The Working Women's Guide To... Starting A Business
The Working Women's Guide To... Starting A Business
Words by
Challenge and change are part and parcel of any modern woman’s career path. Our Working Women’s Guides are a series of practical, expert-led advice pieces that will help you navigate through the difficult times and empower you to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. Here, we lay out an 8-step guide to starting your own business...

Created in partnership with HSBC Private Banking

Perhaps it’s a dream you’ve had for a while, perhaps it’s a lightbulb moment you had during the world-altering pandemic. You want to make it happen, but have no idea where to start? You’re not alone. A staggering 1 in 3 women surveyed by AllBright want to launch their own business but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

For HSBC Private Banking, supporting entrepreneurial spirit is in their DNA. For centuries they’ve been committed to helping entrepreneurs thrive, enhancing our communities and economies. Their partnership with AllBright is testament to our joint ambition to continue to foster diversity of thought.

With that in mind, here’s our 8-step guide to setting up a business that will move you one step closer to becoming your own boss.

Who runs the world...?

Only a disheartening 14% of new businesses that are created each year are women-led, which really makes you sit up and think - especially when you consider that there are more women in the world then men. For many of us, it's simply not knowing where to start or having overriding fears of self-doubt. So what do you need to consider before you enter the world of start-ups?

1. Get your head straight

First things first. Do you really want this? It can be lonely, there will be rejection along the way, and it will hurt! Can you handle a no? Can you handle 59 versions of no? Having the self-motivation and tenacity to make it work will be everything.

Some of the most successful women have pivoted their careers to launch something new, using their established profile to gain leverage in a new field. You may not have that profile yet but this is where growing your network is key to success.

Fiona Porter, of FP Training, is a business mentor and recommends asking yourself the following seven questions before taking the leap:

  • What makes you get up and go to work every morning?

  • What could get in the way of running a successful business? Do you currently have other obligations that will prevent you from giving the business 100%?

  • What is unique about your business idea? What makes it different, and is it viable and sustainable?

  • If you could wave a magic wand, what would your ideal business be? What would it look like?

  • What is it about having your own business that excites you?

  • What three words sum up how you want to be as a business owner over the next six months?

  • If the business doesn’t work out, how easily will you be able to pick yourself up and move on?

2. Lock down your investment capital & practice your pitch

Lisa Enckell, who is a partner at start-up generator and early VC, Antler, gave a recent Pitch Clinic at FoundHer Singapore. She explains: “The actual pitch you deliver is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest is all the preparation and work you do before you send out your deck to your potential investors.”

So, what does she recommend? First decide who you want to pitch to – be it a Venture Capitalist firm (VC) or an angel investor. “VCs will want you to return quickly, whereas an angel investor is happy to wait longer for a return on their investment," explains Enckell.

Then consider the questions any investor will ask and make sure you have the answers – so in other words, do your research. They will want to know how you handle rejection (especially multiple ones) and the size of your market – and how you have tested your product already. “If you’ve already got an MVP (minimum viable product) then get honest feedback,” says Enckell. And the best way to do that? Make people pay for it. “If you make people pay for something,” she adds, “then you’ll be sure that the feedback will come. If it’s free, people don’t bother.”

"Remember you are pitching an investor - not a firm. So, find out if you have any connections in common, as this could potentially be your best way to securing an intro"

Identifying your competitors is also vital. “Google – and see what’s out there. If you want to launch an app for instance, then check out It lists all the other apps that already exist.” Your research should also extend beyond your market – you need to know who you are pitching to. “Before you pitch to a potential investor, I recommend going through Crunchbase and looking into their existing and old portfolio to see where they have invested in the past," Enckell adds. "If you pitch a model that an investor has experienced first-hand of failing, it will immediately raise a warning flag.” A good resource is the Startup Graveyard, where you can see what start-ups have failed and why.

Ready to secure a meeting? Then remember you are pitching an investor - not a firm. So, find out if you have any connections in common, as this could potentially be your best way to securing an intro. “Whether you have a warm introduction or you’re just doing a cold outreach it’s important to do a short concise email,” recommends Enckell, “and really start with why you are reaching out to this individual. Why is this relevant to them and why do you want to partner with them?” Then attach your deck and hit send. Your aim is to secure a video conference to pitch. Enckell’s final bit of advice is to keep your deck simple and legible text - she recommends reading pitch agency 4th & King’s guide to building a deck for more inspiration.

3. Get your finances in order

Unless you’re a natural with numbers, the money side of things can be confusing. Build a list and work through it to get yourself up and running. A lot of people start their businesses from home, so overhead costs can be low. Maybe you’ve saved, got a business loan, or even crowdfunded to get your start-up capital.

Before moving to the next step of opening a business bank account, do your homework. Many banks offer free banking for a number of months to help you get your business up and running. It is also important to ask yourself what you want from a business bank account, to ensure your needs are met that allow your business to operate smoothly. At HSBC there are different types of business accounts and in the UK they have recently launched HSBC Kinetic, a new mobile-first UK business bank account designed around the customer – the small business owner with the goal to make banking simpler, faster and more intuitive to give business owners the freedom to do what they do best – run their business. Find out more here.

