International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on 19 November 2021 is a reminder that more needs to done to assist women setting up their own enterprises. It’s an unfortunate fact, but only 34 per cent of companies in Australia are run by women.
Less than 30 per cent of companies have at least one female co-founder and only four of the top 10 venture capital firms in Australia have women as partners. What these facts tell us is that not enough women are starting businesses and when they do, they find it hard to get that all important venture capital funding to get their company off the ground.
International research shows that female-led or co-founded startups have lower failure rates and produce more capital-efficient companies than men. So having more women founding their own startups is important. As an economy, we all benefit.
The 2017 StartupAUS Crossroads report found that only 4 per cent of startups have an all-female founding team and as few as 15 per cent have at least one female founder.
The British Government’s Alison Rose Review into Female Entrepreneurship in 2019 found that up to $450 million could be added to the British economy if women started and scaled news businesses at the same rate as UK men.
The review looked at why more women are not starting businesses.
It identified a number of key barriers, including women typically having higher risk-awareness than men, women were less likely to believe they possess entrepreneurial skills, women are less likely to receive venture capital funding, and women are less likely than men to know other entrepreneurs or to have access to sponsors, mentors or professional support networks.
The Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative is committed to increasing the number of women entrepreneurs in the state, and has consulted key female founders within Queensland’s startup community to find out what we can do to support our women entrepreneurs.
This consultation has helped shape and design the Advance Queensland Female Founders program.
Advance Queensland is currently running a special program for women in regional and rural Queensland, called the Female Founders Evolve Program.
Women in rural and regional areas are often significant, but hidden, economic drivers in their communities. These women often struggle to access venture capital, develop supportive networks or refine their business acumen.
Delivered by SBE Australia, the Female Founders Evolve Program is an 8-week course, with a mix of online and face-to-face sessions, designed to help rural and regional female founders to take their businesses to the next level.
The course provides women founders in regional and rural Queensland with the tools, skills and strategies to grow their businesses, opening up new possibilities for jobs, business opportunities and income, and provides social benefits for our regional and rural communities – now more important than ever as we look to emerge strong and resilient from COVID-19.
Advance Queensland is currently supporting 10 women in the program, providing a $2,000 subsidy towards the total $2,500 program cost. The women are currently preparing for a pitch event at the Precinct in Brisbane on 24 November, 2021.
Recipients include Ms Tahina Booth from Grass Skirt Project at Yorkey’s Knob in North Queensland, and Ms Yolande Woods from Aerohart in Goondiwindi.
Grass Skirt Project is a social enterprise working to end gender-based violence against women through sports, and Aerohart is creating innovative, functional, and sophisticated products for pilots to replace the clunky and unrefined products currently on the market.
Previously, Advance Queensland supported Spark Female Founders, a 12-month program delivered by Scrunch Enterprises providing female-led startups access to business support, key mentors, sales and marketing strategies.
Since its inception in 2016, Advance Queensland has supported close to 3,000 female recipients out of a total of about 7,500 recipients.
One of those recipients is Juliette Murphy, co-founder of Brisbane success story FloodMapp, which received $100,000 in funding from Advance Queensland through the Ignite Ideas program.
FloodMapp’s flood predicting technology received a $400,000 contract earlier this year to pilot their ground-breaking real-time flood prediction system in Virginia in the United States.
“When I started developing FloodMapp, it was a passion project. It was something I felt like I had to do,” Juliette said.
“I was a professional water resources engineer for about 13 years, specialising in flooding and hydrology. But the impetus for FloodMapp came in 2011, when I saw the catastrophic impact of flooding firsthand in Brisbane. I saw my friend’s home engulfed by floodwaters, and she had no idea it was going to happen.
“Two years later, I moved to Calgary and it happened again — a flood of a similar magnitude to Brisbane’s, with 75,000 people evacuated. I took five of my friends into my apartment because they had nowhere to go. It took everyone without warning.
“I never set out to start my own business. I was just very determined to solve a particular problem. I wanted to help emergency managers and communities, to build a safer future. So what started out as a passion project grew rapidly into what is now an international company. We're headquartered in Brisbane but rapidly expanding our team with staff in Melbourne and Virginia, US.”
