By Katherine Swift founder of OMGTea
There is a large disparity that exists between female and male entrepreneurship. According to the 2021 UK SME Community report by Amazon, a recent poll revealed that around 40% of the Amazon selling partners are women-owned businesses. While this is a significant shift from five years ago, when a survey of UK startups saw that just 17% of founders were female, there is still much work to be done. We should be celebrating the successes of female business owners while championing more women to realise their full economic potential through entrepreneurship.
Katherine Swift, founder of the successful matcha tea business OMGTea, thinks more women should take the plunge and start their own business. Katherine shares her experience being a female entrepreneur and her top tips for success.
How I began my journey
When my mum was diagnosed with a stage 3 breast cancer in January 2010, I felt floored. I vowed to do everything I could to help her. I started working with a charity that funds world-class research. I spent a lot of time in the research unit and was fascinated to see what was being discovered. The Research Director had an interest in antioxidants and thanks to him I found out about the potential green tea had to fight disease. If Mum was going to drink any green tea, it had to be the best, so she and I started drinking organic matcha green tea and both felt great. Mum was taking back some control that her illness inevitably robbed from her and I was doing something positive to help. I felt passionate about spreading the word about this extraordinary green powder and so, five years after Mum’s diagnosis, I launched OMGTea.
I sourced my tea from organic suppliers in Japan and launched my products on Amazon. As a new business, the Amazon Launchpad programme was critical in helping me get established. I can credit much of my growth to Amazon as it has helped the business build momentum and reach a wider audience. It also helped train me on how to run a business successfully which is vital for any new start-ups. While the business has taken off and I am proudly also available in several major stores across the UK, Amazon continues to remain a critical revenue stream for me.
Thankfully, Mum’s had the all-clear but we both continue to drink Matcha tea every day.
Real matcha comes from Japan and is made from the finest shade-grown leaves stone-ground to a fine powder – With regular green tea, which is infused in hot water, 85-90% of the nutrients are discarded with the leaves. However, with matcha, you’re drinking the entire leaf just as in ancient times when tea was a medicine, not a beverage. Your body benefits from all the soluble and non-soluble elements of the tea first-hand.
Why more women should start their own business
There are plenty of benefits to entrepreneurship. One of the most important for me was flexibility – being your own boss can suit your needs and lifestyle better. My two sons were 5 and 7 years old when I started OMGTea. I had to juggle being a mum with running my own business, which was really challenging at times, but it also afforded me the flexibility to work around my other commitments. As my husband travelled for work for prolonged periods at this time, this was a massive benefit for us as a family.
Top tips for success
1.Knowledge is Power – Use what you know to your advantage. Women have first-hand insight into the issues other women face. They are well-placed to understand the needs of half of the global population and to develop innovative products or services that address them.
2.Build a network – I feel that female entrepreneurs have a role to play in supporting one another. Whether it’s sharing knowledge, networking, supporting each other on social media or something more structured such as acting as a mentor. Support of other female entrepreneurs or business leaders who can identify with your experiences and provide advice can contribute significantly to your success.
3.Trust your instincts – The launch of a new product line that ultimately had to be discontinued due to manufacturing issues created a huge amount of financial and emotional pressure. With the new line, I had been encouraged to scale and was told I was being too cautious. I saw other (mainly male) entrepreneurs around me taking bigger risks than I personally was comfortable with, it did make me question myself at times, was I holding myself back? However, it simply didn’t feel right. I look back on that now and am so grateful I stayed true to myself, if I had scaled as I was encouraged to with the new lines, the business likely wouldn’t have survived.
Start-ups are frequently encouraged to scale, scale, scale but often small steps are the key. Women can often feel that they are holding themselves back or being risk-averse, but I have learned to never act on anyone’s advice if it doesn’t feel right.
4.Stay inspired – Learn from other women, whether in history, your industry, in your life or who you meet along the way. It’s always good to have a role model to look up to. A female entrepreneur who inspires me is Thomasina Miers. She’s hugely empowering; she isn’t frightened to talk about her own vulnerability and her honesty and openness is reassuring. She reminds us female entrepreneurs and those thinking of taking the plunge that we are not on our own and that the bumps in the road are totally normal.
Having your own business has its ups and down but ultimately, it’s the best decision I’ve made. I would love to see the entrepreneurship gap between women and men narrow. More women in leadership positions means we can drive long-term change. I would encourage women to lift each other up and take advantage of the schemes, funding and help out there available to start-ups.