You’ve toyed with the idea of starting your own business or have an idea you’re passionate about, and the thought just keeps creeping back. “What if?” you say.
“What if?”, indeed. Now’s the time to find out.
There has never been a better time for a woman to become an entrepreneur. According to the American Express OPEN 2016 State of Women-owned Businesses Report:
“Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%, compared to just a 9% increase among all businesses. Therefore, over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate fully five times faster than the national average.”
What makes this time so ripe for female entrepreneurs? There are a number of factors in your favor.
You have more support than ever before.
It’s faster and easier than ever to become an entrepreneur thanks to helpful resources available online. Let’s face it- most modern women don’t have the time to build a business infrastructure from the ground up. We’re busy working, raising a family and generally, well… living.
The great news is that now you don’t have to build your business infrastructure from the ground up. Online services like Gusto can help you manage your human resource tasks like payroll and health benefits management. Need a logo, company name, or marketing copy? crowdSPRING can help you quickly and easily crowdsource the creative work you need.
Best of all, more resources exist than ever before that cater to supporting women in business. Ali Brown, Kathy Caprino and Patty Lennon offer business coaching for female entrepreneurs. The Founding Moms is a collective of offline meetups and online resources for mom entrepreneurs.
The growth of women-owned businesses over the past ten years has created more momentum for women entrepreneurs than ever before. Women are starting businesses, succeeding, and encouraging other to join them.
You can provide your own financial stability.
The world has always been an uncertain place. We’re at the mercy of economic forces beyond our control. Wages and salaries don’t always fairly compensate for work performed.
Per a study published by Pew Research Center in 2016, women only earn 58% – 87% as much as white males. Starting your own business gives you the ability to take control of your own financial future.
Lucia Mutikani of Reuters reports that while jobs have continued to grow in the US, wage growth has largely stagnated. Wage stagnation, combined with consistently lower wages paid to women, presents a compelling reason for more women to take on leadership roles in business. Starting your own business ensures that you can provide yourself and others a fair wage.
Some women entrepreneurs are trying to create financial stability for both themselves and other by reinvigorating their local economies. Molly Hemstreet is the founder of textile manufacturing cooperative Opportunity Threads. Molly saw the waning economy in her North Carolina community and wondered what she could do to help.
In an interview with Community-Wealth, Molly talked about the inception of her business:“But it all came back to the question… how do you build primary income?” She realized that the answer had been in Burke County all along. “I’ve lived most of my life here… in many of our communities, we’ve been makers. We can produce just about anything, especially textiles…”
Molly decided to revitalize the industry by founding a textile cooperative. Each employee is also an owner in the business. In an industry that is increasingly shipping work offshore, Molly and the members of her cooperative have become a bastion of customized textile manufacturing. Molly’s members are paid at or above the industry average, are offered employee-elected benefits, and the business is growing.
Each employee is also an owner in the business. In an industry that is increasingly shipping work offshore, Molly and the members of her cooperative have become a bastion of customized textile manufacturing. Molly’s members are paid at or above the industry average, are offered employee-elected benefits, and the business is growing.
“We are in a place of profitability, so hopefully at the end of the year we will either turn that back into dividends to people, or… we might really take that next leap and purchase more machinery and grow the business.”
Whether you want to be paid a fair wage or lift your local economy up with you, becoming an entrepreneur helps you take control of your finances today and create a more stable economic future.
Niche businesses are primed for success.
According to a report from the Brookings Institute, entrepreneurship in the United States has been on the decline for decades. With fewer small businesses, a larger proportion of American businesses are large-scale corporations. These corporations can cast a wide net due to their larger resources. This means that small businesses have a fantastic opportunity to grow under the radar by focusing on a specific niche.
For women who want to build their own business around their unique passions, this is great news. A niche business provides a very specific product or service catered to a very specific customer base. This specificity will support your chances of success. Nicole Kohler outlined the benefits of a niche business in her article “Why finding a niche is the key to small business success:”
1: There’s a ton of competition out there, and it can be a challenge to stand out with limited resources
2: Having a specific product category or interest makes it easier to describe what you do, and
3: Targeting a niche gets your site in front of online searchers who are almost ready to buy instead of casually browsing.
So, don’t be afraid that your idea is too small. As niche marketing expert Lynda Falkenstein says, “Smaller is bigger in business, and smaller is not all over the map; it’s highly focused.”
You can help create the world you want to see.
Starting a business doesn’t only have to be about making money. This is a time of great political awareness in the United States. The participation of roughly 3.2 million marchers in the historic Women’s March on January 21st indicated that many women feel that they are not being fairly represented in our country. Many people asked the questions, “What next? What happens after all the marchers go home?” One possible answer is to become an entrepreneur. Starting your own business allows you to help shape the world as you think it ought to be.
Vimala Rajendran is the owner of the award-winning Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Curryblossom isn’t just a restaurant— it’s a restaurant with a mission. Vimala’s focus is on running a business; and, more importantly, growing a community.
At Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, “We prioritize worker, environmental, and social justice; accessibility through affordability; and sustainability at every level. We pay a living wage. Our producers are local, our investors local, and our long-term goals are about transforming the local economy.”
Vimala ensures that her employees can support themselves, that her business helps sustain other local businesses, and that no one is turned away hungry from her restaurant. She runs a successful business that makes the changes in the world that she wants to see.
What changes do you want to see in your world?
Funding is More Accessible than Ever.
Acquiring funding for any business can be a daunting hurdle, but it has historically been even more difficult for women.
“Women entrepreneurs have less confidence about asking for money, feel they have to have a perfect business before they can ask, and would rather not ask if they think they will get a no. To make matters worse, when they do ask, the deck is stacked against them because of gender bias.” says capital raising expert Jenny Kassan.
The good news is that thanks to some fantastic new resources this is starting to change. With the rise of crowdfunding to the mainstream, some women have embraced the opportunity to create new models for fundraising.
Kickstarter is always an option, but now there are also group investment networks and crowdfunding sites specifically dedicated to supporting women in business. Plum Alley Investments, a company that connects investors with talented female entrepreneurs, was co-founded in 2015 by Deborah Jackson and Andrea Turner Moffatt. Trish Costello is the CEO and founder of Portfolia, a social network of investors with the aim of connecting (primarily women) entrepreneur investors with worthwhile up-and-coming businesses. Finally, iFundWomen.com is a new crowdfunding platform created by Karen Cahn to raise funds for female founders and entrepreneurs.
There are also grants available for small businesses (check out the Small Business Innovation Research program and Mission Main St. Grants), and female-run businesses in particular, like the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant. Eileen Fisher, a 30-year veteran entrepreneur, selects up to ten women-owned companies for a minimum grant reward of $10,000 each year.
Amy Chasan, founder of NYC bakery and youth organization Sweet Generation, was one such recipient. Chasan opened her first storefront in January of 2015. Since then Sweet Generation has established a reputation as one of the best bakeries in NYC. They’ve been awarded “Best Cupcake” in NYC, and been featured in Time Out, The Village Voice and made several appearances on Bravo TV’s “Blood, Sweat & Heels”.
These fantastic financial services and grants designed to uplift female entrepreneurs are yet another reason why this is the best time in history for women to take the plunge and start their own business.
What are you waiting for?
If you’re excited by the opportunities you’ve read about here today, if you’re ready to find out “what if?” then download the new e-book What Are You Waiting For? A Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs on Starting, Growing and Managing a Successful Business to help you get started. You’ll learn how to discover your great business idea, name your company, find a logo, raise money, market, build a support network and more. It has never been a better time to be a female entrepreneur.
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