MT's 35 Women Under 35 2011: A Vision of Enterprise

This year, MT's list of female high-fliers belongs to the entrepreneur. The most striking thing about our line-up is half have been recognised for their start-ups - whether making Lady Gaga's knickers, or a new hedge fund.

by Hannah Prevett

David Cameron would be proud; after all, he's spent his first year as prime minister urging 'more people to make a job rather than take a job' and that, in an age of austerity, the 'only strategy' for growth is to get behind the nation's entrepreneurs. If he's looking for role models, our cover stars are a great place to start: four of the six run their own businesses, and between them employ nearly 70 people. Not bad for self-funded start-ups with only a few miles on the clock. 'Backing new enterprises to start up, and small businesses to grow, will deliver new jobs and economic growth,' business secretary Vince Cable told MT. 'I want people all over the country to see that working for yourself is a real alternative to unemployment or getting a job.'

If entrepreneurs are going to save the UK economy, one quality they must have is confidence - which is something this lot have in abundance. Julie Diem Le, who founded kids online glasses retailer Zoobug (which is producing the official London 2012 children's sunglasses, no less), says having the confidence to take the plunge is vital: 'You need to have dogged determination and be able to think outside the box - if somebody's not already doing it, you have to be brave enough to just go for it.'

Confidence is also about not being afraid to play to your strengths - whatever your line of business. Alex Pumfrey, programme director of Digital UK, which is managing the switch from analogue to digital TV, says that feeling comfortable in her own skin has been crucial to her success. 'The biggest thing I've learned over the past 10 years of my career is how to relax and be myself,' she says. 'I think for a long time I was living up to an image of a shoulder-padded, fierce businesswoman. But you have more fun and you get on much better if you learn how to be yourself.'

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