Women at the forefront of social enterprise

Social enterprise expert panel crop

There are around 5,600 social enterprises in Scotland – and 64% of them are led by women

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8th March 2018 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Women are leading the way in social enterprise, a Scottish business conference heard on International Women’s Day.

Three of Scotland’s most ambitious female social entrepreneurs were among the expert panellists at the Investing Women Ambition and Growth 2018 conference in the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh.

Investing Women is a rapidly growing community of women investors, female entrepreneurs and leadership professionals.

Susan Aktemel, director of property management company Homes for Good, Celia Hodson, founder of period poverty social enterprise Hey Girls, and entrepreneur and Firstport board member Lisa Tennant were on the panel, discussing how to incorporate social impact into growing start-ups.

The discussion was hosted by Josiah Lockhart, chief executive of Firstport, Scotland’s social enterprise development agency.

He said: “There is no doubt that women are leading the way in social enterprise in Scotland. There is an estimated 5,600 social enterprises operating in Scotland – and 64% of them are now led by women, according to the Social Enterprise Census 2017.

“The same pattern is emerging in newer enterprises – 57% of the start-ups we support at Firstport are women.

“Many of them, like Susan Aktemel, who secured investment for Homes for Good through our LaunchMe accelerator programme, are attracting interest from private investors keen to see a social as well as financial return.”

Aktemel said: “It is entirely possible to create exciting, high-growth businesses which generate both financial return for investors and achieve significant social impact at the same time. We have proven this in the last four years at Homes for Good.

“If you can make money and also change people's lives for the better, why would you do it any other way?"

Jackie Waring, Investing Women chief executive, said: “'Purpose is the new currency. Scotland is rich in social innovators and entrepreneurs. So many women excel in more than profit ventures achieving positive change as well as profit, growth and scale.

“There is a wealth of untapped talent in Scotland – both in potential women angels and female entrepreneurs.”

The conference was followed by an awards dinner, a celebration of Scotland’s top female-led companies and the AccelerateHER Growth Awards, with speaker Jenny Campbell, entrepreneur and the newest Dragon on BBC TV’s Dragon’s Den.

Josiah Lockhart presented the Social Innovator award in the Ambition category of the awards to Anya Roy of gynaecological health company Syrona Women.

Firstport awardee Lily Asch of Real Talk, a business focused on promoting positive mental health, won the Young Entrepreneur award.