On 16 November, as part of the Female Entrepreneurship Week, an event will take place on the topic of self-employment and starting a business as a career perspective for women. This is a cooperation between Pro Exzellenzia plus and Startup Port. Here is a short interview with Dr. Nina Feltz (Project Manager at Pro Exzellenzia plus*), who will moderate the event, and Tatjana Timoschenko (Senior Network Manager at Startup Port), who will help to organise the workshop.
What specific barriers and challenges do women typically face on the path to self-employment, and how can these be successfully overcome?
Nina: Pro Exzellenzia plus participants or scholarship holders who pursue the idea of self-employment have a scientific background and, if so, would first like to set out with their idea on a freelance basis, depending on their professional background. Often they want a combination of permanent employment and self-employment because they fear the financial challenges and need a safety net to fulfil other wishes in life, not infrequently the desire to have children. In my view, the desire for compatibility is also one of the biggest challenges here. They can overcome these challenges, among other things, through timely and good advice from projects such as Startup Port and through targeted structural, i.e. also financial, support.
What can networks and mentoring programmes such as Startup Port and Pro Exzellenzia offer women who want to pursue a career in self-employment or business start-up, and how can women be effectively integrated into such networks?
Nina: We generally offer a community that accompanies women into positions of responsibility – i.e. moving forward. This happens through our different programme lines and the networks that go hand in hand with them, through our cooperation partnerships to which we refer, where we “send”, such as to the Startup Port’s breakfast for women founders, which takes place regularly in the centrally located premises of the UHH Transfer Agency. And through events like the one on 16.11. Diversity among women* is also important to us. A 46-year-old female computer scientist with a migration background probably needs different networks and different support than a 29-year-old female musicologist of German origin who has just completed her doctorate. Which doesn’t mean that they both move in the same networks as we do.
Tatjana: We also try to introduce role models to our target groups again and again and to bring them into contact with women who can also accompany them in the long term. These can be female founders, but also female business angels and VC donors who know about the specific challenges women face because they have also experienced them in some cases.
How can freelance women and founders overcome challenges related to work-life balance, especially in the early stages of starting a business?
Tatjana: Apart from the support that women should seek externally on specific topics by specifically using the support offers in their own regional environment or ecosystem, it is important to make a realistic plan. Coaching can help here, for example, to clearly define when I have time for what, that I also stick to it and define achievable goals. If these are set too high or in the short term, it can quickly become frustrating. Basically, however, the same applies to every start-up: Nothing, no plan is set in stone, I just have to be aware that I am constantly adapting it to current developments, challenges and opportunities. Because for my start-up project, I am the boss.
Is there any specific advice for women who want to start their own business in terms of access to finance and investment, especially in areas traditionally dominated by men?
Tatjana: Fortunately, there are more and more female business angels and VC donors. Women should be on the lookout for them and talk to them. It’s not always about money, but also about their feedback on your idea and how to proceed. In addition, there are currently some funding programmes, such as EXIST Women, that explicitly support women. The advisors at Startup Port are always up to date on this and can provide targeted help. Simply go to startupport.de to arrange your next consultation.
Have you noticed any differences in the approaches or successes between male and female founders, and how can female founders use these differences to their advantage?
Nina: We will certainly hear something about this in the discussion with the guests on 16.11! I come back to the first question: Enabling structures, being a female founder and being able to combine compatibility with caring responsibilities, that needs to be promoted much more structurally (and also financially). Everyone benefits from this!
Why should women definitely attend your event on 16 November?
Nina: To get an idea of the steps to take in the workshop and to feel the support from Startup Port and each other. And to compare your own ideas of opportunities and challenges with a reality check of the women with experience in the discussion that follows.
Tatjana: To network with like-minded people, to get impulses for the further development of one’s own start-up ideas and thoughts, and to be encouraged and motivated to advance one’s own start-up with the help of a plan of concrete next steps.
Information about the event:
“Being your own boss? Freelancing and start-ups as career perspectives!”
A cooperation event of Pro Exzellenzia plus and Startup Port:
Workshop and panel discussion on 16.11.2023: 2pm to 7pm.
Information on Pro Exzellenzia plus:
With an innovative concept, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg has been successfully qualifying women for leadership positions with this project for over 10 years. Pro Exzellenzia plus is financed by the European Social Fund Hamburg and the Hamburg Authority for Science, Research, Equality and Districts (BWFGB). The project executing agency is Hamburg Innovation GmbH, a knowledge transfer service company.