Women Business Owners – Find the Help You Need to Start Up and Grow
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: March 15, 2012, 7:22 am
- Updated: March 5, 2014, 7:29 pm
There’s no doubt about it, women are a rising force in American entrepreneurship. Here are some fast facts on women-owned businesses:
- The latest Census data indicates that 7.8 million U.S. businesses are owned by women. This represents a stunning 44% increase from 1997-2007, twice the growth rate of men-owned businesses.
- Women-owned firms now make up close to a third (29%) of all nonfarm businesses across the country.
- These firms generate a total of $1.2 trillion annually and employ 7.6 million people.
Clearly, women-owned firms are not in the minority. Neither are they a small niche market, but they are a major force in the U.S. economy.
The Opportunities and Challenges of Women-Business Ownership
Business ownership represents a significant opportunity for women. The flexibility of being your own boss provides for a work/life balance that can be hard to achieve when you’re working for someone else. Business ownership also affords the opportunity for career advancement beyond the confines of corporate America’s “glass ceiling.”
Despite this, women business owners continue to face their own particular challenges. From sex discrimination by vendors, investors and even employees, to juggling the demands of business and family obligations while being the “Chief Everything Officer.”
And then, of course, there’s the economic climate and the challenges that women face trying to gain access to capital. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Public Policy Survey of its members, women still rely on personal savings as their main source of business funding and often don’t apply for business credit because they believe they will be turned down. Likewise, women also deal with racial discrimination. According to NAWBO’s member surveys, nearly 50 percent of African American women business owners have encountered obstacles or difficulties when trying to obtain business financing.
Women’s Business Centers – Assistance and Education in Your Community
The good news for women business owners is that there is a range of free and low-cost resources available to help them overcome many of these challenges and succeed in business. In particular, the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (established in 1988 to help women overcome barriers to business ownership) oversees a network of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) throughout the U.S. and its territories. These centers provide women entrepreneurs with in-person assistance and business counseling programs that can help them start and grow successful businesses.
WBCs can specifically benefit women who are economically or socially disadvantaged and wouldn’t otherwise have access to comprehensive training and counseling offered in many languages.
Because each community is different, each WBC tailors its services to the needs of its individual community, although you can expect to find training and counseling services on a wide range of topics including:
- Preparing for business ownership
- Business planning
- Business management
- How to navigate the loan process
- Opportunities for selling to the government
- And more
WBCs can also help women business owners explore the range of government loan programs offered through SBA.
Check out SBA’s Directory of Women’s Business Centers to find the one nearest you.
Additional Resources for Women Business Owners
SBA and its Office of Women’s Business Ownership work with a variety of organizations to help women business owners succeed. Here are just a few:
- SBA Local Offices – In addition to supporting WBCs, SBA also has its own network of more than nearly 70 district offices. These offices can be a useful starting point for pinpointing the support available to meet your specific business needs. Local SBA offices can also provide information on SBA loan programs, the application process and participating lenders, and often hold regular training workshops.
- Mentoring and Counseling Services from SCORE – With a network of over 13,000 volunteers, SCORE provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to startups and small business owners nationwide. SCORE’s volunteers have business experience across 62 industries. SCORE also offers low-cost seminars at its local chapters and online training.
- National Association of Women Business Owners – NAWBO is a membership organization that provides resources (including excellent newsletters) and networking opportunities for women in business.
- National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) – NAFE provides information on an association committed to women of excellence in business, with benefits including success stories, newsletters, discounted services and equipment and much more.
- Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) – WIPP is a national nonpartisan public policy organization that advocates for and on behalf of women-owned businesses in the legislative processes of our nation, creating economic opportunities and building bridges and alliances to other business organizations.
And don’t forget to check out SBA’s Women-Owned Business Guide for links to information about loans, selling to the government and more.
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