In the Spotlight: Some inspiring women entrepreneurs in the UK
Quite significantly, women entrepreneurs make a huge contribution to the UK economy both by creating jobs and driving economic growth. Women entrepreneurs created a record number of new businesses in the UK in 2022, even as financing remained challenging and macroeconomic uncertainty mounted.
In 2022, women in the UK established over 150,000 new companies – more than twice as many as in 2018, according to the Rose Review Progress report 2023; and one-fifth (20.5%) of all new company incorporations in 2022 were all-female led (up from 16% in 2018).
The government announced an urge to increase the number of women launching companies by half by 2030 – equivalent to nearly 600,000 women entrepreneurs.
One in ten working women in the UK is involved in start-up entrepreneurial activity – a fact that is defined by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor as those involved in ‘total early-stage entrepreneurial activity’ (TEA), ie owning or running any business that is less than three-and-a-half years old.
Here’s presenting some inspiring women entrepreneurs in UK.
> Ella Mills, Co-Founder & Brand Director, Deliciously Ella
Ella Mills took a unique path into the world of entrepreneurship as she turned a once hobbyist blog into a small empire. Daughter of supermarket heiress Camilla Sainsbury and Shaun Woodward, the former Northern Ireland secretary, it was after she was diagnosed with a condition called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, in that her life changed. She adjusted her lifestyle and she began her food and wellness blog in 2012 – Deliciously Ella (which reflected her name).
Ella Mills is the founder and driving force behind the deliciously ella plant-based food brand and platform, which promotes a sustainable and simultaneously healthy life. She founded the popular deliciouslyella.com recipe website in 2012, before writing the New York Times-bestselling deliciously ella cookbook in 2015 and launching a chart-topping app.
She has since achieved a lot. She released four best-selling books, created the deliciously ella podcast, launched a diverse range of plant-based food products into supermarkets, opened a restaurant in London, grown and developed the app into a wellbeing and recipe resource and built a social media audience of over three million people.
As Brand Director, Ella runs the company with her Co-Founder, CEO and husband Matthew Mills. Now Deliciously Ella features a leading range of plant-based food products, an app, a collection of bestselling recipe books, a podcast, restaurant, and a likeminded global community both on and offline.
> Valentina Milanova, Founder & CEO, Daye
Valentina Milanova began her career supporting high-growth companies at Techstars and Founders Factory. While still involved with these jobs, she stepped out into her own journey of entrepreneurship – with the creation of Daye. Daye is an online e-commerce platform that provides research and innovative products, designed to improve standards in the feminine hygiene industry. It is one of the first tampon companies to use CBD to soothe the effects of period pain.
What’s unique is that all the tampons are made from ethically sourced, organic and lab- tested cotton, putting sustainability and customer care front and centre. Even the packaging is environmentally friendly; biodegradable applicators are made of sugarcane and external wrappers are water-soluble, compostable or biodegradable.
Her aim was – primarily to raise the standards in gynae health and help everyone monitor and improve their menstrual, sexual, hormonal and reproductive health.
> Tanvi Bhardwaj, Co-Founder & CTO, MishiPay
After working as a Software Engineer in Bangalore for a year, Tanvi Bhardwaj co- founded her own venture. Along with former classmate Mustafa Khanwala (Co-founder and CEO), the engineering duo are now bridging the gap between the high street and the digital realm with the MishiPay app. Tanvi is responsible for leading the technical vision and execution of the company.
MishiPay can be quickly and easily integrated into existing retailer infrastructure, and has already been deployed in stores across Europe. Tanvi and the MishiPay team have now scaled the company into its venture stage of evolution, after having secured a £10k grant from Manchester Enterprise Centre and three funding rounds worth a combined £5.29m. Investors include Nautu Capital, American Express Ventures and United Ventures.
> Maya Pindeus, Co-Founder & CEO, Humanising Autonomy
Hailing from Austria, Maya Pindeus is an experienced Innovation Design Engineer, and is now the Co-founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company, Humanising Autonomy. Humanising Autonomy develops unique software for autonomous vehicles that analyses and predicts the behaviour of pedestrians as the objective here, is to minimize road accidents. Solving this problem will be a necessary step in effectively rolling out autonomous vehicles. But it can also be implemented in existing technology, in driver assistance systems in vehicles that are already operating on roads across the UK and beyond.
Even though it was only registered in late 2017, it is still in the seed stage of evolution. The company is already operating on a global level and using a variety of data sources to inform its machine learning system, allowing the technology to work effectively in different environments and countries, where pedestrians’ behaviour may differ.
Choosing London as the home for the Humanising Autonomy headquarters has allowed them ‘to build an extremely valuable professional network in London and UK has supported them throughout their entrepreneurial journey.
> Lucrezia Bisignani, Founder & CEO, Kukua
Describing herself as a ‘social entrepreneur’ Lucrezia Bisignani has an eclectic background that cuts across drama & technology. She is the Founder and CEO of edutainment startup Kukua.
Blending edtech with gamification, Kukua develops a range of educational media for children in Africa, featuring strong positive role models that they can truly identify with. The company’s first franchise, Super Sema, portrays the first African child heroine to inspire girls and children and help them develop literacy and numeracy skills. Having started with apps and video content, Kukua is now producing a TV series, books and materials for schools, merchandising consumer products and organizing unique live events and entertainment.
It’s a credit to the strength of the UK’s high-growth ecosystem that, with such an international focus and investment from Europe and beyond, Lucrezia chose the UK as the location to launch her startup. She notes that “there is a general growing excitement to fund women-led companies, and for me the biggest barrier was my self-belief.”
> Joyce and Raissa de Haas, Founders & Co-CEOs, Double Dutch
It’s a story of a successful ‘double-take’ here. Twin sisters Joyce and Raissa de Haas are the Co-Founders of Double Dutch – a premium soft drinks company that designs mixers for high-quality spirits. As students, Joyce and Raissa made tonic waters for their friends and family, as they felt the current offering of tonics were lacking in taste. While at college in London, they first struck on the idea of the Double Dutch concept and were awarded the UCL Bright Ideas Award for most promising startup.
As a result of this recognition, the sisters received cash investment, free office space for the year and mentorship. They launched their first products in 2015. Now they export a million bottles a month of tonics and mixers to over 25 countries worldwide. Double Dutch is in more than 4,500 bars and restaurants across the UK and distributed by a range of online retailers including Waitrose, Ocado and Amazon.
Double Dutch’s other accolades include – Richard Branson’s Virgin Foodpreneur award for most innovative and disruptive food and beverage product in the UK in 2015; and this was followed by the award for Best Adult Soft Drink at the World Beverage Innovation Awards in 2016. In 2019, both of them featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe Retail and E-commerce List.
They twined to work towards success, as they felt that there is a need to encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs. And thankful for the support they got while launching their business, they wanted to give back by creating a network to help other women grow their brands and businesses.