Female entrepreneurship is growing at a fast pace. Although globally the gap between women- and men-owned businesses is still high, female entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing areas of the economy and you only need to search online or flick through the pages of most business and lifestyle magazines to increasingly find female founders and female launched start-ups prominently featured. In the UK, for example, female businesses are still 20% of all businesses but according to Stylist, female millionaire business owners will rise to 53% by 2020!
Female entrepreneurship matters across all sectors of the economy, even more so in travel & tourism, a sector that is thriving and has historically attracted women. The benefits of female entrepreneurship are almost self- evident but if you need a reminder let me just mention 3:
- The possibility to do the things you love in a way that suits you
- Engaging with the economy while keeping a better balance between work and personal life (or at least writing your own rules of engagement!)
- Finding greater meaning in the day to day, often marrying purpose and profit.
But what happens when you have a great idea and / or you have already launched your own business? How will it grow, develop, flourish and you – as the female founder – with it?
Often there are a number of priority issues to deal with. For example, funding, advice and more general support. So which resources are available to up and coming female (or non-) travel start-ups?
Let’s take a look at some.
Incubators and Accelerators
These are now a bit of a buzz word in the start-up world. They are meant to fast forward your success by offering creative space; a network of likeminded entrepreneurs; mentorship and funding preparation. They don’t tend to distinguish between men and female founders but some clearly focus on the travel & tourism industry and almost invariably are technology led. Recently a number of these have sprung up worldwide, but mostly in the US and Europe, for example:
- Amadeus NEXT – focussed on the Asia Pacific travel start-up scene
- Airbus BizLab – a global aerospace business accelerator
- Com Booster – aimed at promoting sustainable tourism ideas
- The Marriott Hotels TestBED – that aims to find cutting edge technologies that can transform the guest experience.
The selection process can no doubt be quite daunting, but once in you are almost guaranteed a runway to success!
Co-working and innovation spaces
With 13,800 co-working spaces globally, and over one million people using co-working spaces worldwide at the beginning of 2017, Prowess suggests we are in the midst of a co-working space revolution.
These spaces are often easier to access than pure accelerators but can also offer great benefits in terms of networking, innovation and creativity. Interestingly, female only spaces have been launched in New York and London: The Wing and B.Hive.
Spaces of this kind tend to include businesses from a variety of sectors, but once again, they are often technology led.
In London, the TravelTechLab is a prime example of a travel focussed innovation space that brings together technology startups with big corporates within the travel industry.
Mentoring & Networking
If the options above are not feasible, gaining access to mentors and broader networks, whether they are from the travel and tourism community, the women in business community or a mix of the two can be equally as helpful.
Mentors can be found amongst industry contacts; alumni networks; specialist/industry focussed & professional bodies based in the relevant country or indeed internationally. Often it is a matter of ‘popping the question’ to the right person – but it is crucial to have thought through what the mentoring is supposed to achieve and thus who the right person might be.
Networks can also be accessed in a variety of circumstances, from networking groups that meet on a weekly basis to trade-fair events such as the Women in Travel Meetup events at various World Travel Market (watch this space for WTM London in November 2017!)
Whatever one chooses the point is clear. As a female founder entrepreneur there is no need to act alone or feel lonely as there are opportunities out there to make connections and engage with many others on different levels. It is up to us to ensure we stay connected and identify the most suitable ways. Help is at hand!