Next generation of female entrepreneurs at heart of business

The next generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland powering social enterprise are bucking the economic trend by putting values back at the heart of business. And women are giving men a run for their money.

On International Women’s Day the Social Enterprise Academy is celebrating Scotland’s successful female social entrepreneurs as role models for women in business and aspiring female entrepreneurs.

Unlike the private sector, women who set up and run a business with a social or community purpose are as widespread as their male counterparts. Latest figures show 26% of social enterprise businesses are led by women, almost twice the level of private sector SMEs.

And the social enterprise sector as a whole is bucking the gloomy economic trend. Last year over half of social enterprises grew compared with just over a quarter of mainstream small and medium-sized businesses.

Edinburgh based Social Enterprise Academy hopes to raise awareness of inspiring female entrepreneurs working at the heart of their communities in a bid to support and encourage more women with a business idea to turn their talent to the dynamic social enterprise sector.

The Academy provides learning and development to leaders in the social enterprise, public and private sectors. Over 65 percent of leaders on their courses have been women, out-numbering men by three-to-one on the flagship course the Leading Edge.

Fiona Ednie Executive Director of Smart Childcare, Avril Oliver founder of Big Heart Horses and Liz Strange Creative Director and Founder of Strange Theatre are all graduates of the Academy that manage growing social enterprises at the cutting edge of their sectors.


Two years after setting up Big Heart Horses to teach children and families with physical or learning difficulties to learn how to ride and care for horses Avril Oliver expanding her business across Scotland.

“At Big Heart Horses our impact is on people and their families. I set up because I wanted to make that tiny change to one person’s life.”

“At the risk of generalising, women have a real advantage in leadership that might be a great advantage in the business world. They can act and lead while staying tuned into their colleagues. Being confident enough to use that is crucial. Women leaders shouldn’t try to be one of the guys. They can use their natural gifts to their advantage.”

Sam Baumber, Business Development Manager at the Social Enterprise Academy says that female social entrepreneurs are the role models for business leaders in the current economic climate.

“Women who are leading successful social enterprises are role models for women thinking about setting up their own business. In the current climate social enterprise is thriving and these inspiring women prove that values of team work and emotional intelligence that women often bring as leaders can help build successful and resilient businesses.

“Many of our graduates who started with an idea and burning passion and have developed into leading female social entrepreneurs in Scotland and we hope their success stories will help others with an idea to make it happen.”

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