Starting your own business is incredibly rewarding, but getting it off the ground can be very tough. This is something Alla Ouvarova and Anna Richey, owners of the innovative Two Chicks company, know only too well. And it was the challenges they faced – from writing business plans to struggling to get investment – that has prompted them to set up a new mentoring scheme for the next generation of female entrepreneurs
Last year, the duo launched the Future Female Entrepreneur (FFE) series which aims to support the pipeline of women wanting to start their own business…and crucially, secure investment. Anna says, “We came up with the idea for Two Chicks, free range liquid egg white in a carton, in 2005. We bought a book, How to Write a Business Plan, wrote our business plan – in it we included everything from an office to marketing and salaries. We needed £250,000 but no one would give us any money at all.”
This lack of access to funding was a surprise to Alla and Anna. Alla adds “We weren’t trying to buy machinery which was a problem – you can sell it and then they get money back. Because the money was for marketing, and we were very young with zero experience in food or business, it was really tough. I can imagine so many people stop at this point.”
“One investor agreed to give them funding but wanted control of the business. “We agreed but even then, they pulled out at the last minute”, Anna says. “It was a heart-breaking process.
However they didn’t let this stop them. They stripped everything from the financial model and needed just £25,000 to get started. In the end a family friend gave the money to them. Alla says, “We didn’t take a salary, we had no money for marketing, we did everything ourselves and drove round supermarkets giving out leaflets at the door. I was heavily pregnant at the time!”.
This sheer determination meant that within 18 months, Two Chicks was on the shelves. “After this we were able to secure two more funding rounds when we’d proved the concept”, says Alla. “This is really key. Mine and Anna’s approach has always been don’t take no for an answer, just keep going and be flexible about where you get funding: if one avenue isn’t working then keep going and look for another way.”
Alla and Anna have never forgotten their battle to get started. And it’s the reason they’re now determined to help other female founders at the start of their journey. They initially launched The Two Chicks Empowerment Fund. Anna says, “We ran it in schools for 18 months but then drilled down and decided to focus on entrepreneurialism. Two Chicks has a significant network of other female founders, women who’ve made a similar journey, and this was the concept behind inspiring the next generation of female entrepreneurs.”
“We’re focusing on the next generation of female entrepreneurs”, adds Alla There’s a lack of entrepreneurial education at school, it’s just not on the curriculum. Girls aren’t being taught about female business leaders. They’ll know about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. But they won’t be taught about female leaders, and they are the role models for them. Women who have made that journey and broken down those barriers.”
What is Future Female Entrepreneur (FFE)?
Here, Alla explains the initiative…
“We launched Future Female Entrepreneur last summer with our first initiative being in person mentoring. Young women were encouraged to apply to spend the day with a successful female founder at the business she has created and leads. We also ran workshops in our offices on topics such as raising finance and storytelling for brand marketing.
Our second initiative was online mentoring which we ran over the winter months. Those selected as FFEs were once again matched with a successful founder, for three online sessions.
From January, we started running monthly networking events, in different locations throughout Central London, with talks from successful female founders and FFE alumni, as well as on important aspects of setting up a business. It is a brilliant opportunity for our FFEs to meet likeminded aspiring entrepreneurs and form connections that could lead to potential collaborations; be inspired by and learn from the experience of successful female founders and experts.
Our next monthly networking event at the end of March is being hosted by NatWest and will feature a pitching competition. Our FFEs are invited to pitch their ideas for a chance to win a cash prize to help fund their business. And, we are about to launch our flagship in person mentoring again, for this coming June.”
To support Future Female Entrepreneur, or to find out more about their opportunities and events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org