Top 10 areas for high growth female-led businesses outside of London

We have uncovered the top regions outside of London for high growth female-led businesses. The data outlines the most prosperous areas for women to excel in the business world and the leading industries in the last decade.

Based on a criterion of companies that are under ten years old, with a 71% shareholder growth in the last three years, there are 57,173 female-led companies that match these conditions in the UK, of which, 2,420 are businesses in Scotland.

Out of the above total female-led businesses, 1.45% (827) of them have more than £250,000 cash in the bank. This is considerably less in Scotland, with only 0.87% (21) of the companies having this wealth. On the other hand, Scotland has a higher percentage of female-led businesses with over £50,000 cash in the bank at 8.55% of the initial figure, compared to 7.32% for the UK.

The most common director age amongst female-led businesses under 10 years old with 71% shareholder growth over three years is 38 years old, followed closely by 42-year-old directors.

Top cities for high growth female founders and how these cities are supporting their female founded businesses

1) Birmingham

Birmingham was top of the list, with 1,682 companies meeting our criteria.

Birmingham fast growth female-led businesses

How Birmingham supports female founders

Birmingham start-ups have access to support available through the growth hub,  part of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).  The growth hub provides growth and funding opportunities for start ups and businesses and is committed to closing the gender gap between men and women. 

2) Manchester

Manchester was second on our list with 1,208 companies meeting the criteria.

Manchester fast growth female-led businesses

How Manchester supports female founded businesses

The Greater Manchester Business growth hub aims to support female-led businesses through one-to-one support, events, and funding. Over the last 12 months, GC Business Growth Hub helped 389 businesses to start up, of which 53% were female-owned. (GC business growth hub, 2021.)

GC Business growth hub also provides essential finance to businesses and access to investors to help founders start, scale or expand their businesses. Over the last 12 months, they provided £3,375,680 to female-owned businesses. The GC angels program also connects innovative businesses with investors to start up or develop new products, 30% of these were female-owned.

3) Harrow

Harrow had the third-largest population of fast-growth female-led businesses in 2021, with 1,164 companies fitting the criteria.

Harrow fast growth female-led businesses

How Harrow supports female founders

Harrow’s local enterprise partnership (LEP) holds events to support women in business. In 2018, the LEP held the ‘LEAP roundtable on supporting black women entrepreneurs in London. The roundtable was held to get recommendations from black women on how the leap can support and cater to the needs of BAME female founders. The discussions included the lack of representation on boards and in senior positions and the levels of VC funding. Roundtables have also been held to discuss the needs of other female founder communities, including the Asian and LGTB communities.

4) Brighton

Brighton, part of the Coast to Capital Local enterprise partnership was fourth on the list of companies with the largest population of fast growth female-led businesses with 1,147 companies meeting our criteria.

Brighton fast growth female-led businesses

How Brighton supports female founders

The coast to capital growth hub team provides fully-funded advice, support, and strategic leadership to help small and medium-sized businesses. Their ‘Sussex women in business’ group help female founders, offering members networking, inspiring and informative talks, and support from other female entrepreneurs.

In 2019, following the Alison Rose Review of female entrepreneurship, Coast to Capital was chosen as one of two local enterprise partnerships to pilot ‘banker in residence’, an initiative to support diversity and inclusion in business. The scheme has a particular focus on ensuring that the Coast to Capital growth hub engages with and supports women business leaders. The initiative also aimed to ensure that programs such as the coast to capital growth grant program, are more accessible by women.

Coast to Capital also pilot mnAI to support female entrepreneurs, a Coast to capital continues to work on its diversity and inclusion strategy. A key milestone in this strategy is the use of our data, which has enabled Coast to Capital to better engage with more women-led businesses and obtain a deeper understanding of the number of women-led businesses across different geographies and sectors, to ensure women receive the funding they need.

5) Leicester

Leicester was number 5 on the list with 896 companies fitting the criteria.

Leicester fast growth female-led businesses

How Leicester supports female founders

The Leicester & Leicestershire LEP is committed to supporting women in business, and to pursuing a balanced board of directors, with men and women equally represented, by 2023. The Leicester and Leicestershire (LLEP) ‘women in business’ initiative aims to help women by giving them the opportunity to network as well as address some of the issues facing women in business. One of the key goals of LLEP is to inspire more women to go into business for themselves.

