Women entrepreneurs in Italy represent a growing segment of the national industry. Last year female entrepreneurship was estimated to make up about 25% of the national total, with a predominance of female-led enterprises in some specific markets (such as wellness and beauty). Numbers are set to increase in the foreseeable future, as several policies are implemented at both a national and European level to encourage aspiring women entrepreneurs in the development of their projects. New female-led enterprises are being started in Italy to the tune of 50.000 per year. The current set up is also the product of a cultural shift, that happened over the past three decades, in which traditional values an gender roles have evolved, and society has benefitted from a richer and more diverse entrepreneurial environment.
Women entrepreneurs in Italy: where do they come from?
One of the most favourable policies for women entrepreneurs in Italy was implemented in 2014, providing easier access to credit and development tools for both freelancers and entrepreneurs. This protocol has had a positive impact on female entrepreneurship, motivating thousands of former hired company managers and employees that decided to start their own enterprise, because the improved conditions allowed them to turn their passions and skills into profit. This is an essential aspect of all good entrepreneurship, female or otherwise: an accurate and honest assessment of one’s own strengths is vital when laying the foundations of a successful business.
There are plenty of incentives available to women entrepreneurs in Italy and getting financed is a lot easier now than it used to be. Aid usually presents itself in the form of either subsidised loans or funding grants and that’s the first distinction that aspiring entrepreneurs should be aware of. The former are loans, albeit easier to access and available at a far lower interest than normal, which means they come with a payment plan that has to be followed. These are best suited to enterprises that have a reasonable way of forecasting profit with a reasonably accurate margin, as they will have to factor in the loans into their business plan. Funding grants, on the other hand, don’t need to be paid back and are therefore usually lower, sparser and harder to access. Women entrepreneurs wishing to avail themselves of any of these incentives, will have plenty to choose from. Some of them are State-funded, through public institutions and both private and public companies, some are funded by individual regions and therefore only available to local enterprises and some are funded by the European Union.
The way to go
The banking institute Intesa Sanpaolo recently funded a study, aimed at assessing the current state of female entrepreneurship in Italy. Among other things, it was revealed that female-led enterprises have a stronger tendency than average towards internationalisation and innovation and that they perform better in the marketing department, with a higher percentage of companies exporting abroad than the national average. The same report advocated for a higher involvement of women in entrepreneurship, claiming that, if female occupation in Italy exceeded 60%, the national GDP could be boosted by an impressive 7%. Aspiring founders of SMBs, of course, benefit from consulting development professionals before setting out on their entrepreneurial adventures, in order to draft a reliable and workable business plan and have a clear vision for their company’s future. It is also essential, for any entrepreneur, to be aware of all the tools and incentive he or she has available to further their career.