According to the Startup Muster’s 2019 report, the number of Australian women starting their own businesses has declined since 2017.
Two years ago, women entrepreneurs made up 25.4% of the industry. Today, it’s dropped down to 22.3%.
Why are more women shying away from founding their own businesses?
For Sheryl Thai, it might be the absence of an online community of women in this industry. She says she’s been receiving continual requests for ‘coffee catch-ups’ for years from other women keen to learn how she had overcome her own business and personal challenges. Thai is an entrepreneur, cupcake aficionado, and founder of Cupcake Central; she turned her love of cupcakes into a business which she ran for ten years.
She’s also the CEO of the League of Extraordinary Women, a movement of female entrepreneurs in Australia launched in 2011 by four female entrepreneurs.
Its annual ‘Run the World’ conference will take place this Saturday in Melbourne’s ARIEL arena in South Wharf.
The League currently has over 200,000 women in their membership, and held over 400 events. It exists to connect and inspire women to bring out their extraordinary and curates events, workshops and conferences to provide the power of connection to foster real conversations.
This Saturday, Thai will launch a tech platform to give women the opportunity to ‘hire’ other women in 45 minute blocks, enabling an unlimited and affordable number of global connections between women, whether they be self-employed or climbing the corporate ladder.
The online platform will target women seeking to achieve their own sense of fulfilment and provide access to a range of mentors offering varied expertise.
The experience and expertise will derive from various aspects in industry, including personal growth, branding, social impact, health and fitness, finances and entrepreneurship.
“As my business grew, so did the number of women reaching out to learn from me, which was problematic because, as much as I wanted to sit down with each and every one of them, I didn’t have the time and it became apparent that a face to face, one on one model just wasn’t sustainable,” she says.
“During my own journey, I experienced a desire to learn from other women who had skills and expertise I wanted to tap into but I didn’t have a genuine way to connect with them. This platform offers both parties a way to engage for mutual benefit.”
So far, the League has attracted thousands of women to their events. Thai believes it’s because women are hungry to connect with other women who they perceive as more successful than them, but often don’t have the confidence or channels to reach out to engage with them directly.
So which extraordinary women will be present at this conference?
The co-founder of Lord of the Fries, Amanda Leigh Walker, will be one of the first mentors available to mentees on the platform. Lord of the Fries, a multi-million dollar vegan international fast-food franchise, opened its doors in 2004, and now has over 23 stories across Australia and New Zealand. Walker, who hails from Canada, graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s in sociology and women’s studies.
“This type of unprecedented access to successful mentors is invaluable to any woman who is chasing a dream of her own and is likely to only expedite her learning and increase the likelihood of her success in the process,” she said.
The platform, which Thai has created in partnership with Austrade and Afterpay (an Australian financial technology company) hopes the platform will encourage women to bridge gaps in their own skill sets, and increase their confidence in launching their own business.
CEO of Hunting for George, an award-winning e-commerce brand, Lucy Glade-Wright, will also be present at the conference this weekend.
She said, “I myself have a female mentor and it’s hard to put into words just how important her guidance and support has been throughout my business journey. There are so many talented women in business that want to pass on their knowledge and support the next wave of leaders, so this new platform is an important connector to help facilitate and nurture those relationships.”