Celebrating our Commitment to Women and Girls in Business: Global Entrepreneurship Week at GDST

From the early social entrepreneurship of our founders, to fostering the business women of the future on our LEAD programme; we are committed to celebrating entrepreneurial excellence at GDST. Our Head of Education Development, Cathy Walker, looks at how we can continue to ‘grow with purpose’ this Global Entrepreneurship Week.

There has never been a better time to become an entrepreneur. And, whilst entrepreneurs take risks and try new things to make profit, increasingly, they also seek to do good and solve problems too. We can thank the likes of Bill Gates and Ariana Huffington for demonstrating that starting up a profitable business can develop and fund solutions for social good. 

The theme for this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week is Grow With Purpose; championing profitable business opportunities that have a positive impact on communities, societies and the wider world.


An entrepreneurial past and future

Over the last 150 years, the purpose of the GDST has been to be fearless and pioneering in our quest to reach as many girls as possible, to allow them to achieve and go beyond their potential. The four intrepid women who founded GDST were early social entrepreneurs. They set up schools that they knew would be viable businesses: businesses which in turn would have a hugely positive impact on equality and opportunity for girls and women in Victorian society.


‘Running a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication so you need to keep the 3 ‘P’s’ in mind: passion to keep going, persistence to make it happen and patience, because it doesn’t happen overnight.’


This pioneering mindset has continued and evolved within our schools, inspiring and producing a wide variety of brilliantly successful female entrepreneurs across the course of our history. 

Sheffield Girls’ alumna Debbie Wosskow co-founded women’s network Allbright to allow women to connect, create and collaborate with each other, naming the organisation in honour of the late Madeleine Allbright who famously spoke of there being a place in hell for women who do not help other women. 

Jacynth Bassett, alumna of Sydenham High School, is a fashion entrepreneur and CEO of The Bias Cut, who uses her business platform to campaign against ageism. 

Portsmouth High School alum Fleur Emery is an award-winning entrepreneur and coach whose mission is to use her expertise to help other women thrive in business too. 

Royal High School Bath’s entrepreneurial alumnae include Gracie Tyrell, who set up the Squirrel Sisters sugar free snack brand to promote and campaign for healthy eating. As Gracie says of her entrepreneurship journey, ‘Running a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication so you need to keep the 3 ‘P’s’ in mind: passion to keep going, persistence to make it happen and patience, because it doesn’t happen overnight.’


LEADing the way, creating future businesswomen

At our schools, we want to foster the entrepreneurs of the future. The GDST LEAD programme, now in its third year and in partnership with London School of Economics, powered by Oak North Bank, was conceived to afford our students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain entrepreneurial experience by setting up their own a sustainable businesses. 



Last year, SpikeSavers, of Birkenhead High School Academy, came up with anti-spiking devices made of recycled materials, and proceeded to explore partnerships with clubs and bars in Liverpool both to market their product and to raise awareness of the issue of spiking.  

Northampton High School’s team Fempire set up a boutique within the school encouraging students to sell their unwanted clothes, taking a commission, and encouraging their community to find sustainable alternatives to fast fashion. 

This year’s cohort of 200 students across 16 GDST schools, looks to be on a similarly purposeful trajectory, with ideas being pitched that include sustainable jewellery that comes with seeds to plant: an example of our enterprising students literally growing a business with purpose. 


Where Girls Learn Without Limits

Global Entrepreneurship Week’s theme to ‘Grow with Purpose’ aligns well with the GDST’s mission to create a place Where Girls Learn Without Limits’. When we think about how we want our students to approach their learning and development, an entrepreneurial mindset is a must.

In a rapidly changing world, where we must prepare our young people for jobs that may not even exist yet, their ability to adapt, be flexible, change and grow is important. But for them to do so with purpose, being true to their values and using this opportunity to bring about social good, is essential.