IWD 2023: Margaret Dabbs’ advice to young female entrepreneurs
Female entrepreneurs are still underrepresented in business, but the numbers are growing. The Rose Review Progress Report 2022 showed that more women than ever are creating new businesses.
The number of new female-founded businesses is increasing by over a third each year, which is great news for women looking to become successful entrepreneurs. However, this still only equates to 20% of new businesses. We’re making progress, but there’s still a way to go.
Role models and success stories are key to inspiring young, ambitious women into entrepreneurship. One such success story is that of Margaret Dabbs OBE: she founded her brand Margaret Dabbs London in 2004, starting with her clinics before creating a range of products for feet, hands, and legs.
Margaret has recently been recognised for her services to business and podiatry with a well-deserved OBE in the 2023 New Year’s Honours List.
We sat down with Margaret to find out more about her journey and get her advice to young women looking to enter business leadership and become entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to start Margaret Dabbs London?
I saw a gap in the market to create effective yet luxurious foot products. Beauty products didn’t work, and pharmacy formulations were unpleasant to use, so I set about sourcing ingredients from around the world and mixed formulas to use initially in my own clinic.
How did you manage the fast and exponential growth of the Margaret Dabbs London brand?
I stayed focused on my ideas. There have always been a lot of opportunities, as there are with any good businesses, but the key is not to get distracted.
It’s also important to remember that a business must bring in more money than it is spending – and that means you need to create a business model that works. I had belief in myself and in my idea and I have worked very hard to make this happen. I’ve also had support along the way – some of my patients have offered advice, which has always been so helpful. I’ve been approached by beauty retailers, journalists and press along the way who shared my vision, which has led to lots of new opportunities for our clinics and product placement not only in the UK but globally.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received lots of great advice over the years. One piece that really sticks with me was about making sure I never ran out of cash, and another was about making sure I didn’t get myself tied up with lots of bank loans and therefore risk losing control of my business.
Do you have any advice for young women looking to become business leaders or entrepreneurs?
If you're thinking of starting a business, don't let your gender hold you back. Believe in yourself and go for it. Be passionate about your ideas, listen to everyone and take advice from people around you, but make your own decisions.
It’s really important to be careful with cash and remember you must bring in more money than you are spending – cashflow is the key to getting a business off the ground. Make sure your business model works – keep it simple and don’t overthink. And most importantly, keep your focus and don’t be distracted by lots of other opportunities around you. A good business idea will always throw up lots of opportunities, but don’t be tempted to keep changing direction; focusing on what you set out to do is key.
Were there any challenges or barriers you faced as a female business leader and entrepreneur?
I don’t think I was taken seriously in the early days – I was viewed merely as a ‘housewife’ with a hobby or idea. I’m self-taught and had to learn quickly as it was my money on the line.
I soon realised that I was quite good at what I was doing, and the constant approaches from retailers and press made me realise that my idea was a good one – and it has been amazing that they have shared my vision.
How did you feel when you found out you were being awarded an OBE?
Shocked, thrilled, and humbled.
Do you think the landscape for ambitious women in business has changed since you started out?
Yes, very much. However, it still shocks me when I attend an important meeting and I am the only woman in the room. It never ceases to amaze me how many corporate global beauty brands have men in the top posts – even though these men are often not the target customer and are not ‘involved’ in the business.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I feel proud and honoured to be part of such an event. It gives a platform for women to come together and not only celebrate our achievements, but to support the next generation of talented women who will be our future business leaders.
What’s next for Margaret Dabbs London?
More of the same – we’re planning an increase in products, more distribution, exciting launches and more clinics globally.