Finance

Bruce Billson wants to improve access to capital for female entrepreneurs

Andrew Sadauskas /

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Job Capital founder Jo Burston. Source: Supplied.

Job Capital managing director and Inspiring Rare Birds founder Jo Burston (Pic: Rare Birds website)

Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson is calling for suggestions for how to improve access to capital for female entrepreneurs, saying the federal government is keen to “see even more women in small business”.

A recent article by the chair of Springboard Enterprises (SBE) Australia, Topaz Conway, first published by SmartCompany’s sister publication Women’s Agenda, examined four key ways female entrepreneurs struggle to access capital.

Along with a link to the article, Billson recently tweeted: “I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – female entrepreneurs & capital.”

Billson told SmartCompany he is inspired by “women who have worked hard to build livelihoods, support communities and promote [other] women in the workforce”.

“I have been holding roundtables with many women entrepreneurs over the past 12 months and hear the same opportunities and challenges are arising for each of them. Access to finance and capital has been a reoccurring theme of these roundtables,” Billson says.

“We are committed to creating the very best environment for them to start and grow a small business – this of course includes looking at new ways to ensure the settings are right for them to prosper.”

“Women operate almost a third of businesses in Australia across all industries and many do this while also raising children and running a household.”

Billson cites a number of key reforms, which he says should help to address the issue. These include the streamlined taxation of employee share schemes, along with Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, which includes the government’s crowdsourced equity funding reforms.

Billson also says programs such as EFIC, new trade agreements and the Women in Global Business Mentoring Program are making it easier for women to ensure their goods and services are export ready.

“Around 93.3% of Australian women business operators are working in small business and current data suggests the number of women business owners is increasing across our nation,” Billson says.

“Labour force data shows women account for around a third of our nation’s business operators. This data from January this year shows there were 406,400 women running a business.”

“As the Minister for Small Business, every single day I come across inspiring examples of women leading the way in enterprise. I recognise that many juggle family commitments to participate in our work force and face unique challenges to this participation.”

“I admire greatly this tenacity, clarity of purpose and courage. With decreased red tape, increased access to information and assistance programs our goal is to see even more women in small business.”

Job Capital managing director and Inspiring Rare Birds founder Jo Burston told SmartCompany more education around venture capital is needed.

“When I was growing Job Capital, I self-funded the business – and that’s quite remarkable. However, at the time I was growing that business, I was regularly getting calls from venture capitalists – sometimes three a week – and I had no idea how to manage that or what I needed to look for,” Burston says.

“There are very few women in the venture capital groups, so when a woman is going to pitch for capital – seed or angel – the person they pitch to is usually a man.”

Gen George, founder of online jobs marketplace OneShift, told SmartCompany female-focused venture capital networks and accelerator programs, such as Springboard Australia, are helping to close the gap.

“It’s about supporting women, not men versus women,” George says.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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