5 interesting women-founded businesses in honour of International Women’s Day

With International Women’s Day approaching, we are celebrating by taking a closer look at the characteristics of women-founded businesses and then exploring the profile of five UK businesses founded by women.

Characteristics of women-founded businesses


Of the 4,003 UK businesses with women-founder teams, just over half of these businesses are in the early start-up, or seed, stage. Only 7% are in a stage of failure (zombie or dead), with a negligible percentage being classed as dead.

Most of the 4% of businesses that have exited have done so by acquisition, with an average acquisition price of £7m and a range of £100k to £325m. For those that exited via IPO, the average market capitalisation was £174m, with a range of £13m to £577m.

* Director: Percentages are of 3,592 businesses with available data.
*Key people: Percentages are of 3,927 businesses with available data.


We can see that most of these businesses have women-only teams for both directors (59%) and key people (65%). On the other end of the scale, very few have only male directors (at 4%) and, of the available data, there are no businesses who do not have women in key people positions. In short, businesses with women founder teams seem to be more likely to have a higher percentage of women in key or higher-up roles.

Investment into women-founded businesses over the years


As we have seen with other research areas, 2021 was a good year for investment for women-founded businesses as well, with total fundraising value seeing an increase of 72% from 2020. The decline after 2021 is to be expected, as this appears to be an economy-wide trend, with the total value of fundraisings seemingly normalising to pre-2021 levels. The average cheque size for these businesses, based on 4,741 fundraisings, is £1.03m with an average pre-money valuation of £5.64m. Interestingly, these businesses, as a whole, do not have much fundraising activity, with the average number of fundraisings being 1.

Company profiles


To showcase the variety and range of businesses being founded by only women-teams, we took a deeper dive, into five stand-out businesses.

1. Ananas Anam

Founded in 2013, Ananas Anam’s, the pioneers of using waste pineapple leaves to create innovative natural textiles, journey began when their founder, Dr Carmen Hijosa, was a consultant for the Philippines leather export industry in the 1990’s...

Her shock at the environmental impact caused by mass leather production and chemical tanning, along with her knowing that PVC alternatives were not the solution, drove her to research a sustainable alternative, which would be a new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced.

Dr Carmen Hijosa is the founder and Chief Creative & Innovation Officer for Ananas Anam. She is an ethical entrepreneur, who is pursuing a vision of a more sustainable future where people, the environment and the economy are connected. Her mission to develop a natural, sustainable alternative led her to obtain a PhD at the Royal College of Art, when Ananas Anam was being further developed through the incubator program at InnovationRCA. She has been awarded with the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award (sustainable innovation – 2015) and the Innovate UK women in innovation award (sustainable materials – 2016).

All of this led to the development of Piñatex. It is made of fibre from the leaves of the pineapple plant, which are deemed a waste product of the existing pineapple harvest, meaning that there is no additional environmental resources used to produce the raw material. This fibre can be extracted from the waste pineapple leaves by the farmers themselves. At a factory located in the Philippines, it is then industrially processed into a non-woven mesh textile to produce Piñatex’s base. This textile is then shipped to a finishing factory in Barcelona. Piñatex only produces 5% waste, in comparison to the up to 25% waste leather hides can produce due to their irregular shape.

Their latest innovation is Piñayarn, a 100% plant-based yarn that is both recyclable and biodegradable. Being a direct competitor of petroleum-based textiles and raw fibres, Piñayarn is a more sustainable option, as it requires less in terms of land, water, and pesticides for its production, due to its use of pineapple leaves that would otherwise be discarded. Its production process is a closed-loop method, where fibres are subjected to a dry spinning process that has no need for any water or harmful chemicals.

During 2023, Ananas Anam partnership and campaign with Dole Sunshine Company, the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables, and New York creative agency L&C, was the winner of Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards. The partnership was officially announced in 2021, with the goal to address the problem of the waste that is produced by pineapple harvests. For each ton of harvested pineapples, three tons of leaves are generated as a waste product. Ananas Anam is able to utilise these waste leaves and turn them into sustainable alternatives for leather and yarn.

In late 2023, a partnership was announced with Calvin Klein and TENCEL™ to launch ‘The Sustainable Knit Trainer’, with the upper knitted part of shoe being composed of a blend of Ananas Anam’s Piñayarn and TENCEL™ Lyocell fibres. Lyocell is sourced from responsibly managed forests and is produced by using a solvent spinning method. This method recycles over 99% of the solvent and water and ensures complete traceability in the final blended yarn. The upper part of the trainer is composed of 70% TENCEL Lyocell REFIBRA™ and 30% Piñayarn, incorporating recycled cotton and wood pulp from sustainable forests.

