Shannon Houde

Shannon Houde

In 2010 there were almost 1.2 million self-employed women - 30% more than there were in 2000 - but there is still a huge gap between women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs. Indeed, women in the UK are half as likely to set up a business as men - with 4% of working aged women engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to 9% of men.

When asked whether they believe they have the skills and experience to start up, 39% of working aged females say they think they do, while a quarter (25%) agree that there will be good start-up opportunities where they live in the next six months. So why are so few women taking the leap into entrepreneurialism? 

To help understand why British women are holding back, we’ve taken a look across the Atlantic to America, where women are far more likely to start up on their own and where levels of male and female entrepreneurship are almost equal, with 7% of females involved in early-stage entrepreneurship compared to 8% of men.

Indeed, if the UK had the same level of female entrepreneurship as the US, there would be approximately 600,000 more women-owned businesses.

We’ve spoken to five successful entrepreneurs and business women who have worked in the US or with US counterparts, to find out what their recipe for success is.

Five tips from America

1. 'Never underestimate the value of good customer service':

"Some Brits find the 'Have a nice day" and "Hi, I'm Mary how can I provide you with excellent service today" rather tacky, but I have found that it’s key to engaging the customer and making them feel valued and comfortable enough to trust you."

Rochelle Peachey, Founder of

Rochelle Peachy is an English entrepreneur who runs transatlantic dating website.

Rochelle moved to America with her husband for his work and sought advice from American business-people when setting up her business.

She had a personal business consultation with Donald Trump in New York who told her "If you've never failed, you've never lived". Just because something you started doesn't take off immediately you must not give up.

2. 'Seize every opportunity'

"I worked for an American boss in my first job out of University, and she was amazing. At a young career age she taught me a lot about making the most of, and seizing every opportunity that comes your way, even if you think it’s out of your reach. Her advice has been invaluable for my development as a confident businesswoman."

Claire Young- Ex-Apprentice star and entrepreneur

As a businesswomen, Claire has two main areas of focus: School Speakers - a business providing speakers for schools, colleges and universities.

She also has a site called Girls Out Loud which aims to inspire young girls, between the ages of 13 and 18, and to raise their work and life goals and aspirations.

3. 'Be proactive'

"From working in American markets, I have witnessed the sheer boldness of how Americans do business - if you really want to get your product and business out there; get out there and be proactive, learn about your customer base, network, get the right advice and dedicate everything you have to making your venture a success, which is always the best reward for hard work."

Lucie Follett, Director of Arklu Ltd, manufacturer and distributer of the Kate Middleton 'Princess Catherine' doll

Lucie Follett is Director of Arklu Ltd, the company behind the best-selling Princess Catherine Doll. Lucie adopted the American way of doing business when approaching US markets by being bold, proactive and aggressive in her approach, achieving huge success.

4. 'Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.'

"I have worked for American companies for over 15 years now and whilst I think the skills and attitudes I have developed are a result of having my roots firmly embedded in British culture, I know that I have a lot to thank my American colleagues for.

"Working with Americans has taught me the value of never giving up; ignore the 'No’s' and just find another way of getting what you want or what you think is right, and tackle each task with enthusiasm and energy."

Simone Barratt, President of e-Dialog Inc

Simone Barratt is President of e-Dialog Inc, having established the UK branch of the company in 2000.

Simone is responsible for the profitability of the business and global leadership of the company as a whole. This follows an 11 year tenure leading the UK and EMEA operation, as well as supporting the expansion of the company into Asia-Pacific.

5. 'Do what you love and have total confidence in you'

"The only way to be successful as an entrepreneur is to turn your passion into your business, and to be completely confident in who you are, your abilities and what you bring to the table.

"In America there is a relentless work ethic and entrepreneurs have to wear many hats to make their business run successfully, so being passionate about your work is key.

"American business people have a fantastic sense of confidence in what they can do, which I think UK entrepreneurs should try to emulate in order to be successful."

Shannon Houde, Founder of sustainability career coaching business, Walk of Life Consulting Limited

Shannon (an American) mentors and trains professionals. She chose sustainability career coaching to combine her experience as a hiring manager, a life coach and a CSR consultant, after having started her career 16 years ago in corporate recruiting.