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  • Clu Press Team

Release: The Most Innovative UK Companies Founded by Women

The UNEI latest figures says that from the 22,257 businesses surveyed only 7,205 were launched by women. This sets the number of UK businesses currently owned by women at 32%, highlighting a big shift forward from the last survey four years ago when only 17% of founders were women.


Despite this growth, female entrepreneurs still only comprise 22% of businesses being sold and a shocking 2.3% of venture capital investment being made in female-led businesses in 2020.


Even at this rate of progress, the World Economic Forum predicts it will still take nearly 135 years to reach gender equality. And that's not even mentioning the significant ethnicity, disability and gender diversity deficits within. There is still much more to be done.


But despite all odds, female entrepreneurs are still breaking through the glass ceiling and dominating innovation in their sectors. Starting a business is not easy and growing one to notable success is even harder. Here's our inaugural list of the most innovative companies founded by inspiring women, curated for international women's day.




Afrocenchix (Consumer Goods) | Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Twumasi-Corson


Rachael Twumasi-Corson and Joycelyn Mate started Afrocenchix in 2011 to help with their alopecia, but the two Black women ended up with much more.


In their search to deal with their hair issues, the pair found that many hair care products available for Black women contained artificial and toxic chemicals. Twumasi-Corson and Mate built Afrocenchix from the ground up, establishing themselves with their small customer base with products including its sulfate-free shampoo and a silicone-free conditioner.


In June 2019, after a decade of hard work, Afrocenchix raised USD1.2 million in funding through Google's Black Founders Fund. Additionally, Afrocenchix is the first Black-owned haircare company to sell its products in Whole Foods UK.




Beautystack (Marketplace) | Sharmadean Reid


Beautystack, the London startup that's creating a beauty professional booking app with a heavy focus on social and community, has quietly picked up GBP4 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures.


Former salon owner and brand consultant Sharmadean Reid launched the company in April 2017. Her idea is to 'close the loop' on seeing the beauty treatment results that you like and booking it.




Chatterbox (HR Tech) | Mursal Hedayat


Chatterbox provides a work platform for refugees and other marginalised people to demonstrate their full potential, connecting their talent with demand from top companies.


Empowering people to re-enter the world of work with confidence and self assertion, Chatterbox provides the tools for them to rebuild a valuable network and achieve professional growth.


In parallel, users of Chatterbox strengthen businesses with global expertise and inclusivity. Through valuable language learner/coach exchanges driven by common interests and professional backgrounds, they're breaking down barriers and tackling social prejudice head on.




DarkTrace (Cybersecurity) | Poppy Gustafsson


Darktrace is a world-leading provider of AI for the enterprise, showcasing the first 'at-scale' deployment of AI in cyber security.


Darktrace delivers world-class technology that protects almost 6,000 customers worldwide from advanced threats, including ransomware, cloud and SaaS attacks. The company's fundamentally different approach applies Self-Learning AI to enable machines to understand the business to defend it autonomously. Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, the company has 1,600 employees and over 30 offices worldwide. Darktrace was named one of TIME magazine's 'Most Influential Companies' for 2021.


Poppy Gustafsson OBE received the 'CEO of the Year' award at the Digital Masters Awards in 2021. The company was also listed on the London Stock Exchange last year.




Elvie (FemTech) | Tania Boler


In 2013, Tania Boler started Elvie to bring women's technology out of the dark ages. Created by women, for women, Elvie's two flagship products, the 'Elvie Pump' silent wearable breast pump and 'Elvie trainer' for pelvic floor training. Alongside new products Elvie Curve and Elvie Catch, Elvie has revolutionised the sector and given women back control and autonomy of their bodies.


In 2018, Elvie launched its portable breast pump on the catwalk of the London Fashion Show. In 2019, they deployed five oversized, inflatable breasts across London to help break the stigma around breastfeeding in public. That same year, the company raised a USD42 million Series B round of funding, then the largest ever raised by a female-led FemTech company.


About seven years since its founding, the team is growing fast across London and New York, now with over 100+ employees, and will undoubtedly continue to soar.




Emerge PR (Marketing, Advertising and PR) | Emily Austen


In a world of non-stop news, EMERGE brings non-stop hustle to the press office, crediting and landing stories that sit across traditional and emerging verticals to bring their clients' fame.


