Belfast: a great city for female entrepreneurs
Belfast has come a long way in the last 30 years. Well technically no of course it hasn’t, it’s exactly where it’s been since its founding in the 17th century (or alternately it’s moved over 78 billion miles relative to the rest of the Milky Way depending on your point of view – literally). After a promising start, and a period as one of the most important industrial cities in the world (number one for shipbuilding, rope-making, linen etc.) Belfast stalled – mostly thanks to its own internal conflicts, and then watched as other cities overtook it in industry, innovation and culture.
Back in the 1980’s it would have been hard to believe that Belfast was on its way to becoming one of the world’s best cities for female entrepreneurship. Well according to this report, we’re number 36, and ahead of Cambridge, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Tokyo, Shanghai, Milan and Beijing. Our CEO, Lisa Smith, who grow up in Durban, studied in Boston and lives in London would probably have been very surprised to hear this a year ago, but since joining Kraydel and spending time in Northern Ireland she would be quick to acknowledge the fantastic levels of support for entrepreneurs available here: both formally, through InvestNI, and informally from networks and organisations like Catalyst Connect. Through all the difficulties in NI, it has always been the case that visitors would say, in surprise, “I wasn’t expecting people to be so friendly and helpful”. These days we’re doing a pretty good job of being friendly and helpful to each other and not just to strangers and I think that is paying off in the soaring number of start-up companies, and the success that they are achieving.
Belfast city’s motto is Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus – “In return for so much, what shall we give back?” I like to see this interpreted as “pay it forward” – people (like me) getting loads of help from others who have nothing in particular to gain, but then in turn wishing to do likewise. A friend shared this epithet: “If you’re going to succeed in business, you’ll have to help a lot of people along the way” – I like that a lot and it’s great that women here, as well as men, are seeing the benefits of this philosphy.