Fareham: Female entrepreneur tackles COVID-19 challenges

A Fareham-based female entrepreneur, who pivoted her business to keep afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic while managing enormous family pressures, has been featured as a success story in a new report – Resilience and Recovery – by think tank The Entrepreneurs Network, in partnership with Barclays. The report, which revealed that female-founded, equity-backed businesses have been worse affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than their male counterparts, also explored the green shoots of optimism and the tales of true resilience displayed by female entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis.

One of these positive stories is founder and managing director of CMe Media, Charisse Smith, located in Fareham, who specialises in media buying, advertising and creative, for TV, digital, radio, press and outdoors.

While her revenues were directly hurt by lockdown measures, which meant that advertising space on public transport and high streets became less valuable, Smith pivoted the business by arranging new payment plans with clients, setting up new co-owned satellite branches and also applying for a £100,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from Barclays.

Charisse Smith said: “As COVID-19 restrictions were announced, I immediately focussed on understanding the level of exposure facing CMe Media and how I could best support our clients, suppliers and staff throughout this period. I quickly pivoted the business to identify ways I could bolster our cashflow in the short to mid-term; this included arranging new payment plans with clients, enacting our break clause on our commercial lease and furloughing staff to ensure we could keep them in employment throughout this period.”

She added: “As a female founder, I also had to navigate the carefully balanced tightrope of keeping my business afloat throughout the pandemic, supporting my amazing staff and dealing with the additional pressure of being a new Mum again. Working night and day from my dining table with my baby next to me, I immediately turned to my Barclays relationship manager for additional support through the Government’s CBILS, and as a high growth business, we agreed on a £100,000 loan to bolster our immediate cashflow concerns and support our growth ambitions in the long-term. This loan has been significant for our business, allowing us to look to the future with confidence and see us through a particularly challenging period.”

To help female-led businesses continue to recover from the pandemic and tackle the gender gap in entrepreneurship equivalent to an economic shortfall of £250 billion, Barclays has pledged to help 100,000 women start up and run their businesses over the next three years. The bank will target local events and mentoring via Barclays’ UK-wide network of Eagle Labs and Rise hubs, increasing training and tools for Barclay’s coverage teams, as well as dedicated regional champions across the UK.

Aria Babu, author of Resilience and Recovery, said: “If we want a complete recovery from this recession, we need to see as many entrepreneurs as possible innovate and create new jobs. This means we cannot afford to keep barriers which prevent female entrepreneurs from realising their full talents.”

Juliet Rogan, Barclays head of High Growth and Entrepreneurs, said: “Whilst great strides have been made for female entrepreneurs in recent years, we know there is still some way to go to level the playing field. As a proud founding signatory of the HM Treasury Investing in Women Code, we hope that our latest commitment to support 100,000 women to start up and run their own business will empower more women to follow their business ambitions and give a boost to entrepreneurship in the UK.”

To read the full Resilience & Recovery report visit: www.tenentrepreneurs.org