2. Aparito

Wrexham based Aparito, an award-winning health technology company, was founded by their CEO Dr Elin Haf Davies in 2014. During her work with paediatric patients suffering from life-threatening and life-limiting diseases...

who were enrolled in clinical trials, at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Dr Elin Haf Davies witnessed as many families were forced to drop out of these studies because of the strain caused by extensive travel and costs for tests and follow-up appointments. She became determined to change the system, and this determination led her to found Aparito and to develop their Atom5™ eCOA Platform.

At the time of establishing Aparito, Dr Elin Haf Davies already had a wealth of experience, including 21 years of clinical (as Senior Clinical Research Nurse and Trial Administrator at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital), research (PhD at University College London) and regulatory experience (as Scientific Assessor at both the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and the European Medicine Agency (EMA)). She has been an Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (CASMI) since 2013, and, from 2014, an Academic Fellow at Bangor University dedicated to the cost evaluation of orphan drugs. Alongside all this, she is the Chair of Metabolic Support UK, the leading patient organisation for Inherited Metabolic Disorders, who are supporting thousands of patients around the world.

Aparito’s Atom5™ is the eCOA platform able to capture patient data through a variety of methods, including video assessments, ePROs, telemedicine, wearables and eConsent. This platform has 5 key features:

  1. Multi-Device Patient Data Capture: With availability via iOS and Android apps, as well as a web browser, Atom5™ allows for continuous data capture at home. In the clinic, provisioned devices, and a BYOD (bring your own device) approach are both supported.
  2. Clinician and Sponsor Portal: this portal supports a wide range of reporting and analytics capabilities, while providing up-to-date patient and study-wide indicators.
  3. eCOA Library: combining video capture and analysis with wearable device data and ePROs, allows this library to provide a richer eCOA and to develop novel digital endpoints with unmatched insight into disease burden and progression.
  4. Data Management & Analytics: Aparito’s data science team are able to provide techniques such as computer vision, image & signal processing, time series analyses and Machine Learning (ML) tools in order to enhance data insight.
  5. Integrated eQMS: the eQMS module makes CSV simple and allows the user to maintain FDA 21 CFR Part 11, HIPAA and GDPR compliance.

Currently, this platform powers clinical studies for 8,000 patients in over 20 countries and in 18 different languages.

The past year for Aparito has been rewarding on both a company and individual basis. Their founder and CEO, Dr Elin Haf Davies, was rewarded with the Made WITH Patients Rising Star Award in recognition of her work in developing their Patient Group Accelerator Programme. She developed the programme with the aim to provide a unique platform that facilitates collaboration of patients, caregivers, and advocacy groups with Aparito, facilitating the creation of solutions that genuinely work for patients.

One of Aparito’s partnerships announced during 2023 was with TruLab, another company working towards improving rare disease studies. This partnership was formed with the mission to improve the efficiency and experience of clinical trials. Both businesses’ mobile platforms are designed so that data integrity is maintained, and potential data loss is minimised. Together, they are on a mission to reduce the burden on family members and caregivers who are seeking treatment for the children under their care. By ensuring that patient samples and data points are collected according to the study procedures and are not lost, through the application of innovative technologies, the chances of success in the clinical trial are ultimately increased. Both businesses, by digitising critical procedures within the clinical trial process, are able to supply real-time visibility to data collection and integrity. This all helps to lessen patient and site burden, and to improve the patient experience and retention.

At the start of 2024, it was announced that they have collaborated with the University of Cambridge Royal Papworth Hospital, Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK, and Garmin Health. They came together in an effort to enhance clinical trials’ patient-centricity by redefining the parameters of measurements and engagement in clinical research, in order to develop the Digital 1-Minute Walk Test (d1MWT). The 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) has traditionally been the way to assess patient function and prognosis, but Dr Joe Newman from Royal Papworth Hospital has challenged this by questioning the arbitrary nature of this test’s duration (Butland et al. 1982). This research has proposed that the 6-Minute Walk Distance (6MWD) can be shortened, and that this could be advantageous for both patients and research protocols. Aparito’s Atom5™ platform has been used by the study team to collect raw data from patients with pulmonary hypertension using Garmin wearables, by Garmin Health’s SDK integration, to capture outdoor 1-Minute Walk Tests (1MWTs).

