The Dragon backed start-up revolutionising the pet accessories market

Piddle Patch, the soil-free, real-grass toilet for dogs, was featured on the latest series of Dragons’ Den. The company’s founder Rebecca Sloan received four offers, eventually partnering the Den’s newest recruit Steven Bartlett.

Now, the entrepreneur has shared her story as part of a special report to mark International Women’s Day from Harper James, a modern law firm purpose-built to support entrepreneurial businesses from start-up to scale-up and beyond.

Female-led start-ups received just 2.3% of VC funding in 2020, according to reports. How can businesses owned by women achieve a stronger and fairer share in the future?

There are a lot of factors at play, including the types of businesses in question and the goals of the founders. For those who want VC funding, then meeting and learning from those in the industry will be important so that you can position your business, business goals, and offering in an attractive way. However, VC funding might not be for everyone and it’s important to know that there are other ways to raise money too. I think there needs to be more information about how to access funding, the types of funding available, and how to reach them.

As a female entrepreneur, what do you believe the biggest challenges are that you face on a day-to-day basis?

Balancing work demands from a growing business, while raising a toddler and young family (during a pandemic no less) has been quite the challenge. It’s extremely difficult to set boundaries between the two and the lines can often blur.

Can you share three tips that might help women accelerate their entrepreneurial growth?

Surround yourself with like-minded, and ambitious individuals, who will push you and encourage you to work towards your goals. Figure out ways to outsource work so you aren’t doing everything yourself. This one can be challenging but will help immensely. Find the right people and keep them. It can be really difficult to find the right people, so hold on to them when you do.

What might the Government do to better support female entrepreneurs?

The Government should invest more in educating and empowering girls and young women in the practical knowledge of how to develop and evaluate an idea, identify the resources and support they need to make it happen, understand the finances behind it, and act on it. For many, the current system is about passing tests instead of taking risks and understanding opportunities.

A lot of talent and experience goes unrecognised because we do not do enough to empower young people, and especially females, to recognise their own strengths, abilities, and how to market them to others and create value. Providing more mentoring and grants for women and new ideas, and support infrastructure and access to resources and knowledge would also help.

What advice would you give to a young woman planning to set up her own business?

Perfection is the enemy of progress. Start small, develop a basic product or service, and put it out into the world for feedback. The feedback you receive will help you know if you are on the right track or if you need to pivot your offering. Stay open-minded and do not fall so in love with your own idea that you are unable to adapt and change to the feedback you receive.

Learn how to listen to, and to follow, your gut. Not all feedback is helpful feedback and you will learn to understand the difference as you go. Importantly, do not invest money you can’t afford to lose on a product or service that you haven’t verified with customers. Spend as little as possible to develop this product or service so you don’t lose your money on the wrong initiative or too soon in the process.

Read the other stories in this series: