Ambition & Growth Conference

Women investors urged to ‘believe’ and forget they are female

Susan PrestonFemale entrepreneurs and investors were told today to stop thinking of themselves as women but simply as the builders of businesses.

They had to overlook labels that might hold them back and seek opportunities on equal terms with men.

Consultant Susan Preston (pictured left)) regarded as the founder of women angel groups in the US, told a conference in Edinburgh that women ask for less money, yet they pay it back more quickly.

“The banks should take us more seriously. Let’s get that message out there,” she said, adding that women should ask for what they need to grow their businesses.

“Women tend to under-ask and then try to make it work through sacrifices,”

More than 230 delegates attending the first Ambition and Growth conference, organised by Investing Women, heard from a panel of female achievers.

Lena Wilson (below), chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, said she did not see herself in terms of being a woman, but as an equal to the men around her.

“A lack of self-belief can hamper women, not a lack of talent,” she said, adding that she had faced the usual media stereotypical references, including one which described her as “lovely and doe-eyed”. She said: “I do smile at those things because of where I am. But we want to break some of that down.”

Lena Wilson 2

Lesley Eccles 8

Lesley Eccles (above), a vice president of the fantasy sports games company FanDuel, said she too never saw herself as a female among her male co-founders.

“I refused to be the one making the coffee and cleaning up or “mothering” the guys. I was just part of the team,” she said.

She confirmed that FanDuel would be launching in the UK later this year and added that she was confident that the on-going issues over the legality of fantasy games would be resolved and that the company would emerge stronger.


The opening day of the two-day conference heard Investing Women founder Jackie Waring (above) encourage women to emulate the rate of investment by female angels in the US.

Dr Preston, however, said that even in the US there was work to be done. Less than 30% of businesses are owned by women and only 2% have revenues above $1 million.

Leah Hutcheon

Winner of the AccelerateHER competition

An online booking specialist won an £18,000 pitching competition organised by Investing Women.

Appointedd was selected from more than 100 entrants. Chief executive Leah Hutcheon (above) was presented with a £5,000 cash prize by Scottish Government Minister Annabelle Ewing, MSP, at a gala dinner at Edinburgh Castle. Appointedd will also benefit from a £13,000 package of mentoring, legal and accountancy support from AccelerateHER sponsor Chiene + Tait.

LINC Scotland, the umbrella group of Scotland angel investor organisations, added £5,000 to the prize fund which will be shared between the five runner-up businesses.

The Edinburgh-based start-up has revolutionised the way small businesses sell their appointments online.

Neil Norman, entrepreneurial partner at Chiene + Tait, said: “Appointedd has all the hallmarks of a great business. We are delighted that we are going to work with Leah Hutcheon to help Appointedd grow – it’s tremendously exciting to work with emerging entrepreneurs and we are extremely proud to be helping out.”

Jackie Waring IW confJackie Waring,  of Investing Women, said: “Leah and the team at Appointedd typifies the high quality of emerging female entrepreneurship we have been fortunate to witness throughout the AccelerateHER process.”

Stephen Ingledew, MD Marketing at Standard Life, said: “I was impressed by the quality of the pitches from all the finalists in the competition but Leah’s entrepreneurial spirit in particular stood out.”

In a message to delegates, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who was unable to attend –  said: “Tackling the enterprise gender-gap is absolutely crucial for ensuring that Scotland’s economy flourishes. The bottom line is we need to champion female role models across all sectors and debunk the myths that there are roles specifically for boys or girls.

“The work driven forward by Investing Women is creating these role models at the most senior levels of successful growing enterprises. This will continue to break down and change attitudes about gender imbalance.”

Picture gallery (photos by Terry Murden, click on image to enlarge)

Alex Feechan of Findra; delegates enjoying coffee; Paula Skinner of Harper MacLeod; Ronnie Johnston of Informatics Ventures

Alex FeechanDelegates at coffee breakPaula SkinnerRonnie Johnston

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