owned business.

The third component launched today is the new Mentor service. Enterprising Women Manager, Kate Gray, comments, ‘We have a strong demand for mentors to help with the challenges of running a business, wherever they are in their enterprise journey. The community is expanding so rapidly that we have been able to find an increasing number of experienced mentors willing to give something back.’

‘Our service is an effective combination of searchable profiles and selection online, and offline matching, facilitation and support. Mentors offer the all-important face-to-face support, as well as by email and phone. Of course, it’s not just Enterprising Women who can be mentors, we welcome men and women with experience from a range of different backgrounds, sectors and locations.’

Over 150 business women attended the Enterprising Women 2nd birthday party event in Cambridge where these announcements were made. The Enterprising Women community also revealed it would be responding to demand to open its online doors to business women outside of the region, along with the launch of the first Enterprising Women business awards which will be celebrated at their annual conference taking place later on in the year.


1.The level of start-up capitalisation used by women-owned businesses is, on average, only one third of that used by male-owned businesses. (Women's Business Ownership, Professor Sara Carter, 2006).

2.Recent evidence from the UK Survey of SME Finances reported that women were charged more than men on term loans (2.9% vs. 1.9%). No other study has found such a large difference in loan terms, and this result needs further research and explanation. (Women's Business Ownership, Professor Sara Carter, 2006)

3.There are well over 1 million self-employed women in the UK, and that number is growing daily, with the most entrepreneurial age group being 35 – 44 (GEM 2006)

4.Women starting up in business tend to provide a more immediate contribution to the economy: around one in five women come into self-employment from unemployment compared with around one in fifteen for men. (SBS Promoting Female Entrepreneurship, March 2005).

5.Increasing the number and sustainability of female entrepreneurship is a now key part of the UK government’s new enterprise strategy www.berr.gov.uk/bbf/enterprise-smes/enterprise-framework/index.html, fully supported by the East of England Development Agency, EEDA (www.eeda.org.uk), and the government recently announced a new equity fund to help finance women-owned businesses with growth aspirations.

6.Enterprising Women www.enterprising-women.org was originally funded by EEDA and ESF (European Social Fund), and continues to be supported by EEDA. Enterprising Women’s membership a year ago was approximately 1500, and now it is approaching 4000. Last year, those 1500 member businesses turned over approximately £53 million, and spent nearly £3m in the region each year. The project has already helped women create 250 brand new businesses in the East of England that are going strong.


Press contacts

Contact Kate Gray, 01223 421476, kate.gray@ytko.com for further information on YTKO and Enterprising Women.
Contact Richard Chapman, 0117 922 7799, richard.chapman@uk.grayling.com, for further information on Lloyds TSB Commercial.


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