Business Showcase with Ulster Bank: Helping showcase the best of female entrepreneurship

Claudine Owens is confident that another year of positive growth lies ahead for Clarendon Fund Managers and its portfolio.

Today he is a portfolio manager, working with a variety of top companies and entrepreneurs – seeking seed and follow-on financing to get their companies off the ground.

And Claudine is now attending a new ‘Power Panel’ with the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator for International Women’s Day to showcase some of our aspiring women leaders.

“I joined Clarendon Fund Managers as a portfolio manager and then handed over the reins of a female-led investment firm, We Are Paradoxx,” she said.

Claudine is also the senior coordinator of HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network). To do this, the organization is setting up Dragons’ Den-style events to bring together a range of budding entrepreneurs and business people.

“Another part of my role is the lead coordinator for the HBAN initiatives where we host Dragons’ Den style events four times a year for all our investors. We have around 125 investors in this program.”

The upcoming event, which Claudine is involved in and is being hosted by the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator, will take place on International Women’s Day. The “Power Panel” introduces leading entrepreneurs and gives them the opportunity to present themselves.

“For myself, I don’t look at companies as male or female, but as whether they represent investable opportunities. It’s always been like that,” says Claudine.

She said some women entrepreneurs would prefer to pitch to an all-female panel, while others prefer a mix.

“Within HBAN around 80 companies have applied in the last three years and around 25% of them were women, 21% received investments. There is an appetite.

“We have links to all the key hubs for start-up companies, such as the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator, Ormeau Baths etc.”

And as for the challenges some of our women entrepreneurs face, Claudine says it’s all about getting the information out there and pointing potential business owners in the right direction.

Regarding Clarendon’s own business during the pandemic, Claudine says demand and interest have not waned.

“During the pandemic, we haven’t seen any decline at all,” she said. “Our portfolio has grown dramatically – part of which would have been follow-up financing.

And she’s positive about the future, saying there’s a lot of deals in the pipeline.

“There’s also a lot in the pipeline and I don’t see things slowing down. Businesses are grappling with Brexit issues and the fallout from the pandemic, but there are many winners and we see it as another year of growth.”

Why we still celebrate International Women’s Day

By John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem, Ulster Bank

Each year, as International Women’s Day approaches, it brings with it discussions about whether an event or day like this can still claim relevance in today’s society. The day originally gained prominence in the early 1900s with the aim of achieving full gender equality for women around the world. For those wondering if we need another International Women’s Day, take a look at the statistics.

The World Economic Forum predicts that we are at least two generations away from true gender parity and that it could take another 100 years to reach it. This alarming report should serve as a reminder to businesses and decision makers that there is still work to be done and no room for complacency.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to look very far to see examples of the types of attitudes and behaviors that hold women back. Representation is key: How can your voice be heard when you’re not in the room? Last month, when the Irish government announced a new fund to support women-led companies and other emerging start-ups, she spoke of the need to correct the gender imbalance while posting a photo of six men who set up the fund. The image perfectly illustrated the problem, prompting many to take to social media to express their frustration and disappointment.

This is an issue that the Ulster Bank, part of the NatWest Group, has focused heavily on since the publication of the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. We know from this report and from working on the ground with the Women’s Investor Ready Project that access to investment remains one of the biggest challenges facing women entrepreneurs, which is why we are using this International Women’s Day to launch our tailored investment sessions.

Developed in partnership with Clarendon Fund Managers – the first VC in Northern Ireland to sign the Investing in Women Code – this scheme is designed to address many of the challenges raised in the Rose Report – role models, education around investing and access to investors.

Following a launch event on International Women’s Day, 12 female entrepreneurs currently enrolled in our accelerator program will receive tailored support on their own investment journey. These entrepreneurs will hear from other women who have made investments and attend a power panel—think Dragons’ Den on purpose. The goal of these Power Panels is to give entrepreneurs first-hand experience of pitching in front of an investment panel, and providing them with feedback and guidance to help them get one step closer to securing investments.

It also aims to bring together a network of like-minded people to support each other and provide access to angel investors who can offer advice. The program will culminate later in the year with a pitch event where an entrepreneur will have the opportunity to apply for an investment.

This is just one example of our commitment to businesses and our support for those who traditionally face the highest barriers to entry. While no single initiative will be a silver bullet for underrepresented entrepreneurs, we are seeing progress emerging.

The work of Awaken Hub on the island of Ireland and Women in Business NI’s partnership with Techstart are two great examples of local initiatives that have led to positive change among underrepresented cohorts. We know that these groups are more likely to apply to a program when they know it will be specifically tailored to their needs, so support should be targeted here.

Diversity is good for business and a key success factor, which is why we need to do more in this area than just talk about problems from the sidelines. Instead, we must question and take action to bring about the progress we all want to see. Until International Women’s Day is spent celebrating that we have achieved full gender equality, we must shout louder and become allies to uplift the incredible female founders that surround us.

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