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Do Women Entrepreneurs Have a Different Idea of Success?

Jessica Wilkins, Special to CNBC.com
Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 | 9:39 AM ET

Lizzy Playford was running the payroll department of a now defunct production company when the 2008 recession forced her to rethink her career plans.

"It really kicked my confidence and I did not know what to do with myself, " 28-year-old Playford told CNBC.

An enterprise grant from the U.K. Prince's Trust helped Lizzy turn her unusual hobbies - fire dancing and stilt walking - into a successful business.

Gender was not a factor when securing financial backing, she said, but running a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as a woman nevertheless posed several challenges.

Research by the U.K. government has shown that gender is one of the most likely factors to dictate growth and the success of an SME.

A report by Britain's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) into ambition among the SME sector found gender to be one of the most powerful "explanatory variables" when it came to an entrepreneur's vision. Women may be "less driven by wealth" than their male counterparts, the report suggested.

And while women may have the same skill set as men, the same report found that "women-owned businesses grow less because they have lower growth ambition then men."

Women may set up businesses for different reasons to men and have a different idea of success, the report added.

(Read More: UK Businesses Cheer Government Blitz on Red Tape )

Fellow Prince's Trust graduate and mother-of-one Susie Cuthill echoed Playford's comments on securing funding. She was adamant she was assessed as an equal when negotiating a grant and loan from the Prince's Trust for her venture, Teddy Baby.

The home-run business, which managed to turn a profit in its first year, offers hand-knitted hats for babies.

"I started knitting when I was pregnant as a pastime and we had always both been interested in crafts, " Cuthill said. "We started knitting items for our baby and then we made hats for friends. People really liked them and asked to buy them, so we thought it might be good to start as a business."

Like Playford, Cuthill says the first place she finds her gender is a problem is the SME industry she operates within

"It is quite difficult because business is very much dominated by men, " Cuthill told CNBC, "I go to networking events and it can be quite intimidating."

(Read More:Are Women Better Investors Than Men? )

Combining the work she does for the business with motherhood has been difficult too.

"I don't stop being a mum and then start being a business woman. I am literally giving my child breakfast and answering emails at the same time, " she said.

Both Susie and Lizzy began their businesses to get themselves out of unemployment. While both women have been successful, they both back up BIS findings that female entrepreneurs enter business for reasons other than turning a massive profit.

Fashion designer Samata Angel works as the Global Campaign Director of the Red Carpet Green Dress Competition, a campaign to promote sustainable clothes design.

Her label, Samata, faced the same problems most fashion start-ups face: "Banks are quite nervous to lend to fashion brands because there is no guarantee. You may feel you have got a great collection but the public might not."

Like Cuthill and Playford, Angel does not see wealth as the ultimate goal of her business.

"I am looking at the new model of profit, " she explained. Samata describes herself as at "pro-profit, pro-people and pro-environment" when buidling her business model.

James Caan hosts CNBC's new series "The Business Class ", which charts the route to success for small businesses. It starts October 17 at 10 p.m. London time.

  • Caan is one of the U.K.'s most successful and dynamic entrepreneurs as well as the guest presenter of "The Business Class."

The Business Class Extras