WOMEN MEAN BUSINESS

Do not be surprised if our title seems somewhat familiar. On 8th March this year – International Women’s Day – The Telegraph launched the Women Mean Business Campaign.

As part of the launch, 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs and MPs signed an open letter published in The Telegraph urging the Government to put money aside to boost female entrepreneurship. Signatories of the letter included Samantha Cameron, Mary Portas, Alexa Chung and Karren Brady.

The main thrust of the letter is that some entrepreneurs – predominantly female – in the UK are being held back unfairly. Various figures clearly indicate a funding gap that prevents many women from starting their own businesses. The letter calls for this funding gap to be addressed at government level.

The letter was endorsed by a Telegraph poll that revealed that two thirds of female business owners find they are not taken seriously by investors and banks when trying to secure funding for startups. As a result, the majority of female founders are forced to fund their ventures out of their own pockets. 72% of the women surveyed had used their own credit cards, cash and savings to fund their businesses.

The review is being described as a “call to arms” for the financial sector to “sit up, take notice, and to act”. It is time break down the barriers women face when trying to access funding for a business in this country.

At Xcite Digital we endorse the Women Mean Business campaign. We have a mixed team of men and women and value the contribution of each individual in that team. We are also proud to have Emily Williams as a Board member and Company Director. We caught up with Emily to find out her experiences of making it to Board level as a woman:

What is your current job title and role? What main responsibilities does that include?

I am an Account Director and Owner at Xcite Digital which means I work closely with my clients to drive significant results through paid and organic search marketing channels, I also manage design and build services helping to improve my clients digital portfolio and thereby achieve better conversion rates.

Can you give us a brief summary of your career history ie where you started and how you progressed to where you are now?

I started off my career in Serco where I worked from 2006 to 2012, firstly as a Programme Manager then as a Contracts Manager. Whilst there I was hand selected and mentored personally by the senior team for fast track development. As part of this I helped manage £1bn projects for Serco and the MOD, working on highly secure projects, having been certified and security verified.

Much as I appreciated gained such valuable experience there, I had the desire to work for a more proactive organisation where I could be more involved in all aspects of the business and have more personal influence on its direction. This enabled me to be part of a more decisive company where i had more involvement in growing the company and giving the stability it needed to manage a more diverse, senior group of clients.

During my time at Xcite I have worked with clients including the BBC, Skoda, Pizza Express, and a wide range of mid sized companies that value our professionalism and expertise. We have doubled our turnover and profit and this trend looks to continue as we have recently taking on a range of new clients where we can see strong growth in their own figures.

Digital marketing is a relatively new and rapidly growing area. Did you ever visualise yourself doing something like this? Do you have any qualifications that have helped you to get where you are or is digital marketing still a niche area that depends more on experience?

Well as you say, digital marketing is a new area and when I started my career it did not exist as it does today. So I didn’t exactly envisage my career developing in this particular direction. The same applies to qualifications: when I was at college there was nothing aimed at the digital marketing world. Things are changing now, and at Xcite we are have numerous certifications such as being a Google Partner along with many awards we have won.

Having said that, the values and transferable skills that I learned from working with a FTSE 100 organisation have been invaluable in enabling us to confidently grow the company and put in the necessary standards and procedures.

As a key female entrepreneur in Xcite Digital have you ever come across barriers or obstacles that you think may have been gender-based?

It’s funny but for me personally the gender thing has not been a big issue. I’m not denying that discrimination exists, but I think in the world of digital marketing everything is so new that it really is a world of opportunity. At working level, gender is much less of an issue because digital marketing is a young industry. Ideas, work ethics, creativity are all fresh and as such it enables women to achieve equality whereas perhaps older companies, stuck in their ways, would find it harder to welcome or adopt.

However we do still need to fight the gender pay gap battle because it does exist throughout the country in any industry and i’m proud of what i have achieved. There is still a predominance of men in senior and Board level positions, but this trend is being bucked especially by us.

So we have to look at why fewer women are breaking through that so-called “glass ceiling”. It’s certainly not about lack of talent or motivation, so perhaps it comes back to men still being more aggressive about pursuing their careers and also giving a leg up to their male mates. Things are gradually changing – but the more each one of us can do to buck the system and redress the balance, the better for all of us.

How would you like to see your business grow and develop over the next few years?

We are focused on helping our clients in the best way possible, so being more focused on key sectors and knowing our specialisms in PPC and SEO better than the competition so that we can build the digital agency as a brand name, known for integrity, trust and outstanding results.

Essentially we want to grow by continuing to deliver strong results for our clients.

What advice do you have for other women who either would like to start up their own business or are struggling to help it grow to the next stage?

My main advice is “be yourself”. Or perhaps by that I more accurately mean “be the best version of yourself that you can be”. In fact i don’t see myself as a typical entrepreneur – not that there is one, and especially not as they are portrayed on tv as one of those pushy Dragon’s Den types.

I hate the thought of singing my own praises but I think I’ve done well just by being natural rather than trying to fit into some kind of artificial “high-flying business woman” mode. I just try to be myself, work hard, and always try to improve even if by just 1%. I think where I stand out is that I believe in doing things properly, and understanding how to deliver a better result whether for me, my team, or my clients. This comes from a personal drive to do well, and if you can find this ability to motivate yourself than you have already won.

So to do well just be yourself, work hard and pursue your dream. Most of all never give up: if you do come up against a dead end down one path due to difficulty or discrimination then just find another way round it. Be resourceful, you just need to keep on going.

At Xcite we will watch the progress of the Women in Business Campaign with interest. As a digital marketing agency we are keen to support the growth of other small businesses that are led by talented entrepreneurs, especially female. Working together is the way forward. For Xcite Digital, it is a case of not only Women Mean Business, but Business Means Women!