NatWest launches UK’s first female-only crowdfunding programme

NatWest launches UK’s first female-only crowdfunding programme

Alison Rose

Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary NatWest has announced the launch of a brand new initiative supporting female entrepreneurs throughout the UK in a national first.

The crowdfunding programme, entitled ‘Back Her Business’ has been developed in partnership with established provider, Crowdfunder, and forms part of the bank’s wider ambition to reduce the gender gap when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Back Her Business officially launched yesterday allowing women to be able to register for the programme and prepare their business idea for crowdfunding.

The crowdfunding programme forms parts of the bank’s wider commitment to help, inspire and support a further 400,000 female-led businesses by 2025. The initiative will be developed UK-wide through NatWest in England and Wales, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and Royal Bank in Scotland.

Crowdfunder will provide the infrastructure and access to its wider network of partners and entrepreneurs, with the bank acting as a connector and enabler. Though most of the funding will come from ‘the crowd’ the bank will provide a top-up in funding of £1m per annum and will be offering up to 50 per cent of an individual’s fundraising target (capped at £5,000) for certain successful projects1. The initiative will not be equity crowdfunding, it will be donation and reward based – i.e. funders will be given a discount towards products or services in return for their donation in some instances.

Back Her Business is, however, about more than funding, says Jill Arnold, NatWest’s sustainable banking lead, enterprise, whose team developed the initiative. “The wrap around support the programme offers has received the strongest feedback.

Using the bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator prigramme, our Women in Business proposition and industry experts, we will be offering bespoke training and coaching, networking opportunities and local events. We’re also excited about showcasing role models who will not only inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, but guide them and help them on their journey.”

Recently, NatWest’s Rose Review unearthed the fact that only 5.6 per cent of women run their own business and further bank data also shows that women are half as likely as men to start a business. The reason for this figure is not a lack of aspiration, according to Arnold:

“The Rose Review, NatWest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and Enterprise Tracker all reveal a worrying trend amongst would-be female entrepreneurs. We were told that they felt there was a lack of appropriate finance, mentoring, role models, local support and tailored advice and with Back Her Business, we want to tackle this head on.”

Back Her Business is part of NatWest’s wider commitment to helping female entrepreneurs in any way it can. As well as the lack of financial structures that the bank has found to support women, it also commissioned research into the psychological challenges facing females in business and one condition in particular came to the fore – Imposter Syndrome.

The condition is a feeling of self-doubt, where an individual will question their accomplishments and believe that they are not as competent as others perceive them to be. Too often, the bank has come across these barriers preventing women from starting their own business and applying for funding. To delve into the scale of this barrier NatWest commissioned research2, which found that of women who had considered starting a business but didn’t, two thirds (60%) said it was due to factors such as a lack of confidence, not feeling like they are the type of person who could start a business or feeling they wouldn’t deserve to succeed despite their skills.

“Back her Business is one of the important steps in giving women the confidence to start and grow their own enterprises and overcome their inner Imposter.” Said NatWest’s CEO of Commercial and Private Banking, Alison Rose.

Rose last week launched the Rose Review alongside the UK Government. Amongst the key findings was the fact that if women started businesses at the same rate as men, it would add £250bn to the UK economy, a figure equivalent to 4 years’ of natural GVA growth.

Rose commented: “Backing female entrepreneurs helps everyone. It helps women of course, but it helps our economy, the start-up and business ecosystem, and in the end – the wider consumer. For too long women have been put off from starting a business by a number of factors, we want to make this a thing of the past.”

Rob Love, CEO of Crowdfunder, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for more women across the UK to turn their ideas into reality. Crowdfunding has been proven to help women validate their ideas, build confidence and raise the funds they need to make their ideas happen: more than half of our crowdfunding community is female. So we look forward to providing the inspiration and support, alongside NatWest, needed to help more female entrepreneurs get their business ideas backed.”

The bank will also be leveraging its Regional Boards to ensure wherever the budding entrepreneur is based and whatever additional hurdles she faces, she is given the support needed. By working with around 20 regional enterprise support organisations and providing additional grant funding to enable them to run their own programmes, NatWest is hoping to inspire the wider ecosystem to ensure women are receiving bespoke local support.

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