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Pandemic puts an end to business dreams for women

Ceri Gillett

Women are abandoning their dreams of starting their own businesses because of the pressures of the Covid-19 crisis.

That’s the warning from Ceri Gillett, who runs a social enterprise designed to support parents to launch and grow businesses across Wales.

Ceri, who also runs a catering company with her partner, James, launched Mubo to offer workshops and digital support to those wanting to take the plunge and start a business, especially in rural areas.

She said she had spoken to many women, especially mothers, who had found the pressures of lockdown, particularly having children at home, put paid to their plans for a start-up. This was especially the case where a business was pre-revenue and the women felt they needed to sacrifice the time they were spending on it to home-school or look after their children whilst their partner in paid employment carried on working.

“I have heard from so many women who have stopped and it’s heart-breaking,” said Ceri, who has a four-year-old son, Fred. “If you’re in the early stages of your business and you’re a bit tentative about whether you can succeed as a business anyway, you need time and space to work on your idea.”

Some women who needed to pivot their existing business to survive lockdown have also had to abandon those plans, said Ceri, who lives in New Inn, Torfaen. This was also because of time pressures.

At this week’s Virtual Royal Welsh Show Ceri is taking part in a discussion about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on female-led businesses across rural Wales.

Gemma Collins, NatWest’s Business Growth Enabler for Cardiff and the Vale, is hosting the session. She said: “In reacting to the challenges that businesses have faced due to the pandemic, it’s crucial that we recognise the particular impact on female entrepreneurs.

“So much work has been done to try to level the playing field for women who want to start and grow their own business. As we begin to understand what economic recovery may look like, we must make sure that women are offered tailored support to ensure they aren’t left even further behind.”

In June, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that additional childcare and housework during lockdown had fallen far more on mothers than fathers, with a risk to women’s work and career progression. Chwarae Teg, in a joint statement with The Fawcett Society, said the Covid-19 crisis was “turning the clock back on gender equality”.

Research has shown that, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the business landscape was already uneven for female-led businesses. The Rose Review, written by NatWest’s CEO Alison Rose and published in 2019, found that up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men.

The report highlighted key areas which needed attention to help more women succeed in business, including greater family-care support; expanding awareness and access to mentorship and networking; and increasing funding aimed at female entrepreneurs.

In Conversation with Ceri Gillett and Hayley Hanson is part of the line-up of events at the first Virtual Royal Welsh Show. To sign up for the free event, on Thursday, July 23 at 2pm, visit https://royalwelsh.digital/in-conversation-with-ceri-gillett-and-hayley-hanson/