Serial Entrepreneur Bev Hurley: Believe in the Power of You!

To celebrate the forthcoming First Women awards, The NextWomen spoke with the three entrepreneurs amongst the 2011 winners. Last week we featured Thomasina Miers, Co-founder & Executive Chef, Wahaca Restaurants; Thea Green, MD, Nails Inc will be coming soon.

Today we bring you Bev Hurley, CEO, YTKO & Enterprising Women, Winner of the Business Services Award 2011.

Bev Hurley is a dedicated, focused and high-achieving entrepreneur who has played an outstanding role in promoting business enterprise and entrepreneurial skills. She has inspired thousands of potential and existing entrepreneurs throughout her 30 year career and helped numerous women make their business ideas a reality through projects such as Enterprising Women.

Bev was described by judges as an outstanding businesswoman, a true pioneer and was recognized for her commitment to improving the opportunities for female entrepreneurs and founders of business enterprises. Bev describes one of her greatest achievements as supporting the rehabilitation of a young female drug addict who, with her help, turned her life around and has gone on to employ three people herself through her own business.

We spoke to Bev about the importance of celebrating female entrepreneurs; the top ten lessons she has learned from her successes and failures; and the addictive nature of entrepreneurship.

TNW: What did winning a First Women Award mean to you and your business?

BH: The recognition from a formidable panel of judges and experts was a real motivation and endorsement of the work that I do, and all the things I’m trying to change for the better, from policy to on-the-ground delivery.  It was also a great way to recognise the hard work of my team, and to be able to give them a real ‘independent’ pat on the back too, and show how proud I was of them. 

TNW: Why do you think it is important to celebrate female entrepreneurship through events like the First Women Awards?

BH: Because women currently represent only 14% of VAT-registered business, which means that there is a huge amount of economic potential remaining to be unlocked – both to increase the numbers of women starting businesses and helping established businesses grow. 

Part of the solution to this is the provision of inspiring role models – at all levels – to encourage more women to ‘have a go’.

TNW: How did you come up with the idea for projects such as the Enterprising Women scheme and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?

BH: This started as a competitive tender procured by the Regional Development Agency, which we won, to transform the way that women’s enterprise support was delivered, starting with a blank sheet of paper. Because I’ve run businesses for most of my working life, I know what works for women (and what doesn’t!) what their different needs, challenges and motivations are. I had the experience of supporting over 2000 individuals and businesses each year, and could bring 30 years of my own first-hand private sector experience, attitude, content and approach to making it work.  We’ve helped the creation of nearly 400 new businesses and jobs, and trained well over 3500 women, and have also developed world-class growth programmes for established businesses to grow that are unique in the UK and Europe. 

TNW: What is next for your company?

BH: For YTKO – two pan-European projects on women’s enterprise to replicate EW in other countries, a national license for Kauffman Foundation products; and in the private sector, a brand new product coming on-stream in May, a new joint venture in the advanced materials sector, and an acquisition.

TNW: Have you come across any other exciting startups recently and what is it about them that appeals to you?

I spend much of my time coming across exciting start-ups.  The enthusiasm, passion and innovation of entrepreneurship is really addictive – I’m living proof!

TNW: What are the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?

BH: I don’t think so – the most important thing for success is to have a product or service that best meets a market need or want.  Gender affects the way you do things, how you build teams, your approach, etc, but it’s not a key advantage or disadvantage either way.

TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?

BH: Top ten learning lessons:

  • Treat people with respect and integrity
  • Invest in, empower, and grow a team that fits
  • Success takes stamina, effort, focus and dedication
  • Create a vision and communicate - all the time
  • Invest in technology to enable goals
  • Watch the finances – CFIMITYM!
  • Innovation, speed, and change are constant and vital
  • Total focus on customer needs
  • Accept that there are some shitty people – move on

Stay true to yourself, believe in the power of you!

TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?

BH: Not really – I admired Dawn Gibbens (ex Flowcrete), and various other entrepreneurs male and female. Admiration and respect for their achievements is not the same thing as having them as a role model.

TNW: Thank you Bev.

The First Women Awards celebrate trailblazing women from the business, entrepreneurial, manufacturing, science & technology, and media sectors who are leading the way for the next generation. The awards were created by Real Business and the CBI, and are held in association with Lloyds Banking Group.

Speaking about the awards programme, Fiona Cannon, Diversity & Inclusion Director at Lloyds Banking Group, said:

"The First Women Awards are a fantastic platform for celebrating and rewarding our country's most inspirational businesswomen and we are delighted to be headline sponsor for this prestigious event for the 7th year running.  At Lloyds Banking Group we champion diversity across all levels of our workforce and have a strong legacy for supporting women in business.

"It has always been our goal to be the best place for women to work and bank and we are encouraging our own successful women, both within our organisation and among our customer base, to follow in the footsteps of the previous First Women Award winners and put themselves forward for this fantastic programme."

The closing date for entries is 13 April 2012, with the awards ceremony taking place on 28 June 2012 in London. For more information please visit the First Women Awards 2012 website.

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