Female founders still facing barriers securing financing – Ancient + Brave boss

The founder of one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies and burgeoning wellness brand Ancient + Brave has hit out at sexism in the financing sector and the difficulties faced by female entrepreneurs.

Kate Prince, who founded East Sussex-based Ancient + Brave in 2018 selling collagen and dietary supplements, has been ranked in fifth place on the Sunday Times 100 list of fastest-growing firms after seeing sales soar to over £10 million in 2023 from £1.3 million in 2022.

The 51-year-old former media lawyer raised £7 million in venture capital funding last year from consumer investor Piper to help the firm expand and is planning to launch in Germany by September as Ms Prince now sets her sights on overseas markets.

Ancient + Brave – which has amassed a raft of celebrity followers, including sportswoman Dame Kelly Holmes and pop star Ellie Goulding – employs 55 staff, all of whom are female bar one, and a board headed by former Wagamama chief executive Emma Woods.

Ancient + Brave jars and packaging
Ancient + Brave has ranked fifth in this year’s Sunday Times 100 fastest-growing firms (Ancient + Brave/PA)

But Ms Prince said she had witnessed firsthand the barriers faced by female founders in securing financing – a issue that was highlighted in a government-commissioned report earlier this year, which indicated that 2% of equity investment in the UK went to female founders.

The research, published in February, found that for every £1 of equity investment in the UK, some 2p went to fully female-founded businesses, “representing no improvement in the past decade”.

The report found that “fewer women apply for funding – and when they do, they are less likely to receive it, and tend to receive significantly less than men”.

Ms Prince said a “cultural shift” was needed to boost funding for female entrepreneurs and encourage more women to start up their own businesses.

She called on the next government to play a role in supporting and helping offer funding to budding female founders.

She said: “Schools aren’t talking about the moment for female entrepreneurs.

“We need a cultural shift and hopefully the next government may be interested in helping with this.”

She said government funding was vital to help many women get their start-ups off the ground.

“We need great female support for these women – they may have elderly relatives and young children,” she said.

“We need to direct some funding towards them.”

The latest Sunday Times 100 revealed earlier this week that a quarter of the firms on the list were founded or co-founded by female entrepreneurs, down from 28% in 2023.

Ms Prince said women still came up against a lot of “draconian views” and “cultural barriers”.

She said that when she asked a prominent start-up investor recently why he believed so few female founders got access to funding, “he said it’s because only 2% of women deserve funding”.

“That person has a platform and a voice,” Ms Prince said.

“There’s a lot of grey suits out there and boards dominated by 50/60-year-old men.”

Fresh from earning its place among the ranks of the country’s fastest-growing firms, Ancient + Brave is now looking to double its revenues to £20 million, with trading so far this year putting the firm on track to reach its goal.

After Germany, Ms Prince is hoping to target other European markets such as Spain and Italy, while gearing up for a possible future launch in the US.

She said there was no timescale set for entering the American market, which is “not to be taken lightly”.

Having benefited from angel investor support in the early days of growing her company, Ms Prince said she would look to become an angel investor herself one day and help support female founders.

She said: “If I’m fortunate enough in the future to have the cash to do that … that, to me, would be a very proud moment.”