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Access to finance: Top tips for female entrepreneurs

Shauna Burns
Shauna Burns
Rebecca Kincade on September 19, 2014 - 11:27 am in Advice, Featured Advice

Ulster Bank provide their top tips to help female entrepreneurs gain access to finance.

2014 has been a significant year when it comes to women in business in Northern Ireland. Belfast staged the International Business Women’s Conference in May – and Ulster Bank was delighted to be closely involved. For the first time, the top company in the Belfast Telegraph Top 100, Moy Park, was headed by a woman. And in general, the issue of encouraging more women into business has moved up the agenda.

Globally, the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), carried out by the London Business School and Babson College, found that there are 126 million women starting or running businesses, and 98 million operating established (over three and a half years) businesses. That’s 224 million female entrepreneurs – and the survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognised by the World Bank.

Closer to home, the Female-Led Businesses category of the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards actually received the highest levels of entries across all categories in the most recent awards, with 32 per cent of the overall nominees – and we hope to build on that in the 2014 awards, which close for entries this month.

Yet, despite the undoubted progress, women are still very much under represented when it comes to enterprise, with only 18 per cent of all established business entrepreneurs being female led. At Ulster Bank we know that its important to provide women with a platform to succeed in business. That’s why we support the Women in Business organisation and run our own Business Women Can initiative.

For us, Business Women Can is about building a network of like-minded individuals, who in turn can help and support female business owners in the marketplace. We want to become the banking partner for women in business and through active engagement with women in business we can better understand and meet their banking needs.

One of the areas that is of paramount importance for female entrepreneurs to get right is to have a credible plan for their business which outlines their case when they approach a lender for money.

Once you have established your funding requirement, it is important to identify the funding source that best meets your needs. Usually venture capitalists or angel investors will provide equity funding for the general operation of the business in return for a share of future profits (and losses). Commercial banks will typically support requests for specific purposes, for example term loans for asset purchase such as motor vehicles/plant and machinery, or overdrafts and invoice discounting, facilities to manage short term cash-flow shortfalls.

Now that you have identified the appropriate channel for finance, it’s time to prepare your business case. When reviewing a business plan, there are generally three areas that most financers will consider – People, Project and Payment.

People: · What is their track record? · What experience have they got? · What ability do they have? · Can these people manage a business through the highs and the lows?


        • What is the nature of the business?
        • Where is the business in its life cycle?
        • What is the market for the business or product?
        • What is the competition?
        • Do the numbers add up?
        • Does the case underpinning the numbers add up?


        • How will the business pay the bank back?
        • What are the cashflows (sales and expenses)?
        • Can the business continue to meets its existing commitments in addition to a new debt?

Considering all the above will shape a credible business plan for presentation to your Bank and ensure you are prepared for an open discussion about the project with the Bank’s business manager.

Further help and advice on drafting a business plan is available through Smallbusinesscan.com, a free online resource which provides support and networking opportunities for SMEs, and which is supported by Ulster Bank.

If you are thinking about applying for finance or interested in learning more about the support available from Ulster Bank for women in business, contact Shauna Burns on or the Business Women Can website:



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