Barclays’ Female Founders Forum: backing women in business

20 March 2019

We visited Barclays’ Female Founders Forum in Bristol to discuss the “systematic obstacles” facing women in business – and how changing social attitudes are creating exciting new opportunities.

Thanh Quan-Nicholls is not your average entrepreneur. Having spent much of her career in the public sector, she became co-founder with Tom Ball of DeskLodge, a fast-growing co-working space company with locations in Bristol and Basingstoke.

Thanh was one of dozens of women to attend a recent gathering in Bristol, UK, of the popular Female Founders Forum – a partnership between The Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and Barclays. The Forum is designed to bring together women in enterprise from across the country to network and propose solutions to the obstacles facing women in the business world.

“We really need enterprise culture to get beyond the male-centric ‘Shoreditch Swagger’” said Thanh, who has called Bristol her home for the past 15 years. 

Attendees at Barclays’ Female Founders Forum

Roundtable event at Barclays’ Female Founders Forum in Bristol

Another attendee, Ellie Webb, agrees that changing social attitudes create demand for new types of business. For the former drinks distributor marketing officer, that meant addressing the growing demand for more variety in the non-alcoholic drinks market.

“I was on a night out with friends, but agreed to be designated driver,” she told us. “Whilst my friends enjoyed G&T’s and cocktails, I couldn’t escape how limited my non-alcoholic options were. Either really sweet, sugary soft drinks or boring mineral water – neither of which I wanted to drink all night. I spotted a clear demand that wasn’t being met.”

Earlier this year, after much planning and research in her kitchen at home, Ellie launched Caleño Drinks, a non-alcoholic ‘free spirit’, by distilling juniper and Peruvian Inca berries to create a fresh and fun new option for non-drinkers.

Named after Cali, a party-loving city in her mum’s native Colombia, Caleño is challenging perceptions of non-alcoholic drinks. Just months after its launch, Ellie has secured a deal with Sainsbury’s to launch Caleño across hundreds of stores this spring. 

Caleño Drinks Founder Ellie Webb

Ellie Webb, Founder of Caleño Drinks

Why Barclays is supporting female founders 

Previous events organised by the Female Founders Forum have included ‘speed-networking’ – pairing up-and-coming businesswomen with established entrepreneurs – and a round-table discussion about leadership and competing in the board room.

Barclays’ Head of High Growth and Entrepreneurs, Juliet Rogan, who attended the event at Engine Shed in Bristol, said the Female Founders partnership was an important way for the bank to continue to support Britain’s most promising businesswomen.

“Companies like Ellie’s and Thanh’s are exactly what the Female Founders Forum is all about – innovative, perception-challenging, and responsive to the ever-changing demands of consumers – in both the way we work and the way we socialise,” she said.

“Events like this are hugely useful for us to find out how we can continue backing enterprise across the UK. It can be a lonely process founding a business so it’s really important for us to establish and foster these networks to support peer-to-peer collaboration for female founders, and we look forward to the next Female Founders Forum – hopefully coming to a town near you!”

For further details on the Female Founders Forum, including how to sign up to the next event, please visit: https://www.tenentrepreneurs.org/fff/.

To get in touch with the Barclays High Growth and Entrepreneurs Team, please visit: https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/sectors/entrepreneurs/