Lynne Parker set up Funny Women over 14 years ago and has since encouraged thousands of women to perform, write and do business with humour. She also created the Funny Women Awards in 2003 (sponsored by Benefit Cosmetics) to address the gender imbalance in the comedy industry and encourage new female comedy talent. The awards get over 500 women entering across four different categories for live performance, script writing, short film making and best show.

Funny Woman also provide coaching to performers via workshops and other events. And they send female performers into the workplace to deliver a range of activities aimed at improving diversity, boosting confidence and building teams. Lynne’s corporate clients include JLL, Virgin East Coast Trains, MasterCard, PwC, Investec, Lloyds of London and Aon.

As she’s been shortlisted for our SME Business of the Year Award – Emerging (London and The South) we caught up with her and asked her a few questions.

Forward Ladies: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

LP: I had a knee jerk reaction to a misogynistic comedy promoter I was working with as a publicist and marketing consultant. I was running my own PR business in the late 1990s and he was one of my clients launching a new comedy venue. When I questioned him about why they never booked any women, I was told in no uncertain terms that women aren’t funny. I’ve spent the last 14 years proving him wrong!

Forward Ladies: What were some of the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

LP: After the initial idea of doing something to promote females in comedy, it took me another three years to produce a big charity show featuring all female comics and performers. It was an ambitious project and a lot went wrong, yet I learned from the mistakes and went on to gain our first significant sponsor, which allowed me to launch the Funny Women Awards in 2003.

Forward Ladies: How did you fund your business?

LP: Initially I relied on sponsorship to fund the very first charity event and the Funny Women Awards. There’s been a couple of investors along the way, but they’ve never required a stake in the business and have acted in good faith to support the vision and advise where necessary.

We now have a good number of corporate clients and partners who hire us to run workplace coaching and events, and support various initiatives. Overall, most of the investment in the business has been personal, which has been a big commitment and not without its downsides.

Forward Ladies: What is your top tip for growing your business?

LP: Growth is a byproduct of hard work and achieving goals. It’s not just about the big wins, clearing the small hurdles along the way should be celebrated just as much – they all add up to success.

Business is win or lose, and for every step forward there will be several back, that’s why resilience and the ability to bounce back when all around seems lost are such key attributes.

Forward Ladies: Why would you recommend that people build their network and find the support they need to start and grow their business?

LP: I’ve always networked and built up wonderful contacts over the years. You need to be confident that people need your skills and contacts as much as you need theirs. Never be frightened to explore new networks, clubs and other ways of connecting in person and virtually.

If you’re time poor and juggling family life and business, social media can really help. By finding your business ‘tribe’ you’ll find people who can advise and support you.

Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?

LP: I don’t really! I work pretty much most of the time because my business has grown out of my passion for comedy. My heart rules my head and this means that I often work for my personal need to succeed or finish off a project because there’s nobody else with my vision.

This is my life’s work and recognition from the Forward Ladies Awards means so much to me.

Forward Ladies: How has mentorship made a difference in your business?

LP: I’ve had the privilege of being mentored at various stages of my career. As the only shareholder in the business it’s been hard to go it alone and admit when I’ve needed help.

Over the years I’ve sought the advice of various friends and acquaintances who bring different skills to the table, and I formalized this by creating our advisory panel four years ago. We try to meet two or three times a year and liaise on various issues and activities when I need the benefit of their expertise.

Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Lynne, you’ve been great!

Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised, just like Lynne’s has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!