Karen Gill co-founder of Everywoman

Karen Gill co-founded Everywoman in 1999, shortly after giving birth to her son. With her partner Maxine Benson, she identified a need for accessible business information for women entrepreneurs. The company started as an online information resource, but has since grown to incorporate training and conference events for women in business. SmallBusiness.co.uk asked her to share her story.

How did you cope starting a business with a young child?

It was tough at the beginning. You have a certain ideal of what it’s going to be like running your own business and, of course, it rarely turns out that way. You find yourself working long hours and dealing with issues into the night. With a baby, you’re doing even more juggling.

What about funding, did you have some outside help?

No, we funded the business ourselves from the offset, which can be really tough. It meant that we didn’t have any sort of structured salary, so we’d take money out of the business when it could afford it. That’s a hard way to work and it can put a lot of strain on you.

We ended up doing an equity deal with the people who built our website and even moved into their offices to start with. After that we started to build it up organically, trying to get some interest from business angels.

Was it hard to find private investors? What was your strategy?

Well, really we built the business on PR and networking. We both built up a list of very good contacts and met a lot of people who were very generous with their time. Relationships are an important part of starting up, but you really need to know your business inside out if you want people to take you seriously. Do your research, write a water tight business plan and don’t make assumptions about the market you’re in.

The internet can be a useful resource for research, but you have to sift through a lot of conflicting information. It’s not enough to just pluck statistics from here, there and everywhere; you need to use other techniques, like focus groups and hands-on market research.

Did you make any mistakes along the way?

Oh of course, loads of mistakes, but when you’re running a business you don’t think of them as errors. You’re learning from them all the time. If you’re asking what I’d have done differently, I think I would have established a more rigid financial structure from the start. It would have been easier if we’d have had a bigger cushion of finance behind us.

Did having a business partner help you?

Hugely. You have to have a really good base of skills because you’ll be expected to do everything at the start; from dealing with cash flow to developing a good understanding of the marketplace. Being able to bring together a broad skill set from two people with different professional backgrounds has really helped.

To visit Everywoman, click here.

Jonathan Sumner

Jon Sumner

Jonathan was the Director of Digital & Social Media at Bonhill Group plc until 2020 before moving on to become Chief Digital Officer at GRC World Forums.

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