Ulster Bank is hosting a series of Investment sessions with a group of female entrepreneurs to mark International Women’s Day.
Held in partnership with Clarendon Fund Managers, the first Venture Capital Fund Min Northern Ireland to sign up to the Investing in Women Code*, the initiative aim to make it easier for underrepresented entrepreneurs to access angel investors and give them firsthand experience of pitching for investment.
Since the publication of the Rose Review in 2019 and subsequent work with The Women’s Investor Ready Project, Ulster Bank has focused heavily on supporting women-led businesses to access investment; something which remains a significant challenge despite progress in other areas.
This programme is designed to provide education on what exactly investors look for and help entrepreneurs become investor ready. Furthermore, it will bring a network of peers together to support each other and deliver access to Angel investors who will be on hand to offer mentor support and guidance throughout the initiative’s 8-month duration.
John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank explained that the disparity between male and female entrepreneurs would continue to widen if action is not taken to make the process of accessing finance easier for women-led businesses.
“Challenges around accessing finance are consistently highlighted when we speak to female entrepreneurs enrolled on Ulster Bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, so we have decided to make this the focus of our 2022 celebrations for International Women’s Day and provide extra measures to boost support for female-led entrepreneurs in this area.
“The idea behind the initiative is to combat the challenges underrepresented entrepreneurs face when trying to access funding. We want to equip these business owners with the tools, education and support they need to become investor ready. This starts with building a strong network as we know from the Rose Review that peer-to-peer support and a warm introduction can lead to much more beneficial outcomes for women-led businesses.
“We are grateful to all of our partners and the angel investors who have committed to supporting this initiative and to working alongside us to find fresh, imaginative solutions to the challenges which still exist for women.”
Sitting on one of the Power Panels is Claudine Owens, Investment Manager with Clarendon Fund Managers and Lead Coordinator for HBAN Ulster, the Halo Business Angel Network. Claudine said that while the number of women-led businesses within the HBAN Ulster network has grown significantly since its inception in 2018, there is still a long way to go to level the playing field.
“The HBAN network continues to perform well here and while that is to be welcomed, it’s clear there is still a large pool of untapped talent in Northern Ireland. At present, around 20 per cent of the pitches we see come from female founders so there is a genuine need for more collaborative action and positive interventions to boost this figure.
“Business Angels want to invest in fast growing companies at an early stage, but we can’t do this unless all of our brightest prospects can get in front of investment panels and have a clear route to accessing funding. We are looking forward to meeting all of the entrepreneurs taking part in the programme and working closely with them from now up until the HBAN pitch event in November.”
Following a launch event on the week of International Women’s Day (March 08), all 12 entrepreneurs will go through a ‘Dragons Den’ style panel before being matched with one of the investors. They will then receive mentorship and support until they are ready to take part in a pitch event in October. From this, two founders will then be selected to take part in November’s HBAN event where they will be pitching live on stage for investment in their business.
One entrepreneur preparing to take part in the programme is Sinead Welsh, Founder of Informed Minds, which is a digital health solution designed to provide support for those struggling with stress and other mental health issues.
Having joined Ulster Bank’s Accelerator programme earlier this year, Sinead says the focus on becoming more investor-ready is one of the areas she has found to be most beneficial.
“There is a lot of funding here available to start ups and growth companies, but the challenge is often knowing how or where to access this resource. Through the Accelerator Programme, I have been signposted to a number of opportunities and it’s reassuring to see Angel Investors working hard to bring more diversity into the process. I’m excited to begin this journey with a dedicated mentor and overcoming some of the barriers which have previously prevented female founders like me from maximizing their true potential.”
For more information on the work of HBAN Ulster and the full list of Business Angels, visit https://www.clarendon-fm.co.uk/hban/ . More details on the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme, including news on the next application process, go to www.ulsterbank.co.uk/accelerator