Entrepreneur and advocate for gender equality in entrepreneurship Ana Stewart has spoken candidly about the motivating factors behind her own journey in the business world. The partner at investment vehicle Eos Advisory has recently co-authored Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship study. Commissioned by the Scottish Government it aims to identify ways to unlock untapped potential, close the gender gap and ultimately boost the national economy.

The report’s recommendations also seek to address the root causes of female under-participation in entrepreneurship by providing start-up training and support in a range of pop-up locations and improving access to start-up and growth finance.

Speaking on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, Ms Stewart revealed how her incredible determination to succeed was born from personal tragedy.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Labour leader sounds whole lot like he thinks Scotland is independent

“I was actually quite creative and my dad was a music teacher,” she told Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey, “so I thought, let’s go to art college. A couple of big things happened in my time there. The first was at the end of first year my dad dropped me off in my new flat, then the next morning I went in and the professor took me aside, out into the hall, and he said: ‘Your father’s died. You need to go home.’

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: ‘Oops’ moment - admission of big Tory mistake 

“That changed everything about the way I looked at things. I told myself I just need to get on with stuff here. I was a bit lost about what I might want to do. That triggered this ‘need to do stuff now’ attitude, a need to hurry up. Life is short. Everything became a lot more laser-focused. So, I started saying yes to everything.

“One of the things that happened, which I’m forever grateful for, is I got a job with NCR in Dundee as a summer placement. They were doing digital art but this was the late Eighties, so we’re talking about pre-internet. Fax machines were the way forward!

“It was almost like this entrepreneurial crash course on how to get on with things, put yourself out there, present, be recognised, be valued, do business pitches.

“It was almost this test bed for entrepreneurs. Dundee was amazing with amazing people. If you could just box that and replicate it, we would have so many more entrepreneurs.

“I still can’t work out what that magic sauce was, but it was just so empowering.

“I carried on my summer placements at NCR for the next two years and the moment I left university, I found myself with a niche bit of work and I thought, right, I’m going to start my own business. So that’s what I did.”

Ana recalled that initially she was on the national enterprise allowance scheme.

“It was less than employment benefit,” she noted, “but it enabled me and incentivised me by also giving me expert advice from my local Fife Enterprise representative. I got lucky. I got a wonderful guy who’s actually like my dad. He nurtured me. The next thing I know I’ve this business and that’s the beginning of my entrepreneurial career.”

Sir Tom was keen to highlight how important the enterprise allowance proved to be. He said: “It was less than unemployment money, but people had a pride that they were never signing on the ‘b’roo’. If you met someone who’d lost their job, they’d say: ‘Oh, I’ve an interview on Monday.’ “

Ana’s own journey has taken her to a point where she now assists numerous bold new enterprises.

“I’m working with like-minded people, all trying to invest in great Scottish innovation.

“I really enjoy working with them and it’s amazing to see some of the great organisations coming through. I’m so excited about where that’s going . . . that’s a passion for me!”