"Cash flow plays a vital part to any business success and as business norms have been disrupted by the fallout from COVID-19, it’s all the more important to keep track of how cash moves through your business"

The kind of business you decide to be will affect how much tax you pay, so be sure to consider the tax situation in your location before choosing how to incorporate your business. You don’t want the surprise of having to pay tax at the end of the financial year, so you’ll also want to open a business savings account to sweep your potential tax payments into. Cash flow plays a vital part to any business success and as business norms have been disrupted by the fallout from COVID-19, it’s all the more important to keep track of how cash moves through your business. Here are some tips to help you build a robust cash flow forecast.

“Everyday businesses are having to change the way they operate to meet different customer needs and thrive in an ever-changing world. Getting your finances right will help you adapt for today, while preparing for the future,” adds Jennifer Crawley, UK Head of Business Management, Small Business Banking UK CMB, HSBC.

Happy with the banking side of things? Now it’s time to pick some accounting software. This will help you invoice clients, track and categorise your spending, and be a massive boon when it comes to your tax return.

4. A crystal clear 3, 6, 9 and 12-month game plan

A business plan is your best friend. This is a must have and there’s plenty of YouTube tutorials and LinkedIn articles on how to perfect one. Decide what you want to accomplish in critical stages and set yourself targets. You can check in at two week intervals to track your gaps and progress. Stay accountable and that way you can identify quickly what is and isn’t working within your business.

5. Price your product properly

This is a big one, because it’s very easy to undervalue yourself. First, don’t rely on the advice of family and friends to help you assess the viability of your business – unless they know your market and your competitors, of course. Research the market globally and ask yourself two questions – how much do I want to make and how much do I want to work? From there you can potentially work out a weekly, daily and even hourly rate.

Of course, you may choose a different pricing structure centered around competitor or even project-based pricing. Only once you’ve established the basics, will you then be able to assess how much you want to charge.

6. Find a mentor and build a network

You’re starting out on your own, so you’ll need guidance and support. Start by scanning your immediate circle - is their anyone who can offer help or advice? Next, look further afield to your social media network. After that, target people you admire, can learn from and ultimately do business with. Identify who you want to approach and go for it – all they can do is say no.

“Quite often the only things holding women back are a belief in themselves and a professional network”
Anna Jones, co-founder of AllBright

“Quite often the only things holding women back are a belief in themselves and a professional network,” Anna Jones, co-founder of AllBright, told Marie Claire. “I’ve noticed that while women tend to be amazing at networking with friends and family groups and very capable at getting their heads down, they don’t spend the time focusing on growing their professional relationships. Ultimately who you know is as important as what you know and I think men have cottoned onto that much better than women.”

A network of peers, and especially a mentor, also gives accountability – and that’s essential to help keep you motivated. If the only person you’re reporting back to is the one you look at in the mirror each morning, it can be easy to let your business plan slip. Tell others about your plans and then stick to them. To give you even more of a boost, you can also join an entrepreneur network or a co-working space for start-ups.

7. Build the right social media strategy

Ten years ago, this definitely wouldn’t have been on the list, but in 2020 and beyond, social media is critical. Depending on your customer base and market you could be posting across four or five different platforms on a daily basis, so make sure your strategy and content plans are sorted. If you don’t have this side of things in order, you will be missing a massive opportunity to expand your audience reach.

Not sure what your strategy should be? Think of it like this – your social media plan is your way to keep your business on track, engage with consumers, raise brand awareness and communicate with your customer base, and even find new customer demographics. It isn’t something you should do on an ad hoc basis – and it should reduce your traditional marketing costs.

Now for your content plan. Start by thinking about the type of content you want to publish, how often you want to post and who you are targeting. Let the social media rule of thirds guide you if you’re not sure. One third should be “sell content” – promoting your services, events and products. One third should be “share content” – so entertaining and educational, the aim being to create an emotional connection with your brand. The final third should be “brand content” – blog posts, hacks and how-tos on how your brand will help your customers. Once you have this, create a content calendar and you’re ready to post proudly.

8. Finally, have faith in yourself…

…because the most important thing you need when starting your own business is self-belief. You can have the best business plan in the world, but if you don’t believe in yourself and your product then it’s game over before the first penny even changes hands. After all, you have to believe in your business, before anyone else will. But it can take time and lots of energy to get there.

Not feeling super confident at hearing this? All is not lost. Confidence is actually a tool you can learn and constantly develop and build. Just think of it like learning the lines for a play. It’s fine to be quivering within, as it’s all about what you project outside that will inspire others to follow you. There are lots of resources to help with this. Try Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and The Confidence Code: The Science & Art of Self Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman to start you off. And if you want something more bite-sized to dip into, try the podcasts below, which will help you grow your self-confidence, just as they will your business.


How to Succeed

How to Crush Self-limiting Beliefs

Mindset Shifts in Productivity, Balance and Entrepreneurship You Turn: How to Captivate People with Your Story

The Power of Transforming Negative Thoughts into Positive Emotions

Join The Digital Sisterhood

We have launched the Digital Sisterhood to provide women everywhere with the community and support they need at the moment. Be that a safe space to ask questions – and receive honest answers – or somewhere to find a digital event that will offer you the information, or perhaps the encouragement, you need to get you through the coming days and weeks. We’re here for you, so please do head to to claim your 14 day free trial and join our community.