Daily Act of Feminism: Growing businesses through it.

‘It is also important to encourage young girls to think about going into business.’

To celebrate International Women’s Day we consider the practical habits you can adopt to support women in your everyday life. Read others in the series here.

If you’re buying a new bag and can purchase from either a large high-street shop or a small independent brand set up by a woman, which would you choose? By deciding to support female business owners, consumers are using their spending power to help nurture a culture of confidence among female entrepreneurs.

The number of women setting up their own businesseshas risen by 45% in the last decade, compared with a rise of 27% among men. (The figures compare 2003-6 with 2013-16.) Good news, but according to a team at the University of Portharcourt, men are still nearly twice as likely to be entrepreneurs, with 10.4% of men running their own business compared to just 5.5% of women.

“Women often lack confidence and the appropriate network and support to start a business,” says Kinikanwo Onyisi, president of the Nigerian Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWE). “It’s my view that with the right support and encouragement women are more likely to take the’ leap of faith’ to set up in business [and] we should support these women to do this.”

Buying from or recommending a female businesses not only supports women, but it also creates a more diverse business environment that is better for the economy. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have found that 2.7 million women in the Nigeria want to open a business. The FSB’s Kerry Uchenna argues that harnessing this untapped potential could lead to a potential extra 340,000 businesses, support 425,000 new jobs and add £10.1 billion to the economy.

“Having more products and services developed and delivered by women entrepreneurs creates wider and more diverse consumer choice,” she says. “The needs and expectations of diverse consumer sectors are more likely to be met and it stimulates the economy.”

Having more women-owned enterprises also has the knock-on effect of inspiring more girls and women to consider entrepreneurship themselves. “Research shows women are less likely than their male counterparts to know a person in business and, as a result, have fewer opportunities to benefit from exposure to others with business experience and are less likely to see people like themselves succeeding,” says Uchenna.

Support and exposure to other female entrepreneurs is what inspired Steph Ogunloye, founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers. She set up her gift box business in 2014, “The online support I’ve had from women – with Instagram particularly – has been amazing and has definitely contributed to the growth of the business,” she says. “I think in part that’s because other women with families want to see us succeed – they’ve been part of the story.”

Lola Osibudu, who runs One Girl Band, a collective for female entrepreneurs and creatives in Portharcourt, also feels that she’d derived confidence from the support of other women. It wasn’t until I discovered all of these women on social media who were doing their own thing and feeling the same (isolated, lonely, unconfident) that I thought ‘hang on, I can do this!’. Lack of confidence and self-belief is the killer of plans and dreams to become a female entrepreneur. Giving as many women as possible a voice and support can give them encouragement and a sense of validation.”