3. Erase All Kittens

Founded in 2014, Erase All Kittens (EAK) was created to bridge the gap between learning the concepts of programming and learning transferable digital skills, as this gap is often the reason why children lose interest in coding despite their initial excitement...

The founders, Dee Saigal (the CEO and Creative Director) and Leonie Van Der Linde (lead artist and animator), carried out extensive research over two years, which included speaking with hundreds of teachers, parents, and students of all ages, to create a game that could inspire 8-year-olds and above to learn how to code. They especially wanted to create a solution that would get more girls interested in coding, with their mission being to equip 50 million girls with digital skills by 2028.

EAK is a Mario-style adventure game designed to encourage children to learn how to code by changing the game’s source code, with the player building and fixing the world as they progress through the game. During the course of the game, players are encouraged to talk with characters through interactive dialogue, and they are able to see instant results as they code. This boosts confidence and transforms the negative perception of coding held by most girls. The concepts of coding, along with transferable digital skills, are taught with a ‘controlled hacking’ environment that contains tailored coding mechanics, and instruction through storytelling. While the game is specifically designed to appeal to girls, it is built with features proven to engage everyone, regardless of gender, and actively seeks to dismantle gender stereotypes. The game teaches professional skills, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

It is clear that EAK is successfully making its way towards its goals, as shown by feedback from 12,000 students. One of the findings from this feedback was that only 10% of girls had interest in learning more about coding before playing EAK, but after playing this percentage increased to 95%. It is clear that the game is well liked, with 175,000 players in over 100 countries, with 55% of players being girls (where other coding tools average 18%).

They partnered up with Codi, a combination between a coding bootcamp and a leadership course in Beirut, and Tripoli (which is the first programme to foster digital education for underprivileged youth in Lebanon), and CodeBrave, who are striving to create lasting social change by the education across Lebanon in school programmes and the curriculum. The mission of this collaboration was to hold coding workshops for girls aged 8-13 from disadvantaged areas of Lebanon. EAK donated free accounts and held coding sessions consisting of hours of story-filled gameplay and mini game jams to inspire these girls to learn coding and to come up with their own game ideas.

They have also partnered with Maker{Futures}, who are a growing internationally movement that provide resources, support, and workshops for early years settings, including schools, libraries, museums, and community spaces, for those who want to develop their maker education provision. Their workshops will guide young learners through topics, including the basics of coding and algorithms, HTML, CSS, and game design, allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills to create on the web. These workshops will also facilitate students in developing transferable skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and confidence.

4. Here We Flo

Since their incorporation in 2017, Here We Flo have had the same mission, which is to make period products that inspire confidence in people and empower them about their messiest bodily moments. The journey of this company started with co-founders Tara Chandra and Susan Allen...

who met at the London School of Economics, joking about starting a social-impact business and discussing the difficulty of finding organic tampons, which included a long talk about the synthetic fibres, pesticide and harsh chemical residues, and negative environmental impact of conventional period products.

Tara Chandra has achieved a degree in Economics from Columbia University, and an Executive Global Masters in Management from the London School of Economics. She was also a soul singer/songwriter under the name ‘Tara Priya’ from 2010 to 2017, where she had international record and publishing deals with indie success, with a #2 album and #6 single in Asia, and international tours across Canada, Europe, and Asia. Susan Allen gained a degree in Communication and Legal Studies from the University of Massachusetts and a MSc in Management from the London School of Economics. In addition to her work at Here We Flo, she is an Advisory Board Member for Sigma Labs, an Advisory Committee Member for the Restuccia Health Justice Fellowship at Community Catalyst, and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Member for the British Beauty Council.

Here We Flo offers a range of period products, including:

  • Tampons: Their eco-applicator tampons are hypoallergenic and biodegradable, with no synthetic fibres, chemical residues, dyes, pesticides, chlorine bleach or fragrances. They also offer a non-applicator option.
  • Pads: Their bamboo period pads are made of fully organic, biodegradable bamboo.
  • Period pants: These are machine washable and able to hold up to five tampons’ worth of menstrual flow. Here We Flo partnered with Netflix’s Sex Education to create a line of period pants to, in their words, bring the most empowering celebration of self-love, self-expression and self-exploration.

In line with their sustainability promise, they use biodegradable and compostable plant cellulose for their pad, liner, and tampon wrapper, and use sugarcane biopolymer for their applicators, which is 95% plant based. They have saved at least 17 million tampons/pads and over 2 million bladder pads from landfill. They also donate product each month to those in need and to menstrual charities, along with giving 5% of their profits to both people and the planet.

