Anne Boden

Anne Boden at the Founders of the Future event at Swansea University.

Anne Boden MBE, the founder of Starling Bank, shared invaluable insights on overcoming challenges encountered by female entrepreneurs during an engaging session at Swansea University’s Taliesin Arts Centre on Monday 4 March.

The session, titled Founders of the Future, coincided with the release of the UK Government's Women-Led High-Growth Enterprise Taskforce report and the publication of Ms Boden's latest book, Female Founders’ Playbook: Insights from the Superwomen Who Have Made It.

Since its inception in 2022, the taskforce has been chaired by Ms Boden and is spearheading efforts to address barriers hindering women's leadership in high-growth ventures and proposing recommendations for their removal.

As it stands, women founders receive just two per cent of all venture capital funding in the UK.

In collaboration with Swansea University, Ms Boden and Starling Bank have created a series of enlightening case studies - spotlighting trailblazing women and offering invaluable lessons for students and the broader community.

At the heart of the Founders of the Future event were discussions with entrepreneurs Eccie Newton, Founder of Karma Cans and Karma Kitchen; Joelle Drummond, Founder of Drop Bear Beer; and Hannah Lamden, Founder of Finery Media. Together, they shared their entrepreneurial journeys and deliberated on strategies to empower more women-led high-growth SMEs in the UK.

Reflecting on her own challenges in launching Starling Bank, Ms Boden recounted a journey fraught with scepticism and obstacles: “My entrepreneurial journey began when I was 54. Prior to this I’d spent my whole career working as a corporate executive in a big bank and I decided to quit my job and start one of my own. Some people patronised me, some people laughed at me, but I knew I had to do it. It took me two years and 300 meetings before I managed to raise the capital I needed to begin what is now a very successful business that has revolutionised banking technology worldwide.

It was so difficult to obtain investment because the people the other side of the table were mostly 30-year-old men with beards and I was very, very different. People tend to invest in people that look and sound like themselves, but as a Welsh woman in her mid-fifties, I was of a demographic which made that seem impossible.”

At Monday’s event, the 200-strong audience included pupils from Cefn Hengoed Community School, Ms Boden’s former secondary school.

Encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs, she emphasized the importance of seizing opportunities: “I’m a girl from Bonymaen in Swansea, that went to Swansea University, did a computer science degree, built a career in technology and became an entrepreneur. We can do things in Wales. We can do things in Swansea. The opportunities are there for us, but we need to grasp them.”

Anne concluded with some sage advice for the audience: “Starting a business is incredibly difficult. One out of 10 days is wonderful, but nine out of 10 days you’re working really hard and you’re taking  huge knocks. But the only things in life that are worth doing are really hard. If it’s easy, you’re not going to get benefit from it.” 

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