To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018, we’re catching up with one of our 5by20 graduates, Karen Hamilton. The 5by20 initiative is our global commitment to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 and has already given guidance and support to over 1.7 million women worldwide.

The 5by20 programme was introduced in 2010 to help women overcome some of the most common challenges they face in the business world and give them the tools they need to succeed.

To date, the 5by20 initiative has provided support to women in more than 60 countries – helping them to develop skills in key areas such as finance and assets, and networking and mentoring.

"Since 2010, 5by20 has reached more than 1.75 million women across 64 countries."

Although the 5by20 initiative is currently working hard to help women across the globe from places such as Australia, Nigeria and Guatemala, we’re heading closer to home. Dundee is 5by20’s Scottish home and this is where we catch up with fashion designer Karen, who graduated from the programme last year.

"The 5by20 programme gave me access to the people I needed to learn from and the confidence to go ahead and ask for help."
– Karen Hamilton, 5by20 graduate and fashion designer

We chatted to Karen nearly a year on, to find out just how the programme transformed her life and helped her turn her dream of owning her own business into a reality.

Karen Hamilton displays one of her finished designs 

Meet Karen Hamilton

After being made redundant twice over the past decade, Karen decided it was time to take control of her own career and finances. On completing the 5by20 programme in Dundee, Karen set up her own bespoke dress-making business, which has gone from strength to strength.

What has the 5by20 course meant to you?

The programme gave me access to the people I needed to learn from and the confidence to go ahead and ask for help.

It’s taught me to believe in myself and allowed me to follow my passion for design.

If you have the skills to do it, then work hard for yourself and go for it. 

"5by20 has completely changed my life, it really has."
– Karen Hamilton, 5by20 graduate and fashion designer

How has the course helped you to achieve your business goals?

Going into the programme I was unsure about how to even approach running my business. I’d been toying with the idea for about a year, but I’d not been given the consistent advice I needed.

One of the best things about the programme was that it gave me consistent access to a good network, good advice, good connections with other people.

It’s given me so much. It has completely changed my life. That’s not an overstatement, it really has.

"In 2016, 5by20 expanded by 41% in total, reaching over 513,000 women."

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

I’ve always been shy. I’m not very good at talking to people and presenting myself so it was a big step for me to name my business after myself.

All the incredible people that 5by20 programme director Angie Foreman organised to come in helped me enormously. I was able to talk about the business and present all my ideas with confidence.

Karen creating her bespoke designs in her studio 

Would you change anything about your 5by20 journey?

I would have started it sooner. I would have done it years and years ago.

I love being in charge of my own destiny, making my own decisions and having the opportunity to use my creative side every day.

I’m in control and I’m no longer reliant on other people.

Find out more about how the 5by20 programme is changing lives