Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs

11 March 2019
Breakfast discussion on 7 March at the European Parliament, Brussels

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, METRO AG together with SME Connect and DIGITALEUROPE organised a breakfast discussion in the European Parliament on the challenges facing female entrepreneurs when they decide to start their own business. The event was kindly hosted by Maria Grapini, Romanian Member of the European Parliament (Socialists & Democrats Group) and was part of the series of events “Bon Appétit”.

Mrs Grapini, a business woman herself with long experience in the textile sector in Romania, highlighted the crucial role that education and mentorship play to encourage women to start a company. Moreover, a robust network of support, not only from the family, but also from other business women and peers, is fundamental to help young female entrepreneurs to build their professional careers.

Veronika Pountcheva, Global Director for Corporate Social Responsibility at METRO AG, presented the results of the International Own Business Study on Female Entrepreneurship, published on 7th March. This representative study surveyed 10.000 people across 10 countries. One of the most striking results of the study is that although 40% of the women who participated in the study have a genuine entrepreneurial spirit and would like to start their own business, only 3% of them consider this feasible. As confirmed by the business owners who participated in the discussion, access to funding is one of the main hurdles. Moreover, there is not a unique profile when it comes to entrepreneurship -no right age or family situation, for example. However, one thing is clear: the vast majority of female business owners would found their businesses again if they had to start from scratch again.

Digital tools are proving to be essential to facilitate entrepreneurship and contribute to success. Just as much as digital skills. Helena Lovegrove, Director of Operations and Projects at DIGITALEUROPE, presented the project Women4IT, a multi-stakeholder partnership funded by the European Economic Area Grants and the Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment. The project aims to develop the digital competences of young women who are at risk of exclusion from the labour market in order to improve their employability.

The discussion followed with the “real life” stories of two business owners in two very different sectors: business consultancy and gastronomy.

Srita Heide is CEO and founder of “Srita Heide International”, a business consultancy for European and Indian/Southeastern Asian companies. Her multicultural background has also influenced how her views on entrepreneurial spirit. Willingness to take risks, passion, problem-solving, focus, innovation… these are all aspects that the participants associated with entrepreneurship. Srita advised young entrepreneurs to see challenges “not as a problem but rather as friends that make you better” and to focus “not on how many times you fail, but on how many times you stand up and try again”.

Margaux Poncelet, owner and founder of the Restaurant Origine in Brussels, told us how an idea that she always had in mind – becoming a business owner - materialized two and a half years ago. After having worked for 5 years as a travel agent, Margaux decided to start her own business when she visited the local where Origine is now and immediately “fell in love” with it. Indeed, passion for what she does is her main motivation to go to work every day and focus on what she loves the most: working with her team of nine employees and taking care of her clients. Yet, she also had to overcome some obstacles at the beginning, mainly access to funding. Moreover, she had to prove some people wrong and fight against prejudices for being a young woman. However, this experience helped her build confidence and further developed her leadership skills as a restaurant owner.

We also had the opportunity to hear the entrepreneurial story of Kamile Kaselyte, co-founder of the fashion start-up Kikoinne. The debate with the audience was moderated by Veronika Pountcheva and touched upon issues such as the importance of role models and second chances, gender quotas, and the contribution of the European Commission and public authorities to facilitate entrepreneurship.

More information on METRO’s International Own Business Study can be found here.