At the end of 2022, they secured £1.7m in angel funding to supercharge their growth in the UK and the US, by using investment for team hires, marketing, and work capital. Investors in the round include founders and executives from businesses such as M&S, Tails.com, Harry’s, Charlotte Tilbury, Method, Graze, Innocent, Burt’s Bees, and Unilever.

In 2023, Here We Flo became one of the few menstrual health businesses worldwide to achieve recognition as a Certified B Corporation TM (B Corp). This certification is awarded to businesses after a rigorous assessment process. They gain this certification only if they meet the social and environmental performance standards and prove they are committed to using business as a force for good, with the process measuring a company’s impact on its employees, customers, community, and the environment. In order to become a B Corp, a company must score at least 80 points; Here We Flo achieved 109.9 points.

5. FA-Bio

Founded in 2015, and based at Rothamsted Research Centre since 2016, FA-Bio, previously FungiAlert, was founded by Dr Angela de Manzanos Guinot and Dr Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver...

It started with the mission to develop tools to support sustainable agriculture and revolutionise disease management practices. The founders were working towards this mission during their PhD studies at Imperial College London where they developed the SporSenZ technology, which is used for the early detection of soil pathogens. Their mission today is to assist in minimising agriculture’s environmental impact while also sustainably increasing crop productivity. Their focus is on discovering microbial bio-products in order to deliver sustainable farming solutions.

Dr Angela de Manzanos Guinot (CEO) holds more than 16 years of experience in agriculture and in being innovative in solving challenges of sustainability. She has achieved her degree and MSc at the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, completed her Master Research in Chemical Biology of Crop Protection and Sustainability (for which she was awarded the Lord Porter Prize), and her PhD in Chemical Biology at Imperial College London. Dr Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver (CIO) has over 15 years of experience in research, with 12 of those being focused on sustainable agriculture. She has achieved a PhD in Crop Sustainability and Protection from Imperial College London. Due to her research, she was the recipient of four awards, and she published three peer-reviewed research papers. In addition, she has a MSc in Chemistry and a postgraduate in Master of Research of Crop Sustainability and Protection.

FA-Bio has two underlying elements to their business, FA-BioAg and FA-BioLab. FA-BioLab partners with growers to study key soil microbial communities. They are studying soil biodiversity through the use of their patented technology and soil microbial analysis tool, SporSenZ, which harnesses the response of soil microbes to the environment. The SporSenZ works by its composition mimicking roots compounds. Because of this, it is able to attract active and dominant microbes present in the soil. After it has captured a microbial sample, it is sent back to the lab where expert scientist perform species identification by using DNA sequencing methods.

FA-BioAg partners with strategic businesses to develop sustainable bioproducts. Their mission is to find microbial active ingredients with disease control, plant growth promotion and fertiliser activities, while also aiming to minimise agriculture’s environmental impact and to restore soil health, but also increasing crop yields in a sustainable way. They are using their Microbial Discovery Platform to work towards these goals, as it revolutionises the discovery of microbial active ingredients for biofungicides and biofertilisers. They are also utilising DNA sequencing methods, bioinformatics, microbial bioassays, and glasshouse studies in order to study FA-BioLab’s microbial library, that has been grown over the years through sampling active soil microbes globally and working with a wide range of crops, and to find microbial active ingredients for bioproducts.

Near the beginning of 2023, FA-Bio was awarded a £17,606 grant from the BBSRC Campus Impact Acceleration Grant Scheme, as part of their support of tenants of Rothamsted Enterprises and businesses in the SHAKE Climate Change Programme. This funding will allow them to access the academic and scientific research services available at Rothamsted Enterprises, including the Growth Chambers and Glasshouses, which in turn will accelerate their discovery projects to the next stage of development.

That year also saw them awarded funding from the Framing innovation Programme, delivered by Innovate UK, to introduce game-changing innovation within UK cereal farming, with the aim to significantly benefit farmers by reducing costs, crop losses and reliance on chemical pesticides. FA-Bio will lead this project in collaboration with the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), with the aim to develop a novel dual-action biopesticide, providing farmers with a sustainable ad effective pest control product.

At the beginning of this year, they raised a £5.3m investment from existing shareholders, new private investors, and three European venture capital investment funds, who are Clean Growth Fund, Pymwymic, and Ship2B Ventures. This investment will be used to support the commercialisation of their technology, their ongoing research work, and to fund the expansion of their team.

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.


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