Press release

Women entrepreneurs secure £2 million investment with government backing

Two promising small businesses have secured investment with the support of a government fund that backs female entrepreneurs.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Playmob Ltd and Wool and The Gang Ltd are together receiving over £400,000 from the Aspire Fund, backed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and designed to provide equity finance to women-led small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

This support sits alongside private sector investments in the two ambitious firms, which totals £2.2 million.

Playmob Ltd, has secured £215,000 from the Aspire Fund. It was established by business and gaming enthusiast Jude Ower in 2007, and links virtual purchasing found in many online games to real life charitable donations through online gaming. Charities already benefiting include the WWF, War Child and Water Aid.

Wool and The Gang has secured £200,000 from the Fund. Established in 2008 by Aurelie Popper and Jade Harwood, Wool and the Gang is an online boutique specialising in fashion knitwear. The investment will enable them to expand their business.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said:

There are now nearly a million businesses led by women in the UK making an important contribution to the UK economy. The Aspire Fund can encourage female entrepreneurs to consider how equity finance might work for them, and the benefits of approaching investors to secure the finance they need.

It is important that the full range of finance options is open and accessible to everyone and that no-one is held back from starting and growing their businesses.

Jude Ower, founder of Playmob Ltd said:

I am delighted to close our recent round and to be working with the Aspire Fund to take Playmob to the next level. By securing this investment, it enables Playmob to set-up operations in the US, an extremely important area for the business’ growth. Our primary focus will be getting games studios, publishers and charities on board as partners.

Playmob is also expanding the technology platform to include an opportunity for brands to collaborate in giving through games.

Lisa Rodwell, Wool and the Gang’s CEO said:

We’re incredibly excited to have backing for our quest to build a worldwide movement around sustainable fashion that’s handcrafted and made uniquely by our team of artisans around the world.

Notes to editors

1.The Aspire fund was established in 2008 with £12.5 million to co-invest alongside private investors specifically in women-led businesses. To date Aspire has co-invested £3.8 million in six companies, across the medical, communications and software sectors.

2.All investments by the Aspire Fund need to be matched and led by an experienced co-investor. Any approaches to Aspire should be made by the investor in a business rather than directly by the business.

3.There are 860,000 SMEs majority-led by women. This is 18 per cent of the 4.8 million SMEs in the UK as of January 2012 (source: BIS 2012 Small Business Survey)

4.In the UK, majority women-led SME businesses contribute approximately £75 billion to Gross Value Added (16 per cent of the UK SME approximate GVA total).

5.While as successful as male-led businesses in raising finance, and just as likely to have the intention to grow their business, female-led businesses tend to seek significantly lower amounts of finance and are less likely to consider using equity finance, and less likely to know how to raise equity finance.

6.Playmob Ltd, established by business and gaming enthusiast Jude Ower in 2007, is revolutionising giving through online gaming by linking virtual purchasing found in many online games to real life charitable donations. This means players are able to support causes they care about during their gameplay experience, while charities benefit from an additional revenue stream when traditional donations are falling. Charities already benefiting include the WWF, War Child and Water Aid.

Jude recently completed a deal with EA, and is working to sign up other major games studios and charities. Her goal is to raise $1 billion for charity in the next three years. Playmob Ltd is a ‘for profit’ business, and Jude believes strongly in “Do Well By Doing Good” and philanthrocapitalism.

Playmob Ltd won the ‘Best Start Up’ at the Launch Awards in November 2012 and won ‘Social Investment of the Year’ at the British Business Angel Awards in June 2013.

7.Wool and The Gang is an online boutique specialising in fashion knitwear which gives customers the option of buying ready-to-wear items, or kits to knit their own unique versions. It was established in 2008 by Central St Martins graduates Aurelie Popper and Jade Harwood, and having proven the business model they are now looking to expand. They have brought in Lisa Rodwell, formerly of Moo.com, as Chief Executive to implement the new business strategy.

8.Other companies in which Aspire has invested include Scancell. Scancell uses immunology to fight cancer, leading the way in vaccine development. The Aspire Fund has invested £207,000 in Scancell, which has helped the company complete Phase 1 trials and Phase II patient recruitment has now started. The company floated on AIM in order to raise further funding for research purposes.

9.Investments and management of the Aspire Fund, as with other publicly-backed equity funds, are managed by Capital for Enterprise Limited, the government’s arm’s length fund of funds manager for venture capital. The Aspire Fund is one of a range of government-backed schemes totalling £2.9 billion that are being brought together under the Business Bank initiative. A further £1 billion of new capital will be deployed by the Business Bank in partnership with the private sector to further increase the amount of finance available and the choice of finance providers to businesses.

10.In June the government reaffirmed its commitment to help small and medium sized businesses succeed. We will launch a strategy in the autumn on what further support government will provide to create a positive environment for businesses to start up and grow.

11.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 6 September 2013