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8 tips for budding female entrepreneurs

Dr Adila Khan, Birmingham City University (BCU) lecturer and one of Birmingham's most successful female entrepreneurs, provides eight invaluable tips for women in business.
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Photo of Dr Adila Khan, Lecturer, Birmingham City University

8 tips for budding female entrepreneurs

Dr Adila Khan, Birmingham City University (BCU) lecturer and one of Birmingham's most successful female entrepreneurs, provides eight invaluable tips for women in business.
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Photo of Dr Adila Khan, Lecturer, Birmingham City University

1). Don’t stop learning

I set up my first business at aged 19, designing and manufacturing children’s garments.

I had no prior business qualifications or experience. The business idea was based purely on my personal drive, instincts and observation of the market.

There was no business plan, no cash flow forecasts and no investments. I used all of my savings and had some support from my parents. The whole plan was in my head and I just wanted to go with it.

I established my most recent business after completing my MBA, and having considerable experience behind me.

For this venture, I carried out in-depth feasibility analysis and created a full business plan. This knowledge and background work opened up many new doors, including new contracts and funding.

This business, an international marketing and training consultancy, had offices in nine different countries.

Both of these experiences were similar in the excitement of the challenge and the sense of achievement I gained, but the major difference was I was able to make the latter successful, in part, due to my business knowledge.

It’s important for budding female entrepreneurs to continue to learn and to use that knowledge to grow their businesses.

2). Challenge conceptions

This is very important – only by doing this can businesswomen break glass ceilings.

When I was extending my business to the Gulf, the general concept was that it was a male-dominated market and I would have no chance of entering it.

I proved them wrong. Not only did I enter the market, I became highly successful in the region.

3). Form and join communities

It is very important to be part of support networks.

One great example is Female Network, an online network that provides in-depth interviews with women in business, advice columns, information on online courses and funding, and much more.

She Can. She Did., before lockdown, provided regular midweek mingles where female entrepreneurs can network, hear from experienced businesswomen and build their confidence.

They also have a weekly podcast where they interview inspiring UK female founders. Another great podcast is Female Founders, which highlights a successful business woman each week.

Other examples include For Working Ladies, a one-stop shop digital community for female professionals that’ll provide clarity on work, money, lifestyle and much more.

There are plenty of other resources for small businesses not aimed at any specific gender, too.

4). Say goodbye to ‘imposter syndrome’

I started my first business when no one else was providing a personalised approach in the children’s garment sector.

When it became successful, I thought it was purely down to luck and not because it was unique.

However, I got rid of this feeling through reflective practice.

Make sure that you reflect not only on your mistakes, but also on your successes. Give credit to your personal entrepreneurial skills and to your hard work.

5). Perseverance is your best friend

Successful business women are resilient, hard-working and know that perseverance is key.

There were many gender, cultural and ethnicity glass ceilings that I shattered during my entrepreneurial journey.

This was because of my perseverance and not being afraid to take risks.

Perseverance is a crucial ingredient of success. It’s a great strength to have during your entrepreneurial journey, and will help you move forward in a positive way.

You will need to be perseverant in order to overcome any obstacles or mistakes you make along the way.

During my first business venture, I naturally made a few mistakes. However, I was never disheartened by them. I simply learned from them.

6). Trust your instincts

As mentioned before, I spent all of my savings and got some help from my parents when I set up my first business.

This was because I had a gut feeling that my idea was a good one.

I also had a very strong instinct that my personal observation of the market was correct and that my business idea would be a success.

Women in business, and people of any gender, should act upon those instincts, that desire and that passion, while combining it with hard work and research.

7). Make the most of funding opportunities

In the past, it was more difficult for female entrepreneurs – especially ethnic females – to get loans and funds for their business ventures.

Thankfully, the Government has realised the importance of females contributing to the economy through entrepreneurship.

They have introduced many encouraging financial and training support policies for this purpose.

8). Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Successful business women never hesitate in asking for help.

Jo Malone is one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, but she knew that to get there she would need advice and guidance.

At BCU, Birmingham City Business School’s Business Advice Centre provides local businesses the opportunity to work with students on live projects, providing experience and insight for both parties.

Before lockdown, BCU also hosted regular sessions called Tiger Labs, a fun and informal networking event attended by local businesses and entrepreneurs.

BCU Advantage also boasts a range of products and services that can help female entrepreneurs and any other businessperson.

The STEAMhouse incubator provides expert guidance, digital connectivity, mentoring, workshops and exposure to small business opportunities.

If you are a BCU student or recent graduate, BSEEN provides help crafting a business plan, a designated business mentor, workshops and networking events, and access to funding opportunities.


If you’ve been inspired by Adila and would like to discover how we can help you get your own business idea(s) off the ground, then look no further than our very own STEAMhouse Business Incubator.

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