Juliette said she doesn’t see herself as a 'female entrepreneur', but just an 'entrepreneur' or 'founder'.
“So in that way I think the big lessons I have learned relate more to just starting a business from the ground up, and less to do with my gender.
“I've learned that to build something amazing and ground-breaking, you need an incredible team. You need to work with dedicated and hard-working people that care as much about solving the problem as you do.
“At FloodMapp, I am incredibly lucky to work with the most talented, courageous and committed bunch of people I have ever met. In my journey, I have also learned the most from other founders and entrepreneurs. So I've tried to surround myself with other like-minded entrepreneurs and build a support network.”
Another Advance Queensland recipient is Katie Potter, co-founder and Managing Director of Physiotherapy Innovations Pty Ltd, an Indigenous business and fully female owned.
As a Physiotherapist, Katie designed the medical respiratory device named Therabubble which is a modern Bubble PEP device. It is used by therapists to help people with removal of secretions from the lungs and to improve breathing.
Therabubble grew out of Katie's experience with patients who expressed concerns of their dignity and worth when receiving makeshift devices for their lung therapy. "These were often just plastic bottles and tubing that were not intended for respiratory therapy."
Therefore, Therabubble was designed to meet the needs of the patients, health care professionals and health services. The purpose-built device offers greater dignity, ease of ongoing use, improved patient engagement and therefore improved health outcomes.
A Kamilaroi woman, Katie is particularly driven to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Especially when considering respiratory disease, where the hospitalisation rate is over two times higher for Indigenous Australians than for Non-Indigenous Australians (source: 1.04 Respiratory disease - AIHW Indigenous HPF)
“We started as a small partnership and expanded to a company as the business continued to grow. Like many businesses, the COVID pandemic has had a huge impact on us. We have come out the other side and once again showing growth as per pre Covid activity. I feel we are doing well, knowing that we had strong foundations to survive the pandemic was really telling. We now sell across Australia and New Zealand and our first shipment is ready for export to the USA thanks to the help of Advanced Queensland Ignite Ideas Funding. Physiotherapy Innovations was proudly the first Indigenous owned business to receive this grant,” Katie said
“My colleague and cofounder and I were very excited to bring the first purpose-built bubble PEP device to the market. We knew it was going to be a challenging journey to change the practices that have been in place, globally, for about 50 years. Our priorities have always been the same, that is to be able to help people to have access to dignified and affordable health care. Therefore, this passion drove us to want to commercialise the product ourselves and we were excited by venture ahead. At the beginning I don't think we really believed that it would end up being so successful, but we did our homework and knew we had a viable idea, so together were willing to give it a go.
“I have always had entrepreneurial and innovative characteristics and never short of big ideas. I felt like I would contribute with innovation in some way, but I don't believe owning my own company was really on my radar. I was studying Physiotherapy and that was what I was going to be, and I had a strong preference for working in the public sector.
“Then Therabubble came along and changed everything. I didn't realise how rewarding running a business could be. I really enjoy giving back to my community and someone told me early on that I could achieve this from the business. At that time, I honestly didn't believe it. Thankfully, as the business continued to grow, I grew with it, and it became evident the positive contributions, influence, and advocacy I could have from the platform.”
The Queensland Government has also been involved in the establishment of a new program for young Queensland female entrepreneurs, with Advance Queensland partnering with the US Department of State and Silicon Valley based Entrepreneur Futures Network (EFN) on the Empower program. This connects up-and-coming young female entrepreneurs with American mentors, and will help our budding entrepreneurs develop the skills, professional networks, and global connections needed to support their business ventures.
EFN has worked with more than 5,000 entrepreneurs, over 100 universities, 40 accelerators, and has over 500 mentors. Teams mentored by EFN have raised over $1 billion to date.
Funding for the program is up to US$35,000 and is being supported by the US Embassy.
Applications open on Monday 22 November. Successful applicants will start the program in early March. For more information see https://au.usembassy.gov/education-culture/grants-programs/nofo-womens-economic-empowerment-mentorship-program/