It’s Women’s History Month and the SBA has a variety of resources to help women start, grow and succeed in business. There are many benefits to business ownership for women. One of the main benefits is the flexibility of your time, location and schedule. Being your own boss means that you decide when and where you want to work. Work-life balance is in the palm of your hands, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how productive you are. Furthermore, you have full control of the opportunities that you decide to take on vs. the ones you decide to decline. In short, there is no “glass ceiling”. The success of your business falls on you.
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”, the threats still remain.
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) Annual Report, 25% of women-owned businesses utilize personal/business credit cards for business expansion vs. 23% of men. Furthermore, the amount of women utilizing their personal or family savings for business expansion exceeds the amount of men who do the same.
Women’s Business Centers – Assistance and Education in Your Community
The good news is that there are plenty of free and low-cost resources available to help women business owners 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 are especially helpful for women who are economically or socially disadvantaged and wouldn’t otherwise have access to comprehensive training and counseling offered in many languages.
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.
- Small Business Development Centers
- 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.
- 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.