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Urban Economic Forum: Investing in Women Entrepreneurs

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Urban Economic Forum: Investing in Women Entrepreneurs

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: February 3, 2012 Updated: February 3, 2012

This blog is co-authored by Karen Mills and Marie Johns

Today we’re kicking off our Urban Economic Forum events in New York City.  The  forum, presented by the White House Business Council, the White House Council on Women and Girls and SBA, focuses on helping women business owners start and grow their companies. 

President Obama understands the importance of women entrepreneurs for the economy. When the two of us began our careers, only about 5% of businesses were owned by women.  Today it’s about 30% - and women-owned businesses are growing at a rate of more than twice that of businesses overall.  Here at SBA, we recognize that women-owned businesses will have a strong impact on creating jobs and leading our nation into recovery.  Women-owned businesses are creating an economy built to last.

For President Obama and SBA, the number one thing is to ensure women entrepreneurs have access and opportunity.  At SBA we have a number of resources designed to help women who own or are thinking about starting their own business.  For example, we have more than   110 Women’s Business Centersand 900 Small Business Development centers   across the country where women can receive comprehensive training and counseling on a vast array of topics. 

SBA also provides training and outreach events, including an online tool, to help small businesses take advantage of the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, which provides equal access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. The goal is to ensure that at least 5% of federal contracts are going to women-owned small businesses each year. 

SBA loans are three to five times more likely to go to women than non-SBA loans. We also help women access capital through our microloan program, which provides small, short-term loans to small businesses.  Women-owned businesses often need small-scale financing, so microloans are especially important for their companies.  In Fiscal Year 2011, approximately 54% of all microloans made went to businesses owned in whole, or in the majority, by women. 

The impact that women-owned businesses have on our economy is easy to see: they employ more than 7 million workers and generate more than $1 trillion in revenue each year.  It’s important they know the tools that the Obama administration and SBA provide, including capital, contracts and counseling, so that they can focus on growing and creating jobs. 

Today’s Urban Economic Forum will build on these initiatives with discussions and workshops on topics including ‘Investing in Women Entrepreneurs’, ‘Why Female Businesses Make Economic Sense’ and ‘Getting Capital to Start Your Business’.  You can watch it here live, #wheconforum.

We will also have a Speed Mentoring Session and an Entrepreneur Resource Fair to help women obtain business advice and access resources from the public, private, and non-profit sectors that will help them grow their businesses. 

We’ll have the opportunity to hear from women business owners from a variety of industries.  We’re excited to receive feedback from all of these impressive women and hear how we can better assist women as they work to start and grow their businesses across the country. 

Stay tuned for the rollout of eight additional Urban Economic Forum events in cities including Birmingham, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City, Columbus, Jacksonville, and Detroit.

About the Author:

Karen Mills

Former SBA Administrator

Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.


I enjoy seeing conferences and project promoting female entrepreneurs. I have personally seen my wife struggle when it comes to starting her own business. Its made it very clear that women have different needs than men when it comes to entrepreneurship and these initiatives help to provide them that.
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It is clear from the data that women entrepreneurs are going to be a big part of business tomorrow and in the foreseeable future. There has to be greater willingness in investors to pour their investments into sound businesses run by women. Women are not only great consumers, but they are likely to be great business people as well.
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