Shoosmiths’ SpHERe Summit 2023 – Leading Successful Change

Article 1 – Caroline Plumb OBE’s keynote speech

What matters

What matters next

The recently released Rose Review progress report 2023 found that female founders defied a challenging economic climate to build more new businesses last year than ever before.

The data insight and tracking that built on the inaugural findings of 2019, discovered that women-led companies had used ‘innovation and entrepreneurialism’ to tackle higher inflation and macroeconomic uncertainty to launch over 150,000 new companies in 2022 – more than twice as many as in 2018. 

Now the Rose Review is working to secure more signatories to the Investing in Women code, which aims to making investment easier to access for female entrepreneurs, and shine the light on initiatives that better support women-led businesses.

One such initiative highlighted in the 2023 progress report was Shoosmiths’ spHERe network, which was launched three years ago by Shoosmiths’ partner Helen Burnell. SpHERe aims to help women find success through creating a forum for meaningful networking opportunities which address the disparities that exist between female and male businesses.

Earlier this year, Shoosmiths hosted the spHERe Summit 2023 – ‘leading successful change’, which was held in partnership with London & Partners, and hosted at their London base in Bow Churchyard.

The insight-packed event featured a host of uplifting speakers from the worlds of academia, the private sector, public sector and retail banking in a day aimed at providing inspiring dialogue to action real change and break down barriers in the venture capital (VC) space.

Caroline Plumb OBE

The keynote speaker on the day was Caroline Plumb OBE, a successful female entrepreneur who was awarded an OBE for services to business and charity, who shared her valuable insights with attendees.

An experienced public speaker and press commentator about entrepreneurialism, women in business, talent leadership and innovation, Caroline was awarded the esteemed accolade in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016.

Caroline outlined how she joined Gravita UK as Group CEO in February 2022 to lead the scaling of the group, following their growth investment from Tenzing. She previously founded FreshMinds, a consulting and recruiting business; and Fluidly, a software provider sold to OakNorth Bank in 2021. PE-backed Gravita seeks to transform how small and medium businesses receive accounting services.

Caroline launched the event with a stirring speech about how she hand-built her first computer during the ‘ boom’, before going on to found several successful ventures and eventually joining Gravita and taking the company on a rapid scale-up journey.

The audience were taken through Caroline’s journey of starting and raising, running and delivering and exiting a business.

The key takeaways

Starting and raising 

  • What company structure do you want and what does this imply? whether this is owner managed, VC etc, all will involve different risk categories and you need to be up for these risks
  • Before raising, ask yourself what kind of business you want to be. What is my risk profile and what do I want from the business? Be honest with yourself on want sort of raise you want
  • What is the emotional heart of the business?
  • You are not done until you are out of the building – beware the door handle moment 

Running and delivering

  • Get in a rhythm into business, find a formula that works for you


  • Exiting a business is a life changing transaction you probably do once or twice in your career
  • When exiting you will be wearing three hats, that of founder, shareholder, and director – don’t let the founder hat get lost
  • Always think through the end point at the raise point

Crucial advice

One of Caroline’s most crucial pieces of advice was for founders to create “a compelling event” and learn to negotiate investors emotions of “fear and greed.”

Caroline said: “If you don’t have a compelling event you have to manufacture one for some reason, because you want to steer all your investors, whether it’s an angel round or a seed round into a timetable, because unless you’ve got some sort of pressure on that you are losing the FOMO from the deal because people can just sit back and relax.”

Caroline also advised founders to concentrate on pitching with three key messages and to challenge the unspoken objections in the room.

She said: “When you’re pitching what are your three things you are really focused on? Choose them and make sure they are threaded throughout your pitch.”

She added: “The other thing I would say is that there's a lot of unspoken objections in a room, and so people have their own things going on in their head…and they might not even voice those.”

The audience was enlightened by founders sharing their often very difficult journeys to success, and their respective insights as to what changes need to be brought about to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of social identity, and where they might seek help. It also placed responsibility squarely at the door of many promising entrepreneurs and investor institutions that still need to address their own internal processes and unconscious bias in order to help unblock challenges.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



Read the latest articles and commentary from Shoosmiths or you can explore our full insights library.