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Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Business

Historically, women have had a hard time starting and developing their own businesses. This has often been because they lack capital and are reluctant to approach the market for finance. Women often claim not to understand the language of business and may not appreciate the growth potential of their ideas. FEW! sets out to break down these barriers, to demystify the business world for women and to make finance a tool rather than a hurdle.

FEW! forms part of the Inclusive Growth pillar of the GROW programme, helping to give women recognition as business people in their own right and introducing previously hidden innovators to the business world. It supports the objectives of the EU Lisbon agenda to provide “more jobs, better jobs and improved social cohesion”, addressing issues of competitiveness and innovation, creation and development of new businesses and employment.

The project brings together six partners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands and is led by Finance South East (UK). Their aim is to help women become familiar and confident with the language of business and with business planning, and guide them in how to approach different bodies to seek finance. The methods used are workshops and seminars, intensive one-on-one support for selected businesses and research into availability of finance for women in each partner country.

FEW! entered an environment in which some women’s businesses were struggling or even collapsing due to insufficient funding. Opportunities were being missed in the market place because good ideas were not being promoted or exploited well enough. Women were on social security when they could instead have been in business and contributing to the wealth and welfare of all. Many were suffering from lack of self-esteem and even depression.

As the project moves towards its end, FEW! Has seen 15 new businesses started in Spain, 13 in Poland and 12 in the UK. It generated €229,300 in new investment for 11 female-run businesses, one in the UK and 10 in Poland. As an indirect result of the project, a micro-credit fund has been established in the South East England region for women to borrow up to €7,500. FEW! has made 278 women in four countries more au fait with the world of finance and brought about a change of mindset in one UK fund, which is now lending money to two women-owned companies (total lent: €667,300).

“It makes us really proud to see businesses run by women thriving and succeeding, and to feel that we were able to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” said Anne Minter of Finance South East.

Looking to the future, project partners see one of their key successes as achieving a change of attitude among providers of funding to women in business. In practical terms, the micro-credit in South East England remains on tap and an extra £15,000 has been made available in the region for work with more women through the current financial year (April 07/April 08).

In The Netherlands (Brabant) and Poland regional policy-makers are building support of female businesses into their three-year regional plans.

Project partners also feel the shared experience of working together in FEW! means that links will remain and ensure strong future cooperation.

“Break down barriers, demystify the world of business for women, give them a hand up, not a hand out.”


Anne Minter PM

Finance South East

Riverside House, 4 Meadows Business Park, Station Approach,

Blackwater, Surrey, GU17 9AB

Tel: +44 1276 608510