January has been an exciting month for women-owned business enterprises (WBE)! Here on the home front, InfoMart has reestablished its certification with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in one of many 2016 efforts to offer our experienced leadership as a resource to other WBEs and women entrepreneurs. We look forward to building strong relationships with other industry leaders that will encourage coordinated efforts in promoting women leadership.

According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report and the National Women’s Business Council 2015 Annual Report,

  • There are approximately 10 million WBEs in the USA.
  • More than 36% of US businesses are WBEs.
  • WBEs are growing 1.5 times faster than the national average.
  • WBEs generate $1.6 trillion a year.
  • Approximately 9 million people are employed by WBEs (not including owners).
  • Nearly 900 new WBEs are launched each day.

However, WBEs still face significant challenges:

  • The average number of employees for WBEs is 1.
  • The survival rate for a WBE is 45%, though the national average is 55%.
  • The economic impact of WBEs is often limited because the majority of the businesses are geared toward industries that have lower revenue levels on average.
  • Only 2% of WBEs in the United States have yearly revenues higher than $1 million.
  • WBEs are started with significantly less on average than their men-owned counterparts (about $75,000 vs. $135,000).

How can we improve the business landscape for WBEs?

 

In the legal arena, several new congressional bills have been introduced that will, hopefully, help even the playing field and allow WBEs to succeed. The proposed bills seek to amend the Small Business Act to improve small business opportunities to land federal contracts; delay acceptance of subcontracting plans if small businesses haven’t received maximum practicable opportunity to compete; and reauthorize the SBA’s Women’s Business Center program and fund training.

Legal changes can be helpful, but it’s ultimately up to us as business leaders to instigate improvement and be the vehicle for change. We have a vast network of women leaders and a multitude of resources both online and within individual states and communities at our disposal. Even if all you have is an idea for a business you’d like to start, there are many resources available to help you reach your goal and help all of us reach success.

7 Online Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

  • The Small Business Association provides several excellent online resources for women entrepreneurs on starting and managing a business, getting loans and grants, and getting into contract work. There’s also a Learning Center page that features over 50 instructional videos.
  • Business Filing’s Business Owner’s Toolkit features an article library on topics from business planning to sales tax.
  • Only last week, small business influencer and president of Ventureneer, Geri Stengel, published a great piece on how women entrepreneurs can leverage available opportunities in 2016 to obtain funding and connect with female investors that can help advance their business.
  • Margot Dorfman, CEO and co-founder of the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, offers sage advice for women entrepreneurs in 2016, such as protecting your assets, positioning yourself as an expert, and following up, among others.
  • Entrepreneur.com published an article by Kabbage CMO, Victoria Treyger, on understanding and finding federal, state, and private grants that lists 11 grant opportunities for women-owned businesses.
  • Small business advisor, Marla Tabaka, provides resources for networking, funding, training, and mentorship in her Inc.com post “6 Essential Resources for Women Entrepreneurs.”
  • You have to be a member to benefit from most of their offerings, but the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) does provide some free resources for entrepreneurs in research mode. You can sign up to get NAWBO’s free bi-weekly newsletter, SmartBrief, and their website also offers webinars in a free E-Learning series.

The Easiest Ways to Network With Other Women Leaders

A quick Google search of “Networking for Women” results in a mess of articles about how difficult it is for women to network and how to network more effectively. Fortunately, when you’re on a computer or device you use often, Google knows your geographical area and will also provide links to local networking groups as well as online networking groups.

By now, we all know how crucial social media is to effective networking. Social media platforms can help you connect with and keep up to date with other women entrepreneurs. Features like Linkedin’s “ways to keep in touch” (found at the top right corner of your home page) will tell you when a connection is about to celebrate a work anniversary or has changed positions or companies.

Research shows that women are more likely to use Facebook than men. Although the platform doesn’t tell you about your network’s professional landmarks, it’s highly effective in notifying users of local events and upcoming birthdays. You can send a birthday message just to let a colleague know you’re thinking of her, which can help keep you and your business at the top of her mind.

Twitter is a great social media platform for finding out what matters to your network at any given moment. The speed of updates can by dizzying, which is why engaging with your contacts on this medium means so much. It takes less than 5 minutes to reply to a contact’s post, and the fact that you chose her to engage from hundreds or thousands of others can help you stand out.

Another great way to network with other women business leaders is to get involved. There are plenty of groups and committees dedicated to advancing women leadership in business on local, state, and federal levels. Use Google to find a group near you, or sign up for free national news and updates on women’s economic issues from the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Startup, Network, Expand, Succeed

2016 is sure to be an exciting year for women in business. We’ve already increased our business ownership by 30% since 2007, so let’s keep up the trend and empower one another to succeed.

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