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Women’s History Month: A Bright Future For Women-Owned Small Businesses

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Women’s History Month: A Bright Future For Women-Owned Small Businesses

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: March 11, 2013 Updated: August 25, 2016

Today, women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of new businesses in our economy.

In fact, an analysis by American Express suggests that the number of women-owned businesses has risen by 200,000 over the past year alone, which is equivalent to just under 550 new women-owned firms created each day.

Regardless of how you slice the data, we know that this trend is growing and that women are over-indexing in entrepreneurship.

As Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), I travel all around the country meeting with small business owners and entrepreneurs. I see how their businesses are transforming their industries and rebuilding their communities following the economic downturn.

These are businesses like UEC Electronics in South Carolina. Rebecca Ufkes, an engineer and the company’s president, is laser focused on growing her successful electronics manufacturing business. She is supplying products to major manufacturers, such as Boeing, Cummins Engine Co, as well as the U.S. Marines and Air Force. And she is creating good American manufacturing jobs in the process.

UEC employs 194 workers, an increase of 49 percent since August 2011. And Rebecca is part of a growing American supply chain of innovative small businesses that is driving large multinational manufacturers to bring more production back to the U.S.

However, today, many women-owned entrepreneurs face what we call the “missing middle.”

For example, take my home state of Maine. According to the most recent census data, men owned 54 percent of businesses in Maine and women owned 26 percent of businesses in the state (the remaining were co-owned). However, when you look at the receipts of these businesses, women-owned businesses lagged behind, capturing only 7 percent of receipts, compared to 78 percent of receipts earned by men-owned firms. There is a similar trend occurring in states across the country.

Clearly, women-owned firms are growing greater in numbers, but challenges persist in scaling their operations and garnering market share.

At the SBA, we have the proven tools needed to bridge that missing middle. And to ensure that all entrepreneurs have the tools they need to grow their businesses, reach new markets and realize their full potential.

Access to Capital

According to the Urban Institute, SBA loans are 3 to 5 times more likely to go to women and minority owned businesses than conventional loans. And since President Obama took office, SBA has supported more than $12 billion in lending through more than 35,000 SBA loans to women-owned businesses.


At the SBA, one of our priorities is making sure that more qualified women-owned, veteran-owned and minority-owned small businesses have access to government and commercial supply chain opportunities. That’s why we put into place the Women's Contracting Rule, which means that for the first time federal agencies can set aside contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in over 300 industries where women are underrepresented. Congress gave SBA this authority in 2000, but it was never implemented. Under President Obama’s leadership, we have made it a priority—and have gotten it done. And recently we expanded the limits to ensure that women-owned businesses are eligible for larger government contracts.


Our Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees a national network of 106 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) that support women who want to start or grow their business.  We’re connecting with more women every day and, in FY 2012 alone, we counseled and trained more than 136,000 women entrepreneurs.

This month, as part of Women’s History Month, we’re excited to announce another new counseling resource called “Encore Entrepreneurship for Women: An Introduction to Starting Your Own Business.” It is designed specifically for female “encore entrepreneurs,” who are over the age of 50 and ready to start a business as the next chapter of their careers.

We are committed to helping women entrepreneurs because we know how much potential they have to contribute to America’s economic growth. To learn more about how SBA can help your business, visit

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.


It's so nice to see women and men being empowered to start new businesses in todays economy.
The proportion of women in business is growing And it is perfectly normal!
Today, women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of new businesses in our economy - it's true!
This is great news! I'm excited about building my women owned business. Hey Karen, I recently met a A lady who may have done a fantastic job within my eyes from the business enterprise perspective may be Julia A. Stewart the ceo of IHOP. She used to be a waitress when she was younger and moved up to get present. An incredible role model for woman.
This was a great read. It's so nice to see women and men being empowered to start new businesses in todays economy. Recently, I started my very own small business selling office supplies and industrial supplies. Very exciting!!! It's been a great challenge, but I've loved every second of it. I knew very early on in my life that I wanted to be a business owner, but finding the funds to start a business was always a hurdle. I've started this business by being very creative. So, ladies... Don't think you can't do it because of kids, money, or anything else. If I can do it so can you. Rock on!!! :) (This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices ( for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.)
Hello, I am new to this site and this article is very inspiring. I am a young single mother and I have been working for myself as a massage therapist for almost 10 years. My business is so random and I travel to my clients and I am tired. I have been wanting to be stationary for quite some time however, I don't want to do massage forever. It is quite taxing. I have a fabulous idea of going into business for myself in the hospitality industry, where I began in the workforce, but have no support system and have no idea where to begin. I have already started a business plan and this article gives me much hope! Thank you! I refuse to give up.
Thank you Karen for sharing this post. It's so encouraging as a Woman in the workforce to be encouraged and have support to start a business of my own. Thanks for all the information karen, I will make sure to utilize all that's available to me.
Just adding to my previous comment a statement said by my teacher while I was graduating. "Whatever business you are going to start do take a women with you as business partner" And now I find that statement true after reading this article.
The number will increase as people are moving towards more customized products they wear and use. Women by birth are more creative. Only the business with creative leaders can survive in recession and depression. The business list designing, daycare and clothing are on boom. People are looking for unique designed cloths to wear. As far as my experience says that both of these business are more suitable for women.
Hey Karen, I recently met a A woman who has done a great job in my eyes from the business perspective has been Julia A. Stewart the ceo of IHOP. She used to be a waitress when she was younger and moved up to become present. A great role model for woman.


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