Female entrepreneurship has been on a steady rise in the United States, with the number of women-owned businesses nearly doubling between 1997 and 2017. Today, almost 40 percent of the nation’s privately held companies are owned by women, and women launch an average of 1,000 businesses per day.
Not only are women-owned businesses increasing at two and a half times the rate of all US businesses combined, but both the revenue growth and employment growth of women-owned businesses have also outpaced the national averages for all businesses. What’s more, startups founded by women are 20 percent more likely to be revenue-generating and bring 35 percent higher returns to investors than all startups combined.
This extraordinary progress has been made despite the historic funding disparity between women-owned and men-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses receive less than 5 percent of the total dollar volume lent to businesses. Less than 3 percent of VC funding goes to woman-led companies, and 12 percent goes to mixed-gender leader teams.
Fortunately, the business funding gender gap is narrowing, and larger shares of debt and equity capital are going to women-owned ventures, in part because more women are in lending and investing decision-making positions. Female entrepreneurs are also successfully tapping into alternative funding options—such as accelerators, competitions, crowdfunding, grants, and specialized lending programs.
Targeting funding opportunities aimed specifically at women-owned businesses should be a priority funding strategy of any women-led startup or small business. Not only do such funding sources focus on women-owned businesses, they also tend to offer more favorable terms.
13 RESOURCES FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS AND BUSINESSES OWNERS
The following are sources of free information, training, counseling, and/or technical assistance to help women entrepreneurs start, expand, and sustain their own businesses.
US Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) collaborates with myriad agencies and organizations to make business ownership and business development resources available to women. Programs include the following.
A nationwide network of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) works with local SBA offices and community partners to provide women entrepreneurs with free business counseling and assistance as well as access to other SBA programs and funding resources.
This SBA-funded program helps certified women-owned businesses (WOBs) compete for federal contracts and works with federal agencies to achieve the government’s goal of awarding 5 percent of contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses.
Procurement Support for Women-Owned Businesses
Most government agencies and many large corporations have procurement programs that allot a percentage of their contracts to women-owned small businesses. To qualify for these programs, the company must be certified as a woman-owned small business. Federal government agencies require SBA-approved certification as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB). State governments often have their own certification protocol, but many accept WOSB-certified contractors. Some corporations require or accept WOSB certification; others require or prefer certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). The following organizations support women-owned businesses seeking government and/or commercial contracts.
A network of 100 PTACs, with more than 300 local offices across the United States, provides free assistance in self-certifying as an WOSB or EDWOSB as well as federal and state government-contracting training and counseling.
NAWBO is a fee-based, third-party SBA-approved WOSB (government) certifier and WBE (private sector) certifier. Offers fee-based training, mentoring, and networking opportunities with commercial and government purchasing agents.
USWCC is a fee-based, third-party SBA-approved WOSB and EDWOSB certifier (government) and National Women Business Enterprise (NWBE) and International Women Business Enterprises (IWBE) third-party certifier (private sector).
WBENC is a fee-based, third-party SBA-approved WOSB certifier (government) and WBE certifier (private sector). Offers fee-based procurement training and free access to an online database connecting WBENC-certified women-owned businesses with commercial and government contracting opportunities.
Information, Networking, and Other Resources for Women Business Owners
Following are a few of the many organizations that provide services and resources to help women fund, launch, and grow their businesses. Other national and local organizations provide similar support to women-owned startups and small businesses.
This nonprofit membership association advocates for and supports black female entrepreneurs worldwide. Offers free workshops and webinars, networking opportunities, and funding connections (investor referrals, introductions).
DWEN, an initiative of Dell Technologies, connecting women entrepreneurs around the globe with networking opportunities, funding connections, information, and technology. Annual summit brings together Dell executives and 200 selected DWEN-member entrepreneurs for collaboration, thought leadership, and networking.
EBW2020 connects women to financial, education, networking, and other resources to launch, build, or scale their businesses. Offers annual summit, accelerator, and free e-newsletter.
This diversity-centric, women-led membership organization connects female entrepreneurs with funders, mentors, and other resources through its virtual community and live events. Website features a running list of funding opportunities, updated weekly.
NAWBO is a nonprofit membership organization with 60 chapters and more than 5,000 members. Offers dues-paying members free education, information, mentoring, networking, and access to capital.
This nonpartisan federal advisory of prominent female business leaders serves as independent counsel to the federal government. The Grow Her Business portal of the NAWBC website lists more than 200 resources for women-owned businesses, including accelerators, business competitions, education/training, funding, and contracting opportunities.
NSWCC is a non-profit membership organization that uses a platform of influence, innovation, and opportunity to work with and on behalf of members, helping them to start and build successful businesses and gain access to government contracts.
This has been adapted from Target Funding:A Proven System to Get the Money and Resources You Need to Start or Grow Your Business (McGraw-Hill, July 12, 2019)