According to the Startup Muster’s 2018 report, the number of Australian women starting their own businesses has declined since 2017.
Two years ago, women entrepreneurs made up 25.4% of the industry. Today, it’s dropped down to 22.3%.
Why are more women shying away from founding their own businesses?
For Sheryl Thai, it might be the absence of an online community of women. She says she’s been receiving continual requests for ‘coffee catch-ups’ for years from other women keen to learn how she overcame her own business and personal challenges.
Thai is an entrepreneur, cupcake aficionado, and founder of Cupcake Central. She turned her love of cupcakes into a business which she ran for 10 years.
She’s also the chief executive officer at the League of Extraordinary Women — a movement of female entrepreneurs launched in Australia in 2011 by four female entrepreneurs.
The League currently has more than 200,000 women members, and has held over 400 events. It exists to connect and inspire women, so curates events, workshops and conferences to provide the power of connection to foster real conversations.
This Saturday, Thai will launch a tech platform to give women the opportunity to ‘hire’ other women in 45-minute blocks, enabling an unlimited and affordable number of global connections between women, whether they be self-employed or climbing the corporate ladder.
The online platform will target women seeking to achieve their own sense of fulfilment and provide access to a range of mentors offering varied expertise.
The experience and expertise will derive from various aspects in industry, including personal growth, branding, social impact, health and fitness, finances and entrepreneurship.
“As my business grew, so did the number of women reaching out to learn from me, which was problematic because, as much as I wanted to sit down with each and every one of them, I didn’t have the time,” she says.
“It became apparent that a face-to-face, one-on-one model just wasn’t sustainable.
“During my own journey, I experienced a desire to learn from other women who had skills and expertise I wanted to tap into, but I didn’t have a genuine way to connect with them. This platform offers both parties a way to engage for mutual benefit.”
So far, League has attracted thousands of women to its events. Thai believes it’s because women are hungry to connect with other women who they perceive as more successful than them, but often don’t have the confidence or channels to reach out to engage with them directly.
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So which extraordinary women will be present at this conference?
The co-founder of Lord of the Fries, Amanda Leigh Walker, will be one of the first mentors available to mentees on the platform. Lord of the Fries, a multimillion-dollar, international, vegan fast-food franchise, opened its doors in 2004, and now has over 23 stores across Australia and New Zealand. Walker, who hails from Canada, graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelors degree in sociology and women’s studies.
“This type of unprecedented access to successful mentors is invaluable to any woman who is chasing a dream of her own and is likely to only expedite her learning and increase the likelihood of her success in the process,” Walker said.
The platform, which Thai has created in partnership with Austrade and Afterpay, aims to encourage women to bridge gaps in their own skill-sets and increase their confidence in launching their own business.
Chief executive officer of award-winning e-commerce brand Hunting for George, Lucy Glade-Wright, will also be present at the conference this weekend.
“I myself have a female mentor and it’s hard to put into words just how important her guidance and support has been throughout my business journey.
“There are so many talented women in business that want to pass on their knowledge and support the next wave of leaders, so this new platform is an important connector to help facilitate and nurture those relationships,” Glade-Wright said.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.