For women interested in starting a small business, there are equal parts positive and negative to ponder. This may be best shown by a 2014 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Here’s a sample:
The good: The Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 “helped women’s business-ownership grow from 4.1 million small businesses in 1987 to 8.6 million in 2013,” according to the report.
* “In 2009, women-owned businesses had an economic impact of nearly $3 trillion — translating into the creation/maintenance of 23 million jobs and 16 percent of all U.S. jobs,” the report says. “These women-owned businesses now account for nearly 30 percent of all businesses in America.”
The bad: “Women account for only 16 percent of conventional small business loans and 17 percent of SBA loans, even though they represent 30 percent of all small companies,” the report says.
* “Of conventional small business loans, women only account for 4.4 percent of total dollar value of loans from all sources,” the report says. “In other words, just $1 of every $23 in conventional small business loans goes to a woman-owned business.”
* “The challenge is not limited to conventional loans: Women receive just 7 percent of venture funds, and the percent of female venture capitalists has actually declined from previous years,” according to the report.
Clearly, there are challenges ahead for female entrepreneurs. Jared Hecht wrote about this in a story for inc.com. Here are a few of his suggestions on how women can take advantage of available opportunities to get a small business off the ground.
An angel investor often comes from an entrepreneur’s family or circle of friends. It may be a gift or a loan, without the firm structure required for an outside investor. But several investment groups can help make connections as well, according to Hecht’s story.
- Astia: This group’s mission is “to promote angel investment opportunities for women-owned ventures by connecting eligible businesses with interested investors,” he writes. “By applying for Astia’s Expert Sift program, you can have your business screened for eligibility to pitch directly to Astia’s network of angel investors. For selected applicants, Astia’s program provides not only essential business capital, but also the valuable advice and connections available from veteran angel investors.”
- Golden Seeds: “This angel investment organization has invested over $70 million in more than 65 women-led companies since 2005, and that number continues to grow,” Hecht writes. “And because Golden Seeds focuses specifically on early stage startups, it could be a great option for first-round funding if you’ve only been in business for a short time. Like Astia, Golden Seeds also offers coaching and connection opportunities to help their successfully funded women entrepreneurs succeed.”
- 37 Angels: “This network of angel investors is on a mission to not only increase the amount of funds available to women-owned businesses, but also increase the number of women entrepreneurs involved in angel investing,” Hecht writes. “While 37 Angels invests in both women-led and male-led companies, the perspective and mentoring of these female angel investors can be of particular benefit to aspiring female entrepreneurs.”
Grants: A little digging can pay off when it comes to grants. As investopedia.com puts it: “Although there are no startup grants available from the federal government, some states and nonprofit associations offer grants to entrepreneurs who are starting certain types of businesses. If you’re planning to open a nonprofit or ecofriendly business, there are numerous grants available. Many other types of businesses qualify for grants as well.”
Here are two grants that cater to women, according to Hecht’s story.
- Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant Program: “Female owners of established small businesses may benefit from Eileen Fisher’s Women Owned Business Grant Program, which awards $100,000 in grants annually for up to 10 grant recipients,” Hecht writes. “To be eligible, businesses must be majority (at least 51 percent) woman owned, have been in operation for at least three years, and be founded on principles of creating environmental and social change.”
- The Amber Grant: “Through small grants of $500 to $2,500, the Amber Grant program helps young female micro-entrepreneurs gain a foothold toward launching their businesses and accessing larger investment opportunities,” Hecht writes. “Although the grant amount itself is not huge, winning the Amber Grant may give female entrepreneurs the confidence and the starting push they need to successfully advocate for more funding in the future.”
Prospective women entrepreneurs would be wise to get familiar with the Small Business Administration’s loans and other resources. These programs “make concerted effort to provide equal representation and opportunities for female entrepreneurs, as well as all business owners with minority status,” writes Hecht.“… In addition to these loan programs, the Small Business Administration also offers a Woman-Owned Business Program that provides education and resources such as access to grants, funding and even federal contracts to businesses that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women, focusing particularly in 83 industries where women are underrepresented.”