‘DON’T INVITE THE women — they’re probably secretaries.’ This was overheard in an office and neatly captures the status women are perceived to hold in corporate life. It would not be a faulty perception, either: last month we learnt that of the 2,742 board seats in the FTSE 350, women hold just 232. If women do crack the glass ceiling, they are abused as men.
But if women are blocked at every turn in institutions, what can stop them as entrepreneuses? Stop them, that is, apart from the factors that face every person starting their own business: the idea, the plan, the money, the sales, the clients, the energy, the self-belief, the exhaustion. If you can overcome all these, there will be no man at the top of the table shaking his head.
The seven entrepreneuses we present in our special section have faced many of these challenges. Lucy O’Donnell has put the crunch in credit crunch: her Lovedean granola is gracing the breakfast tables of the great and the health-conscious. Lucy has been leading the market, with multinationals scrambling to follow Lovedean’s success.
Tinsley Mortimer, the queen of glamorous, young New York, tells William Cash about social spite and her forays into business. Despite possessing all the prerequisites for not giving a damn — money, beauty, breeding — Tinsley has turned her talents to the business of fashion.
Across the pond, Beth Novak of the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard in California has been driving her wines to greater heights (and indeed presidential cellars). Bought by her family in 1972, the vineyard has flourished and Beth is committed to taking it forward.
Fiona Carnarvon, whose husband, the Earl of Carnarvon’s ancestor was the enterprising discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb, has been compelled to enterprise herself: Highclere Castle is highly renowned but highly expensive to run. To keep it in its glory, Fiona Carnarvon has devised a range of businesses, from hosting weddings to an Egyptian attraction.
Xenia Howard-Johnston has never been a stranger to industry, from working as a fish broker to sourcing properties, and Kate Braine and Charlotte Legge tell us about going from neighbours to business partners with their jewellery company.
They all go to show that it is a woman’s world after all — but, just like all entrepreneurs, they need to seize it.