Business is blooming for women start-ups

By Emma Simpson
Business correspondent, BBC News

  • Published
Media caption,
The mum whose home-based business is blooming

More and more women in the UK are setting up their own businesses as a way of reconciling the demands of work and family.

How to balance those differing pressures? Dani Bolser thought she'd finally cracked it when she started her new job as a receptionist for an events company.

"It started off quite well, but suddenly my bosses were asking me to come in a little bit earlier or can you work a little bit later," she says. "It just turned into something very high-pressured."

It wasn't her first attempt to get back into work.

"After the birth of my first child, I've tried part-time, full-time and working weekends. And no matter what I tried, it either broke into precious family time or it just wasn't financially viable for our family."

So at the age of 28, Dani started her own business, DeluxeBlooms, last year. She now designs and sells luxury faux flowers from her kitchen table in Ilkley, west Yorkshire.

Image caption,
Dani Bolsover is working to establish her business

"My husband encouraged me," she says. "I've always been creative. It kind of fits with my love of flowers. Now I can choose how much work I do.

"It's basically about that flexibility, to say, for instance, you know what, the kids are sick, work just gets put on hold and allows you to be a mum first and for me that's just priceless."

Work transformed

It turns out there are thousands of women just like Dani, who are shunning the traditional nine-to-five job in search of flexibility and more control over their working lives.

New research from Oxford Economics shows that one in 170 people in the UK now works for a small creative business, making and selling unique products or gifts.

The report was commissioned by, the online marketplace. Since it was founded 10 years ago, it's seen a huge growth in partners, or creative entrepreneurs, using its services to sell their products, up from 287 in 2006 to more than 5,700 today.

"In the last 10 years, thousands of creative small businesses have emerged all over the UK, creating jobs, driving wealth creation and contributing significantly to the economy," says's chief executive Simon Belsham.

"Perhaps most importantly, however, these businesses are highlighting the huge change under way in the UK workforce - a transformation that is seeing more women in work and more people turning to self-employment and flexible working."

Going digital

Some 89% of partners are owned by women like Dani Bolser.

But can they make a living out of it? "Absolutely," says Simon Belsham.

"Last year, we had more than 20 businesses which made more than £1m in sales. It's a genuine way to make a living. It doesn't matter with age or gender.

"We've seen opportunities for recent graduates to people who have retired - 'second-halfers' as we like to call them - who are starting a business once they've retired from their first career."

Technology is driving these new ways of working.

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Laura Hutton realised she needed to keep up with the digital world

For 53-year-old Laura Hutton, going digital was her route back into work.

She took a career break from publishing once she became a mum. Laura then dabbled in estate agency work, as well as writing a host of cookbooks.

But last year, she decided to gain some new skills through Digital Mums, a company which trains mums to be "job-ready", to kick-start their careers in digital and social media, and crucially to keep a healthy work-life balance.

"I realised that the world was moving, that the kind of jobs I wanted to get, I wasn't going to get unless I kept up with the digital world," says Laura.

She now manages social media for Wyevale Garden Centres and says she can work from anywhere.

Who's the boss?

Digital Mums has so far helped nearly 1,000 mums and businesses.

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Work on the go: Laura loves the flexibility her job offers

"I'm not chained to a desk," says Laura. "I do work at home, but being freelance and mobile means I can go to a cafe if I have to meet someone.

"I can work as I go. Having that flexibility is important. It means I am there when my family is there. It's important to be around, especially as children grow up."

And she's not concerned about working remotely. "I've never actually met my boss," she says.

"I work within marketing and for the head of marketing, who I've never met. So I miss out on the office banter.

"It doesn't bother me because I feel I've done that bit, the office job. I'm not interested any more. I like the fact that it doesn't really matter what I wear or whether I've brushed my hair in the morning.

"I'm lucky because I have a nice working relationship with my company."

Image caption,
Laura definitely isn't chained to a desk

Laura and Dani are thriving on their newfound paths as they set their own work-life agenda.

"It's pushed me into assessing my life a bit more, what do I really want to do? I think the minute you strip that back and look at what makes you happy, you can achieve great things," says Dani.

She admits her turnover is tiny so far, but she hopes perhaps one day to have her own shop and employ a mum like her who has struggled to get back into work.