UK Women in Business Talk Gender Gaps and Diversity

Gender & Business in the UK: Three Entrepreneurs Talk Challenges, Successes

Jessica Elliott, managing director at J's Dance Factory, found she had to work extra hard to prove her acumen because of her youth. (Image: Elliott)

Jessica Elliott, Managing Director, J’s Dance Factory, Dancing After School and JDF Management

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

I started my first enterprise almost five years ago on my 20th birthday. Dancing After School hosts dance activities for schools and clubs alongside training to improve the standard of dance offered in schools.

J’s Dance Factory comprises three Saturday dance schools in London with classes for children ages 3-17 years old. Both dance companies provide sessions for around 1000 children a week. JDF Management is my newest venture, providing a platform for talented children and young people who want to break into the professional world of film, modeling and entertainment.

Has your race and gender had an impact?

I think my gender has been an advantage as people are often intrigued by me. I definitely stand out in what is still very much is a man’s world. Race is not something I really consider as a hindrance to me. Age has been much worse. I’m 24, and when I was starting out I found it hard when people didn’t take me seriously.

Opening a business bank account for example was really difficult, but, you just have to let your track record speak for itself and not let opinions defeat you. “Start small, dream big, act fast” is one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.

What can be done to encourage greater numbers of black women in Britain to start and grow businesses?

We need more positive mentors and role models in the media to help encourage greater numbers of black women in Britain to start and grow businesses. Pop stars are great but if you ask a teenage girl to name a black British female entrepreneur I know they would struggle.

Women need confidence to get started. I believe showcasing the talents of the fantastic black female led businesses we have in the UK is a great place to start.

Octavia Goredema is founder of relocation resource Crash Course City and the Twenty Ten Club, an award-winning networking organization and online resource designed to connect, inspire and support black female entrepreneurs. Goredema is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an international network of accomplished individuals in the arts, manufactures and commerce patroned by the Queen Elizabeth II.