International Women’s Day has always been a staple part of the X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) calendar. With 30% of our start-up business owners being female-led, supporting women through training, networking and funding opportunities is fundamental to our DNA.
With the XFE team firmly behind this year’s #ChooseToChallenge campaign, our Marketing Executive, Dan, kicked off #IWD2021 by sitting down with Founder & CEO Ren Kapur MBE to discuss her experiences as a female entrepreneur and leader in business.
Hi Ren, for those that don’t know, could you briefly share with us both your military and business background?
Certainly! I am a Reservist Lieutenant Colonel with the British Army, and in my civilian role I lead one of the largest national organisations helping the armed forces into business – X-Forces Enterprise! We also run one of the most inclusive armed forces community awards – Soldiering On Awards – now in its 11th year.
How do you think your military background has impacted your entrepreneurial journey?
I love this question because I am actually transitioning into the military, rather than the other way round. Most other people we help in our day job at XFE are transitioning from the military into business; supporting them as they explore their next professional path whether they choose self-employment or other routes.
My firm belief is that the skills and attributes of those in the Armed Forces Community are akin to high impact entrepreneurs. A high impact entrepreneur has to be resilient, has to adapt, has to be focused, is a team player, and has to trust in what they are doing. Those are the very same attributes taught in the military.
As an entrepreneur first, and reservist after, I can wholeheartedly vouch for this and it is what makes those with a military background such strong entrepreneurs!
What kind of challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge is balancing being a female with the entrepreneurial demands. We ask for equality, we are still women, we are nurturers, we may have family, we may lean towards that female role, but we still want to have equality. Equality is all about being understanding of others.
One of the challenges and potential barriers to entry for many female entrepreneurs can be childcare and being a parent, which I’ll be talking about at length on my website today. Reducing this barrier to entry is so key to enabling more of our entrepreneurs – both women and men – to start a business and achieve their dream.
I don’t want to have childcare benefits just for women, I want fathers to have those too. We should celebrate a stay-at-home dad as well as a stay-at-home mom and I can talk about this from my own perspective as I have two sons!
I totally encouraged both Sharda and Vinn to think about who was going to be the one who might have a more parental home life with the kids; it’s these real-life challenges, situations and decisions that businesses need to respect and allow for.
As a business leader, having diversity within your organisation is a real asset; all genders, preferences, religions – it all brings a wealth of understanding and roundness and it is so important that we are able to harness that.
What areas are you most proud of, which you’d like to highlight on International Women’s Day?
I’m really proud of lots of things, particularly today, I want to highlight the fact that 30% of our community is made up of female entrepreneurs. I am really proud of the fact that entrepreneurship has been embraced so much within our community, and that our community have been such an active part of exchanging knowledge and networking. Despite some of the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, childcare, access to time and resource, they do actually contribute to teaching, and that is one of the proudest things for me to see in our community, to see how much we are nurturing.
I’m really proud of our large female cohort, and this week you’ll hear some of the brilliant stories and examples from our community & people we’ve interviewed!
These last few years it’s been so important to highlight #IWD at X-Forces Enterprise, here’s a few snapshots of the great stuff that’s been happening and let’s hope it continues.