A career change after maternity leave led to Ceylan Boyce being crowned Top Business Advisor to women entrepreneurs.

Ceylan, 39 years old and originally from Turkey, is a business strategist and marketing expert who spent 15 years resolving issues faced by corporate companies and SMEs before using those skills for a purpose she was acutely passionate about: the success of women entrepreneurs.

Ceylan launched her career as a business and entrepreneurial coach just after her maternity leave, having studied for the qualifications at Cambridge part-time during her pregnancy. This decision allowed her to follow her passion of supporting women leading micro business, as well as providing the professional flexibility to be a mother.

Ceylan explains: “Returning to a workplace after time off to have a child is hard enough when you’re returning to the same office or profession but re-starting in a new profession felt pretty challenging. Like lots of people when changing professional direction, I experienced a fear of imperfection but felt determined not to let that inhibit my future or the business.”

Research undertaken in 2019 as part of the Alison Rose Review, revealed that for every 10 male entrepreneurs in the UK there were less than 5 women. Work-life balance, followed by the availability of funding, were found to be the two biggest barriers. The specific challenges women face, including how to balance family care responsibilities with running a business, were ones Ceylan knew personally and felt that the support, knowledge and skills to thrive despite these challenges weren’t readily available to women solopreneurs or microbusiness owners. Ceylan continues:

“In my coaching with women, I noticed that many required better, more time efficient, affordable and targeted training to develop their skills in running a business. They wanted training and coaching that they could immediately take away and implement. That is when I had the idea for Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE).”

Ceylan established AWE with Co-Founder, James Vanderzee, and launched in April 2020. Despite the turbulent year, the platform now has over 1200 members, providing three levels of membership.

In December 2020, Ceylan’s decision to change career after maternity leave was further validated as she was named as she was named as one of the UK’s Top 10 Business Advisors by Enterprise Nation who recognised her impact on women-led businesses.

Beating Imposter Syndrome 
Ceylan says: “Being recognised for my work with women founders was a really proud moment for me. It certainly helped to reduce the self-doubt that can sometimes creep in as a business owner and made the risk of joining a new profession and ‘going it alone’ after my maternity leave feel totally worth it and validated. It also really ignited my desire to continue pushing for growth for Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, in the hope that I could support other women to do the same.

Support and community
AWE is a platform that places community at its core, with support and collaboration from all members. During the pandemic, having a group of similarly minded women to turn to has been such an important factor to the success of the platform and to many of the women who are part of it. There is no judgement, just support for each other and I am so proud of the culture that has been created. In fact, we have had women who increased turn over by more than five times, despite the pandemic and a number who have recruited extra staff in this uncertain period.”

Members of the platform range from stylists to videographers, virtual assistants to PR consultants. Suelin is an AWE member and Founder of a business providing remote office and business management.

Suelin explains: “I’ve been working for myself since 2014, but it was only in January 2020 that I made the commitment to move away from just freelancing and actually grow a business with a client base. I did this largely because I wanted to be the captain of my own ship. The demand for remote office management services seemed more than ever once the initial shock of the first lockdown had abated, and the dust had settled, and my business went from 1 client to 10 clients.

I was so grateful that I had made the decision to join Academy for Women Entrepreneurs ahead of the pandemic because the support from the community and the workshops and coaching were vital in helping my business to not only survive – but actually thrive.”

For the greater good – not just for profit
For Ceylan, the business is about much more than profit, with a clear passion for seeing other women succeed in their business ventures but also because of the social value that Ceylan believes female entrepreneurship can have. Ceylan says:

“AWE has an immense social impact component: help close the gender gap by making entrepreneurship a real path for women’s economic empowerment. As a mother of a daughter and an advocate for women, I am acutely aware of the conflicting demands women face on their time but believe the perception that a woman’s ‘own-business’ should just form a supplementary income for a household often not being prioritised ahead of an employed partner – is wrong and is holding many women back from running highly successful organisations.”

For more information about AWE, visit: www.academyforwomenentrepreneurs.com

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