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Three women championing Welsh business

Welsh business opportunities for global growth backed by these three women

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Led by our female and Welsh CEO Ann Ellis, Mauve Group is on a mission to support Welsh businesses. To encourage expansion at home and abroad, Mauve is proud to be launching Mauve Cymru – giving Welsh businesses new opportunities to take their organisations global.

Encouraging Welsh women in business is an important part of growing Wales’ influence on a global stage. This is being recognised by the government and investors – large-scale investment opportunities have been announced for female-led Welsh businesses, facilitated by the Development Bank of Wales and Angels Invest Wales only a couple of weeks ago.

We spoke to three women championing Welsh businesses to find out how their networks are coming together to back business growth in Wales, and what more can be done to help more women achieve entrepreneurial success.

Gemma Casey, Ecosystem Manager- Wales at NatWest and podcast host of Inspiring Women Wales

Gemma leads NatWest’s enterprise support partnerships; she is passionate about championing small businesses and is dedicated to supporting other women in business who are on the same quest.

Gemma’s podcast Inspiring Women Wales shares stories of brilliant businesswomen, their challenges, and inspiring stories of how to grow a business.

What would you like your audience to take away from your podcast “Inspiring Women Wales”?

Gemma: I first pitched the idea for the podcast series (Inspiring Women Wales) because I was meeting fantastic female founders day in and day out. I would hear stories of why they set up their businesses, the challenges they’d overcome, and the sheer joy they got from what they did was just so wonderful to hear.

The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, launched in 2019 by NatWest CEO Dame Alison Rose, reported that women say they don’t have relatable role models. I knew that by telling these stories I could go some way to put that right.

So I hope that Inspiring Women Wales does what it says on the tin – that it both tells the story of inspiring women in Wales, and inspires others to follow their path. I hope it shines a light on the fact that no matter your back story, and your starting point, with confidence and support, you can achieve that dream of running your own business.

What are your hopes for women in business in Wales?

Gemma: Last week the equalities organisation Chwarae Teg published its annual State of the Nation report, charting progress towards gender equality in Wales. It showed that just 14% of SMEs in Wales are led by women.

That said, we are fortunate in Wales to have a plethora of business support organizations, such as Network She, which offers members training opportunities and the chance to connect with a strong community. Others such as Assadaqaat Community Finance work with people in under-represented communities, offering finance and business support and the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme, which supports businesses to scale to the next level.

Often though women report that they aren’t sure where to access support. I hope that a woman in Wales who wants to start a business, or who has a business and wants to scale, can come to any one of us and be confident that she will be signposted to the right support at the right time for her.

What do you think could be done to ensure more women get into senior roles in Welsh businesses?

Gemma: Last week’s State of the Nation report from Chwarae Teg says that women are underrepresented in senior roles, making up 39% of managers, directors and senior officials.

To increase that number, to start to approach something like equality, we need to be showcasing the women who have achieved those positions, with examples of female business leaders to whom we can relate. That might be women leaders who are working flexibly, or ‘leaving loudly’ as the new phrase has it, not afraid to show that they do the school run or have other caring responsibilities, for example.

There are so many different elements to tackling this. But while the issues are addressed at a more fundamental level, the least we can do is to tell the stories of those women who are in senior positions, as well as create ‘communities’ in which future leaders can be supported and nurtured and helped with the confidence they’ll need to take the next step.

Ann Ellis, CEO and Co-Founder of Mauve Group

Ann founded the global company Mauve Group nearly 27 years ago and in her role as CEO, Ann leads Mauve in supporting businesses of all sizes to expand overseas and provides global workforce solutions in more than 150 country locations worldwide.

The launch of Mauve Cymru, speaks to Ann’s mission to support Welsh businesses and encourage growth in the Welsh communities where she laid the foundations for the business.

How will the launch of Mauve Cymru help growing Welsh businesses?

Ann: The launch of Mauve Cymru will present new opportunities for Welsh businesses to bring their products and services to new international markets – and they don’t need to have huge resources, infrastructure or knowledge to go global. Wales is a growing player on the global stage, and its soft power is building momentum. The national identity is strong and is becoming externally known. We want to help Welsh businesses to leverage this and grow internationally, and also invite external businesses to put down roots in Wales, because they are beginning to see it has so much to offer.

We hope Mauve Cymru will also help to support the recent rise in Welsh entrepreneurism. We’ve seen a huge boost to this in the past few years, with particular acceleration since the pandemic as people moved back to regional centres with new ideas. Cardiff is one of the UK’s fastest-growing tech cities, and Llandudno was announced last year as having the most start-up businesses per capita in the UK. We want to show that there are fertile areas for business and innovation outside traditional UK financial centres.

What are your hopes for women in business in Wales?

Ann: I’ve met many successful women in business on my travels, and most of them share the same principles, I want to promote to Welsh female founders – stick steadfastly to your goals, have a healthy attitude to risk, have confidence in yourself and your ideas, take good advice and surround yourself with the best people you can.

I want to give confidence to Welsh businesswomen and help them to understand anything is achievable. I come from a remote farming community in North Wales and now I lead a global company – that background might not be a traditional route to international success, but the values I learnt in that environment have really helped me in business. I hope by leveraging excellent female skills and developing confidence, Welsh women will make up a fairer proportion of board rooms. This will ultimately help to drive Welsh creativity and innovation.

What do you think could be done to ensure more women get into senior roles in Welsh businesses?

Ann: At the most basic level, I’d like to see women be given more coaching and opportunities to increase their in-work experience. Women are 20% less likely to apply to jobs than men and are less likely to apply for a role unless they meet 100% of the job description’s requirements – whereas men generally have more confidence to apply even if their experience doesn’t exactly match. The barriers to female confidence are an issue – we need to help women realise their worth and harness their skills to get those senior roles.

We should also be encouraging and funding women to start their own businesses if they aren’t getting where they want to through the traditional channels– start it yourself and do it better. The gender funding gap for female-led businesses needs to be addressed.

Tracey Smolinski, Founder and Director of Introbiz

Tracey, the self-proclaimed Connections Queen, founded Introbiz, a business connections agency that is on a mission to impact the business community, by connecting communities to create global opportunities for SME entrepreneurs & business owners to grow their network and business.

How does Introbiz create and connect women with global business opportunities?

Tracey: Introbiz is a connections agency and networking events company, which offers online and in-person events globally. During the pandemic, my business partner Dawn Evans and I created a Facebook community with over 5500 women who were suffering from Imposter Syndrome and wanted guidance. By creating this community, Introbiz has been able to introduce more women in business to each other. The Introbiz community continues to grow as more women want to connect via our introductions.

What are your hopes for women in business in Wales?

Tracey: It’s an exciting time for women in business or women wanting to start up, there is a female angel investor syndicate that has started up WAW, Women Angels of Wales with a plethora of 30 successful female entrepreneurs leading the way on this.

What do you think could be done to ensure more women get into senior roles in Welsh businesses?

Tracey: I think one of the most important ways to ensure women get into senior roles in Welsh businesses is by creating a leadership development initiative for companies to offer more women training and development in the workplace.

To celebrate growing Welsh businesses, new global opportunities, and the launch of Mauve Cymru, join event hosts Mauve Group during Wales Week London.  Secure your ticket here.

At Mauve, we are proud of our Welsh roots and want to help any business planning to grow into or beyond Wales. Get in touch to find out more about our global business expansion services.