Friendili founder Jessica Barker with daughter, Maisie

Friendili founder Jessica Barker with daughter, Maisie

NatWest is on track to help more than 55 female entrepreneurs in Birmingham secure business funding through its Back Her Business platform over the next 12 months.

Back Her Business supports female entrepreneurs by helping and encouraging more women to start and fund their own businesses in the early stages.

The programme has been developed in partnership with Crowdfunder and forms part of NatWest’s wider commitment to reduce the gender gap when it comes to entrepreneurship, by supporting the creation of a further 400,000 female-led businesses by 2025.

Since its launch last spring, Back Her Business has helped 16 female-led businesses in the West Midlands generate more than £100,000 worth of funding through crowdfunding, with NatWest contributing £45,000 to these campaigns.

In 2020 the initiative hopes to help at least 39 more female-led businesses.

One Birmingham-based entrepreneur already benefiting from the platform is Jessica Barker, founder of Friendili, a social networking app for parents and carers of children with a disability and/or special needs.

Jessica used Back Her Business to raise £10,000, including £5,000 from NatWest, which will help her launch the app in spring this year, with the target of onboarding at least 2,000 members in the first six months.

Friendili will help unite parent carers and connect them with people like them who live near them and share similar experiences. The iOS and Android app will allow members to organise virtual or real events, as well as send private messages.

Jessica has also joined the NatWest Pre-Accelerator Programme, an eight-week programme for early-stage startups, which will offer her advice, mentoring and information as she looks to launch and scale the business.

She said: “Although I had already started building Friendili, the Back Her Business platform has helped me raise the funds needed to continue with the final stage of the app build and I am now on track to launch the app before the end of Q1.

“Securing finance and business guidance can be a huge blocking point for budding entrepreneurs, so this is an invaluable platform that helps ambitious women realise their business goals.”

Back Her Business launched in March 2019 following NatWest’s Rose Review, which revealed £250bn could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men. The government-backed report also highlighted that only one in three entrepreneurs are female.

Trevor Maxwell, NatWest Regional Head of Business Development Midlands and East, said: “We launched the UK’s first female-only crowdfunding platform last year to support female entrepreneurs like Jessica through our industry-leading advice and mentorship. The number of women in Birmingham that Back Her Business has already supported is testament to the platform’s value and we will continue to support entrepreneurs across the city and wider region going forward.”

The Back Her Business initiative is being delivered UK-wide through NatWest in England and Wales, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and Royal Bank in Scotland.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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