6) Reading

Reading is sixth on the list with 876 women-led companies meeting the criteria.

Reading fast growth female-led businesses

How Reading supports female founders

The Thames Valley Local enterprise partnership aims to support its female entrepreneurs in Reading through events, such as the women in Business event 2020. As part of the celebrations of international women’s day, the Berkshire women in business masterclass took place to support and inspire female leaders. Organised by Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, and NatWest. The event aimed to support entrepreneurs through case studies, exploring the challenges and opportunities facing female founders and highlighting the support available to them. 

The expert in residence initiative also launched in Thames Valley Berkshire in response to the Alison Rose Review. Piloted by NatWest to provide a local expert within each LEP area. The expert will be working to support more female entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed. The Expert’s role will be to understand the barriers of growth that prevent women-led businesses from applying for grant funding and reaching out for support. 

Berkshire LEP also runs a number of events to support female founders, including the Women in innovation awards 2021/22 event. The innovate UK women in innovation program was launched in 2016 to address the under-representation of women innovating in UK businesses and boost the economy. Since then, the number of women leading applications for grants to Innovate UK has increased by 70%.

7) Bristol

Bristol was number seven on our list, with 840 companies meeting the criteria.

Bristol fast growth female-led businesses

How Bristol support female founders

An SME support scheme launched in Bristol offering specialist help to women, young people, and social entrepreneurs the support include training packages to aid those pre-startup, bursaries, and access to workshops and manufacturing technologies. The scheme also offers business owners support with product development, grants, and business coaching. 

NatWest and Be the business have also launched a pilot program in the west of England, offering free mentoring. The aim of the program is to provide greater access to high-quality mentoring and relatable role models to help women build their businesses, this is in response to findings that show that women in business are at a disadvantage due to a lack of role models they can relate to. This program has been launched in the west of England, with the aim to launch UK wide this year, in hope of empowering the next generation of female leaders. 

The Festival of Female Entrepreneurs, which is being held in Bristol in October brings together female entrepreneurs, business leaders and startups, with practical insight on how to start and grow their businesses.

8) Guildford

Guildford was number eight on our list, with 830 companies meeting the criteria.

Guildford fast growth female-led businesses

How Guildford supports female founders

As part of the #eachforequal campaign, local enterprise partnership EM3 supported gender diversity in the workplace by a push in recruitment to encourage more women to join their board of directors. 

9) Kingston

Kingston was number nine on our list, with 789 companies meeting the criteria.

Kingston fast growth female-led businesses

How Kingston supports female founders

Kingston University supports female founders through the Kingston Enterprising Women, which aims to guide and inspire female entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of starting their own businesses. The network was launched in 2015 and supports founders through practical workshops, guest speakers, and networking.

10) Romford

Romford was number 10 on our list, with 765 companies meeting the criteria.

Romford fast growth female-led businesses

How Romford support female founders

The Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurs (CIFE) was established in 2019 as a response to the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, it brings together leading investment firms, advisory services, and government organisations, to tackle barriers faced by female entrepreneurs. They have collaborated to form the Invest in Women Hub, which aims to accelerate female entrepreneurship. The aim of the Invest in Women hub is to reach more female entrepreneurs leading early stage and scale-up businesses; to share knowledge, improve access for those in need of funding and support, and create opportunities to share expertise, networks, and inspiration.

Of these 10 towns/cities, seven of these fast growth female companies are in the South of England, with just two in the Midlands and one in northern England. Birmingham has the largest number of businesses that fit this criterion, with 1,632 companies, followed by Manchester at 1126, and subsequently Harrow, with 1087 female-led companies in this category.

In comparison to male-led businesses, the top 10 towns/cities outside of central London have at least 300% fewer companies than male-run businesses, with Birmingham having 6,366 (416% more) male-led businesses, and Manchester and Harrow at 4,864 (432%) and 3,640 (335%) retrospectively. The top 10 cities for female-led businesses have a combined total of 9,527 women-run companies, compared to male-led business with 36,356 companies that fit that same criterion.

Within the highest volume cities for high growth female-led businesses, the most popular industries are Professional, Scientific, and Technical companies (such as legal services), followed by Human Health and Social Work and Administrative and Support Service businesses.

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