When 27-year-old Ella Hutchings came back to New Zealand two years ago she had the choice of rejoining the corporate world or setting up her own business.

The graphic designer chose the latter and figures show she is not alone.

The number of women entering the small business sector in New Zealand has risen by 35 per cent in the past five years and research shows many are ambitious self-starters.

Anna Curzon, chief product and partner officer at Xero which carried out the research, said there were a number of reasons behind the growing number of female business owners - for some it was because corporate life was no longer meeting their needs after having a family.

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Others felt they wanted to have more of a purpose in what they did or wanted to get a better work-life balance.

Curzon said female business owners were more likely to be younger than males.

"When you look at the statistics they are much younger - more likely to be in their 40s than 50s and more likely to have school kids at home."

They also had young businesses with many less than five years old.

But similar to male business owners they were also time poor with women struggling to balance their businesses with domestic duties.

The number of women entering the small business sector in New Zealand has risen by 35 per cent in the past five years and research shows many are ambitious self-starters, says Xero's Anna Curzon.
The number of women entering the small business sector in New Zealand has risen by 35 per cent in the past five years and research shows many are ambitious self-starters, says Xero's Anna Curzon.

Curzon said compared to their male counterparts female business owners did not feel like their business was growing fast enough.

The biggest things holding them back was poor planning, followed by other factors including a lack of know-how.

"We know how hard it is to start a small business and then keep it alive: four out of ten fail within the first five years.

"Passion and hard work go a long way towards success, but women need to be helped in practical ways too."

She said that support could come from an advisor, such as a bookkeeper or accountant, who can help with planning.

"Previous research has shown that small businesses who use an advisor can grow their net profit on average 23 per cent faster than those who don't."

Getting started hardest part

Hutchings says it was a combination of things which drove her to start her own business - she had previous experience working for a big corporate and didn't enjoy it and she also wanted the flexibility of working for herself.

"It means I can pick and choose when I work."

The decision means she has been able to move from Auckland to Raglan to live.

But she admits there are also downsides. Being able to work at any time means she is sometimes up late doing work for overseas jobs and then there is the loneliness of being by herself.

"It can be quite isolating."

She counters that by working from shared work spaces and going up to Auckland on a regular basis.

Hutchings believes the hardest part is just getting started.

"There are always excuses. But you just have to get started."

She said some of her friends were taking the leap in steps by starting a business while working in their day job before gradually easing out of the day job and into full-time business owner.