October is National Women’s Small Business Month. It is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of millions of small business women across the United States (and the millions of others around the world) who are building successful companies, creating jobs, and following their passions in the process.
It is amazing to think that as recently as 1988 many states required women to have a male relative signatory in order to obtain a business loan. H.R. 5050 – The Women’s Business Ownership Act, passed in that year, eliminated that discriminatory requirement across all 50 US states. It also directed the creation of the Women’s Business Center program, under the Small Business Administration, which now includes over 100 education centers across the US dedicated to helping “level the playing field” for women starting and running small businesses. And, it created the National Women’s Business Council with the mission to, “advise the White House, Congress and the Small Business Association on issues relevant to women business owners – with a critical focus on how to alleviate the obstacles faced by both women business owners and women trying to start their own businesses.”
It’s amazing what a more level playing field and a bit of targeted help can do. The 2016 State Of Women-Owned Businesses Report from American Express OPEN reports that in 2002 women-owned businesses accounted for 28% of US businesses, which grew to 29% in 2007, 36% in 2012, and 38% in 2016. For 2016 that translates to, “11.3 million (11,313,900) women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people (8,976,100), and generating over $1.6 trillion ($1,622,763,800,000) in revenues.”
While that sounds, and is, impressive the news is not all good. While the number of women-owned businesses has grown, the Amex report finds that the share of overall US small business revenue for those businesses held steady at 4% between 2002 and 2016, and the share of small business employment remained relatively unchanged at 6-8%.
One reason for this may be that despite The Women’s Business Ownership Act, women still do not receive equal treatment when it comes to small business loans—and they may be partly to blame. A recent study from Fundera (a small business loan matching service) found that on average female entrepreneurs request $35,000 less in funding than do their male counterparts. However, the study found that the problem doesn’t end with the ask. Fundera reviewed loan applications across its entire system (Over 8,400 small business applicants: around 6,200 men and 2,200 women) and found that, “Women entrepreneurs get offered smaller loans across every product, from the same groups of online lenders, with no exception, and pay significantly higher interest rates than men do.”
Interestingly, I haven’t come across any reports or statistics showing that women entrepreneurs default on business loans more frequently than their male counterparts. The Fundera study did note that women applicants had on average lower credit scores and lower reported revenue than their male counterparts– but could not determine whether the difference in credit score and revenue was a cause or effect of the disparity in credit availability. Even more interesting, the Hiscox American Courage Index found that 38.7% of women entrepreneurs are focused on paying off debt, compared to 25.5% of men.
As with most things, numbers don’t tell the whole story. And for every dispiriting statistic there is a success story. For example, read about the two women (and PaySimple customers) who built the successful CaRu Entertainment business. Or, head over to the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) website where as part of National Women’s Small Business Month they are profiling successful female members.
Don’t stop there! Take full advantage of National Women’s Small Business month to celebrate the many successes of past and present female entrepreneurs; to contemplate how you can grow your own small business (or support small businesses (female-owned or otherwise)) and continue the advances in leveling the playing field for all small business owners; and to cultivate the skills, connections, and confidence you need to make your small business a success.
Start with following resources and events:
- SBA Web Conference: Get Tips for Starting or Growing a Small Business
As part of National Women’s Small Business Month celebrations, the SBA’s Assistant Administrator for Women’s Business Ownership provides tips on turning an idea or hobby into a business and help with growing an existing business through programs like SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative and government contracting opportunities.
Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time (Register Here)
- Raising the Next Generation of Women Entrepreneurs – Starting a Business at Any Life Stage
This free 1 hour webinar from SCORE (a small business mentoring non-profit) provides, “guidance and encouragement for women who own or want to own a small business…. Additionally, they will discuss best practices for navigating the ups and downs that come with being a woman in small business and provide tips for finding balance.” The pre-recorded session includes an audience Q&A at the end. Provide your name, email, and zip to register and immediately view the webinar.
- National Association of Women Business Owners e-Learning Series
A dues-based membership organization, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) represents over 9 million women-owned businesses with chapters across the United States. Becoming a member will get you access to a wide variety of resources and networking opportunities (They’re offering a discount in October). But there are plenty of free resources too. Check out the webinars in the e-learning series, which range from using social media effectively to healthcare to exporting.
- SBA Woman Owned Small Business Contracting Program
The federal government has a set-aside for woman-owned small businesses, which may give you a leg-up on some federal contracts. Learn more about the program, figure out if you qualify, and register to participate on the SBA website.
- National Women’s Business Conference 2015 Annual Report
This comprehensive look at the climate for female entrepreneurs in the US from 2012-2015 also includes a round-up of government and local organization activity in support of women-owned businesses.
- Small-Business Loans for Women 2016: Your Top Options
This list of funding sources from Nerdwallet provides alternatives to traditional bank loans and SBA loan programs that may work for small business owners in a variety of situations—problem credit scores, newly formed companies without a track record, and established businesses. Check out the comparison table at the very bottom of the post for a really helpful overview. (Note—Nerdwallet makes money off submitted applications, which is why there are links to apply for every option.)
- Enter the Balboa Capital ‘How She Did It’ Competition to win $1000
Balboa Capital (a small business financing firm) is celebrating National Women’s Small Business Month with their second annual “How She Did It” competition. Female entrepreneurs are asked to submit the story of, “what inspired you to start your business, how you connect with customers, what challenges you might face (and how you overcome them), and how you continue to make your dream of entrepreneurship thrive.” Balboa Capital management will review the entries and select the winner who will be featured on their website and get the cash prize. Enter Here—the deadline is October 31, 2016.
Also check out the Balboa Capital 2016 women in business infographic for the latest stats. For example, 29% of women stated they became business owners to implement a new business idea or vision, 19% to enjoy the freedom of being an entrepreneur and 12% to solve an industry specific problem.
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