For the entrepreneurs' session of Inspiring Women, three of the UK's leading female self-starters described the obstacles they overcame to achieve successful and lucrative businesses.
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts described how she started the parenting website at the height of the internet boom. 'Unfortunately we launched at the worst time. The dotcom bubble burst the minute we signed the papers at Companies House. We raised no money, and we ended up working from a room in our house for a few years.' Gradually the word spread and the site now has around six million site visits and 40 million page views a month.
Faced with a question on what people should do if they don't want a boss and need the push to go it alone, Roberts joked: 'Resign.'
Sarah Curran, founder of mywardrobe.com, spoke of how she juggled raising a family with going it alone: 'I opened my first boutique on January the 3rd in 2003, and found out I was pregnant on the 4th. Kids aren't a reason not to do something.'
In 2006 Curran moved to online retailing and founded my-wardrobe.com after spotting a gap for an online upmarket fashion boutique. In the last year my-wardrobe has been growing overseas, opening five new offices in Australia, Europe and Asia. Sales have doubled each year since the Curran started the business.
When it comes to online startups, Curran says women often have the upper hand. 'There are more female millionaires coming from online businesses than there are men. I love that.'
Hand Picked Hotels founder Julia Hands said the key to a successful startup is having the right people. 'I did hire well, I think, in the early years,' she said. 'Many of them still work for me now.'
Hands started the hotel chain in 2001 after her husband, Guy Hands, purchased a group of hotels. Julia Hands 'hand picked' a collection of these and turned them into individual and historic country house hotels.
'The lessons I've learned are don't be afraid of what you don't know,' Hands told the conference. 'In fact, knowing when you don't know something is a good step forwards. And don't be afraid of change. Embrace it, don't be afraid of it. And above all, enjoy your job. My husband said you'll make mistakes but they probably won't be worse than anyone elses.'
The Inspiring Women conference brings together some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, management experts and female business leaders to offer inspirational insights on getting to the top. Follow @MT_editorial on Twitter for more updates throughout the day, or use our Inspiring Women hashtag: #InspiringWomen