Austen launched Emerge in 2012 with two ambitions; to broaden the idea of where 'PR Activity' could land editorially and challenge what the 'average PR Girl' should look, talk, and act like. Pushing out standardised press releases doesn't cut it in today's fragmented landscape.


Emerge works with some of the most exciting consumer brands in the market, is renowned for being straight up with their clients, and always delivers exceptional and exciting results.




OLIO (GreenTech) | Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One


OLIO's mission is to tackle the increasingly concerning problem of food waste. Food waste is harmful to the environment and businesses, government, and society. What's more, according to OLIO's research, backed by a YouGov poll, 1/3 of people are 'physically pained' throwing away good food. Yet, they find themselves having to do so almost daily, with no better solution than the bin.


Convinced that the cumulative effect of millions of small actions - such as sharing food - can lead to transformational change, Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One founded OLIO to address these problems. They are combining cutting-edge mobile technology with the power of the sharing economy and an engaged local community to unlock environmental impact at scale.




Peanut (Internet) | Michelle Kennedy


Motherhood is a crucial stage in every woman's life as it is an unknown, scary to some and a pause from work period. Two women entrepreneurs, Michelle and Lindsey, have created a mobile app to help women in all stages of motherhood form connections. Kennedy was previously the deputy CEO of Badoo and a Board Advisor and Director at Bumble before founding Peanut. She launched when she struggled to meet like-minded women as a new mum.


The Peanut app has created a community of mothers, expectant mothers, and those trying to conceive. Women can use the app to meet local people at a similar stage in life, share advice and discuss all stages of motherhood. Peanut has raised GBP16.6m over four fundraising rounds.




Pollinate (FinTech) | Fiona Canning


Pollinate aims to improve the success rates of merchant acquisition for banks by developing unique software. With the service you get from Pollinate, you can also use digital tools and insights.


The Co-founder and Chief Product & Marketing Officer, Fiona Canning, used her finance and banking background to create the perfect match between banks and small businesses.


Based in London, they started their operations in 2019. Since then, Pollinate has raised GBP70M over two funding rounds, from EFM Asset Management, Mastercard, Motive Partners, National Australia Bank, and RBS.




Proximie (Healthcare) | Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram


Proximie is a tech platform that allows clinicians to virtually 'scrub in' to any operating room or cath lab from anywhere in the world. By having experts share their skills in real-time, Dr Nadine created a platform with which every patient gets the best healthcare.


Dr Nadine Hachach-Haram, a surgeon, lecturer and clinical entrepreneur, is the brains behind the revolutionary idea. She combined her passions for innovation, education and global surgery to create this augmented reality life-saving platform.





Rise at Seven (Marketing, Advertising & PR) | Carrie Rose


Founded in June 2019 by former Edit and Branded3 colleagues Carrie Rose and Stephen Kenwright, Sheffield-headquartered Rise At Seven has exceeded its lofty targets as the industry-leading search-first creative agency.


Last June, the firm announced a GBP1.5m turnover in its first year and shared plans to double it by June 2021. The company has already hit GBP4m ahead of its financial year in May, and its growth is entirely organic, having returned money from its one early investor.


It is now reinvesting profits back into the business and continuing a hiring spree, expanding into London and the US. Last year, the company had 14 staff; it now has 62, with 12 in its London office, 49 in Sheffield and one in the US.





Smol (Consumer Goods) | Paula Quazi


Smol, is an eco-friendly startup co-founded in 2018 by Paula Quazi and Nick Green. They aim to deliver laundry detergent, fabric conditioner and dishwasher tablets to hundreds of thousands of households across the UK.


Central to their mission is achieving this efficiently and affordably for the consumer and good for the environment. Smol is becoming a national favourite in the eco-friendly consumer marketplace with plastic-free and fully recyclable packaging across all of its products.





Starling Bank (Banking) | Anne Boden


Starling Bank is a new digital-only method of banking. With an app on the users' phones, you can do everything and anything you want through your phone.


The Starling Bank is the perfect outcome of technology making life easy for us, from tracking your savings to transactions. The founder, Anne Boden, is undoubtedly one of the best known female entrepreneurs in Europe. With her 30 year career at the world's best-known financial organisations, she flags creating innovative banking methods as one of her gifts.


Founded in 2015, Starling Bank currently has over 2 million users and is one of the UK's most established fintech startups.



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Clu is dedicated to democratising the job market by giving all job seekers equal opportunity to demonstrate their value to the organisations they were made to succeed in.


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