The Suffolk women helping others build their dream business

Claire and Sarah, the co-founders of We Are Radikl

Claire and Sarah, the co-founders of We Are Radikl. The two have been working with Suffolk Libraries to help local women launch their own businesses - Credit: Karina Lyburn Photography

For many, giving up your day job and starting your very own business is the dream. But as anyone knows, it’s hard enough at the best of times to get your foot on the ladder and get yourself out there. Especially if you're a woman. 

But two women are hoping to change that – and are focussing their efforts right here in Suffolk.  

Meet Claire Dunn and Sarah King, the two co-founders of We Are Radikl. This female-led initiative was created by the duo in 2018 with the aims of ‘helping women build the brilliant businesses they dare to dream about.’

“We both had senior management careers in the corporate and entrepreneurial world, and through a chance LinkedIn connection, we realised we lived half a mile apart from each other,” explains Claire. 

During a meet-up over coffee, the two bonded over the struggles that women in business face. 

“After putting the world to rights for about 45 minutes about what could be better for female founders in the world, we came up with We Are Radikl – and set out to do three things. Firstly, we want to increase the number of women business founders in the UK.” 

Findings published in a 2019 edition of The Rose Report found that if more women started and grew their own businesses at the same rate that men do, it would boost the UK’s economy by £250bn a year.  

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“It’s good for local communities, good for families and good for society,” adds Claire. 

“Secondly, we want to increase the number of diversity funding and investment that goes towards women founders. Women only access around 1% of funding – and for black women it’s even lower at 0.24% – meaning it’s harder for women to scale their businesses.” 

Thirdly, the duo wants to help break those ‘invisible’ barriers that often hold women back in business and entrepreneurship.  

“There’s a lot of obstacles that get in the way of women growing their own businesses successfully. For instance, a lot of meetings are done over breakfast or in the evenings, and often women are looking after their children at those times, missing out on crucial networking and business opportunities.” 

With Covid leaving a lot of people – women especially – feeling left out of the conservation, that’s where Claire and Sarah come in.  

“A lot of business start-up programmes just explain the process and let people get on with it, but there’s often little or no support for women along the way. And ours is designed in a way which means women can access flexible support every step of the way.” 

We Are Radikl’s joint venture with Suffolk Libraries is a free six-week programme that helps and encourages local women to successfully start, sustain and scale their own businesses – while also providing a route to funding opportunities.  

“It’s designed to get women talking about everything they need to know, such as funding, and how to design products and services that customers enjoy but also that they enjoy selling.” 

The programme uses a hybrid approach – featuring a mix of pre-recorded and downloadable resources, alongside workshops where women can get together and form connections with fellow entrepreneurs. 

“We trialled it in Suffolk last year, and it was hugely successful. It was the best take up we’ve ever had, and we filled an entire cohort in about three weeks.” 

Its 2022 programme, which launched on Tuesday January 4, gave 30 women the skills, support and confidence necessary to bring their business ideas to fruition. 

“We’ve had a really interesting variety of businesses join us so far – from arts and crafts, to technology, e-commerce, legal enterprises and HR consultancies. I think women's businesses are often stereotyped as lifestyle, but in reality there are fiercely ambitious women working across a variety of sectors, building businesses that will change the world. And that is exciting.” 

Kellie Dimmock of Suffolk Libraries adds: “It is a real pleasure to be working in partnership with We Are Radikl again. Having funded a limited number of places on the programme for a wonderful group of aspiring Suffolk women, they have been such a joy to get to know and the positive energy they are creating as a group is inspirational. These talented women are fostering a wonderful sense of community spirit, both in business and peer networks.  

“At Suffolk Libraries we are so proud to be part of seeing where these budding business relationships and peer groups will lead. We look forward to supporting their business and community needs and growth in the future.” 

One woman who has benefited from this programme is Candice Steward. The Stradbroke resident is a keen papercrafter, and in 2019 began thinking about setting up her own business so embarked upon the launch programme.

Candice Steward

Candice Steward - Credit: Candice Steward

“In late 2019 I started Flossy Design, but of course 2020 was a bit of knockout. As I was researching how to finally get my business off the ground, I came across the programme funded by Suffolk Libraries, and thought it was perfect timing.  

"I felt really isolated setting up a business by myself, and covering everything felt impossible, so the course felt like the perfect route to go down. It’s been supportive in so many ways, and having a community of ladies to bounce your ideas off has been a huge help.” 

Candice did a series of weekly Zoom sessions with Sarah, who went through different things each week such as tackling self-limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome. 

“It was also helpful going through a business plan in a way that’s not just Excel and numbers, but is visual and creative as well. It’s helpful to be part of a community so you can find out about things like VAT and registering your business. Some of the ladies on it may be starting a side hustle, or a full business, but it’s great that you can put your questions out there and have anyone step forward with their help and advice.” 

Having a network of like-minded women has been great, Candice admits – and says that working together has helped her open up and progress her venture.  

“It’s far easier to be vulnerable and authentic with people who understand you. Business isn’t just about spreadsheets, power struggles and what you earn. There’s passion and emotion that you bring to it - which are just as important - but I feel women hide that because we feel we need to competitive.” 

Another woman who has made huge strides thanks to the scheme is Hannah Bridges. The Saxmundham midwife joined the programme after seeing it advertised online and thought it would help her launch her pregnancy, postnatal, and mum and baby yoga class business. 

Hannah Bridges

Hannah Bridges - Credit: Hannah Bridges

She says she has since found it easier to start a business thanks to the newfound networking opportunities it has presented her with.  

“I didn't really know where to start as I've never run my own business before, but I found the programme really helpful. It breaks everything down into manageable chunks and encouraged me to set time aside each week to work on my individual goals. It was brilliant for connecting me with other local women starting up their businesses for advice and moral support,” she says.  

Similarly, local florist Melanie Thomas has since found the confidence and skills needed to help get her business of the ground – successfully turning her hobby into a full-time job.  

Melanie Thomas

Melanie Thomas - Credit: Melanie Thomas

“During the first lockdown I gardened and set up an Instagram account where I photographed flowers, to give me something positive to focus on. I followed other accounts and came up with the idea of taking out my square lawn to create a formal cutting garden to grow flowers.  

“I’ve been a florist for over 20 years, but hadn’t worked for the last couple as I got fed up of using Dutch imported flowers with no movement or scent.” 

After growing her own tulips, she felt inspired to turn her passion into a money maker – and that’s where We Are Radikl came in.  

“I’m passionate about my business, Suffolk Flower Garden, but I’m a creative and have no business knowledge or know-how. But in December, I saw an advert for the course run by We Are Radikl and Suffolk Libraries so signed up. 

“It was lovely meeting Sarah, Claire, and the other inspiring women who either had an idea or had just started their business.”

The programme helped Melanie set out a plan for her business, breaking it down into manageable chunks thanks to Zoom meetings and workbooks.  

“I learned to start small but think big, and it gave me confidence in my business. Within a couple of weeks, I put my prices up, and I also I started to look at my finances which I’d put off before.  

“The online community space of women inspiring each other is magical - no one judged each other, and everyone was supported. It’s lonely starting your own business from home, but it’s been great to meet like-minded women, with different skillsets to bounce ideas off. We’re now all looking at meeting up in-person and would love Suffolk Libraries to run the Rise programme which is the next course, so we don’t lose momentum.” 

To find out more about future We Are Radikal courses at Suffolk Libraries, visit suffolklibraries.co.uk