Shortly before leaving the City, I started an informal business network with my female friends; self-employed consultants, entrepreneurs, and women with entrepreneurial spirit.
I spent a lot of time, before I myself became self-employed, wondering where the women like me were hiding. I wanted role models and colleagues that embraced a feminine way of doing business, who were supportive of and empowered other women, and who were emotionally intelligent. Sadly, they were hard to find. And the ones I did find, I grabbed on to like life support and I am grateful to still know today.
Thankfully, in the time since I have left corporate life, we have become spoiled for choice with the emergence of iconic business figures, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington, who champion a feminine approach, and one that allows us to balance competing areas of our lives. Nothing however, seems to provide the flexibility of working for oneself, which is why this article resonates so much with me.
My informal network is now 90 women. I shared this article with them and asked why they became self-employed. Here are some of my favourite responses, which support the article's findings completely. So if you're thinking about taking the leap, here's what lies ahead:
"Years of stressful jobs trying to meet the demands of bosses, keep up with the workload, and try and maintain a personal life took their toll. So I decided I wanted to be my own boss [and] set my own hours doing something I love." Michelle Morris, owner of Cattywags (pet sitting and dog walking service)
"To keep my mind and creative spark alive during the young baby and child phase. I might be a mother, but I'm still me!" Erin Balfour, founder of Way Out Wedding (one of the UK's top wedding bloggers - alternative / indie)
"The creative freedom to push boundaries and create things that hadn't been created in the Islamic sphere before...a hope to leave the world a slightly better place, bring smiles, faith, knowledge and love into homes and families, and do it the way you feel best!" Hajera Memon, founder of Shade 7 Publishing (Islamic educational children's publications)
"I started my company out of frustration that my voice wasn't being heard in my job. I had valid opinions and great ideas of what needed to be done to help the business grow, but wasn't taken seriously as a 'young woman'...I was frustrated that even in a company owned by a woman, the male employees' opinions were always listened to over mine." Jessie Evans, founder of Jessie VE - (luxury jewellery brand)
"After working for almost ten years in the city, I knew I couldn't do that and bring up children. I changed career, retrained as a garden designer whilst having children. and now run my own private practice and a design school." Humaira Ikram, founder of Redscape Design (landscape and design practice)
"I became self employed because I wanted more control of who I worked with and wanted the freedom to do things my way." Clare Cooper, founder of She Marketing (communications specialist)
"A number one priority for me is creative freedom! I want to connect with other animal, colour, pattern loving people. I'm a 'work hard play hard' kind of girl and it's amazing being able to create a business around the way you are as a person!" Rose Hill, founder of Rose Hill Designs (design and stationery brand)
Rakhee provides one-to-one mentoring to several female business owners. Please contact her firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Karen Bonner, senior researcher at Aston Business School, said that having children — which once led many women to give up work completely — is now a key factor for people who choose self-employment, with many women surveyed saying “they wanted flexibility and freedom”. The survey shows British women who started businesses wanted more control over their work. Some 97 per cent of women polled cited freedom to adapt their approach to work as a key reason for starting their own businesses, while 85 per cent mentioned flexible working conditions.