UK bank NatWest is hoping to help close the entrepreneurship gender gap through the introduction of a female-only crowdfunding programme.
The bank has teamed up with Crowdfunder on the 'Back Her Business' initiative, inviting women to register their business ideas and seek funding from the crowd.
Crowdfunder will provide the infrastructure and access to its wider network of partners and entrepreneurs, with NatWest acting as a connector and enabler.
Though most of the funding will come from ‘the crowd’ the bank will provide a top-up of £1 million a year and will be offering up to 50% of an individual’s fundraising target (capped at £5000) for some projects.
Crowdfunders will not get equity stakes in the businesses that they put money into. Instead, the initiative will be donation and reward based - with funders, in some instances, given a discount towards products or services in return for their donation.
NatWest research suggests that women are half as likely as men to start a business, with many put off by a lack of confidence. The new programme is part of its wider efforts to change this and support a further 400,000 female-led businesses by 2025.
"Back her Business is one of the important steps in giving women the confidence to start and grow their own enterprises and overcome their inner Imposter," says NatWest’s CEO of commercial and private banking, Alison Rose.
Jill Arnold, sustainable banking lead, enterprise, NatWest, adds: "The wrap around support the programme offers has received the strongest feedback. Using the bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, our Women in Business proposition and industry experts, we will be offering bespoke training and coaching, networking opportunities and local events.
The initiative will be developed UK-wide through NatWest in England and Wales, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and Royal Bank in Scotland.