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By Calvin W. Goings
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. According to a recent report by American Express OPEN, as of 2011, there are approximately over 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1 .3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million people.
Women-owned firms are a major force in the U.S. economy and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a wide range of programs and services to help women establish and grow their small businesses.
SBA Loan Programs
The SBA is one of the largest loan guarantors in the country and, according to the Urban Institute, SBA loans are three to five times more likely to go to women than non-SBA loans.
SBA offers a variety of loan programs through its participating lenders that can be used to purchase or improve real estate; to purchase machinery, equipment and inventory; or to assist in the acquisition, operation or expansion of an existing business. SBA also backs working capital loans and revolving lines of credit, as well as loans to refinance existing debt under certain conditions.
SBA Training and Counseling
SBA data has shown that businesses that receive counseling assistance have significantly better survival rates than those that do not receive similar support.
SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) throughout the United States and its territories designed to assist women start and grow small businesses. Management and technical assistance provided by the centers, offers entrepreneurs comprehensive training and counseling in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.
In FY 2012 the WBC network served 137,942 clients throughout the country and supported $40.5 million in capital infusion (loans and equity investment).
SBA also delivers counseling and training through our network of Small Business Development Centers, SCORE and veterans’ organizations. These organizations offer seminars, conferences and workshops to help get ideas for a new service or product off the ground – or take an existing enterprise to the next level. And the best part is that these services are low cost or free.
At the SBA, one of our priorities is making sure that women-owned small businesses have access to government and commercial supply chain opportunities. That’s why we put the Women's Contracting Rule into place, which means that for the first time federal agencies have been able to set aside contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in over 300 industries.
Our latest efforts is the ChallengeHER Campaign, an exciting new initiative that leverages the resources of SBA and our partners at Women in Public Policy and American Express OPEN to promote the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program and bring more women-owned firms into the federal government’s supply chain.
SBA is 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, visit http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2895.