For decades, female entrepreneurs have fought hard for their seats at the table.
In 2019, American Express reported that women-owned businesses made up 42% of all companies, employing 9.4 million workers. Small businesses are fueling the rise of the female entrepreneur, as 99.9% of women-owned companies employ fewer than 500 staffers.
As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the U.S. economy in 2020, it threatened to undo a lot of that progress.
For the past year, COVID-19 has held much of the world captive. Schools closed, storefronts shuttered, and kitchens transformed into home offices. However, the crisis's impact was not felt evenly by all. Women were more likely to carry the brunt of the economic and social fallout. This is especially true for female business owners.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the percentage of women entrepreneurs who ranked their business's health as "somewhat or very good" fell from 60% in January 2020 to 47% in July in 2020, compared to 67% and 62%, respectively, for men. Female small business owners are also less optimistic about their pending success in 2021, with less than half of those surveyed believing their revenue would increase this year. In comparison, 57% of male owners believe their revenue will increase.
That pessimism isn't unwarranted. According to a new study by accounting software firm Freshbooks, on average, women-owned businesses are taking as much as three-times longer to recover from the financial setbacks brought on by COVID-19 than businesses owned by men.
Despite these recent struggles, there's good news. With more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., generating $1.7 trillion in sales, female entrepreneurs hold immense potential as a driving force in the economy's growth. To drive momentum, however, they need our support — now more than ever.
Closing the economic gaps created by COVID-19 starts with making a more concerted effort to support and revitalize women-owned businesses — financially and otherwise. Doing so will not only fuel our economic recovery but will empower a generation of women leaders and bring about a more diverse and balanced economy.
This International Women's Day, here are all the ways you can show your support for female-owned businesses — and how it can help them not only get back on their feet but thrive.
If you have the financial means, this is one of the easiest ways to support women-owned businesses in your community.
Whether you're looking for all-natural skincare products, vintage home decor, or a new plant for your home jungle, consider taking a moment to do your research first before heading to your go-to spot. Fortunately, a boom in comprehensive and curated online directories has made it easier than ever to find women-owned businesses in your area. The Women-Owned Business Directory features hundreds of products from the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect-certified businesses. No matter what you're looking for, the directory lets you quickly find women-owned businesses based on the items you need.
Here's another critical thing to remember when supporting women-owned businesses — many of these vendors sell nationally through sites like Amazon. While this may be the easier route, remember that these vendors benefit the most when consumers go directly to the source.
The Female Founder Collective has a handy database featuring hundreds of women-owned businesses across the country, and most of the listings have eCommerce storefronts. Like The Women-Owned Business Directory, this site lets you filter by location and keywords, making it easy to hunt down everything from Black-owned hair care lines to small-batch screen prints.
If you prefer exploring storefronts by foot instead of by the click of a mouse, there's plenty of ways to hunt down women-owned businesses, too. The next time you're running errands or doing some window shopping, keep your eyes peeled for the Women-Owned Logo. Any storefront (or websites and product labels) displaying this logo have been certified by the WBENC as at least 51% female-owned and female-operated.
Your public seal of approval can carry just as much influence as your purchasing power. Recent surveys show that more than 86% of today's shoppers trust customer reviews they read online when deciding where to shop or dine. The next time you have a positive experience at women-owned businesses, make sure you let your network and the rest of the world know about it. This is an easy (and free) way to show your support while simultaneously boosting the brand's visibility, reputation, and trustworthiness.
Here are a few ways you can spread the word:
Businesses rely on public reviews from real customers to drive new traffic. On the flip side, customers rely on reviews to influence their shopping decisions. Taking a few minutes to highlight exceptional customer service, a welcoming store environment, or the quality of a product across sites like Google or Yelp is invaluable for women-owned companies. It can play a vital role in boosting their business in the long term.
If you're in love with the new wheel-thrown pottery you purchased from the women-owned storefront in your neighborhood, don't be afraid to show it off! Sharing a photo of your new goods on Facebook and Instagram (and tagging the company, of course) not only introduces a new set of potential customers to the business, but it drives them to their social accounts to check out the store for themselves.
It's a small gesture but a meaningful one. Follow your favorite women-owned business on social, and like, share, or comment on their posts. Your comments show that the business is actively building an engaged community and that people (like you) are invested in their success. That's enough incentive to encourage others to join in, too.
While there are hundreds of training resources and educational opportunities available to women entrepreneurs, sometimes the advice of others who offer a "been there, done that" mentality can put a struggling business back on track. In fact, The Harvard Business Review surveyed CEOs with mentors and found that 84% have avoided costly mistakes, and 69% claim to make better decisions thanks to the mentorship.
If you're an established business owner who has built a thriving company, consider sharing your expertise, experiences, and knowledge with female entrepreneurs to give them a push in the right direction. Consider becoming a mentor with an organization that matches business owners with mentors, such as SCORE or the Women's Mentoring Network. You can also volunteer with the Women's Business Development Council, Women Initiative Foundation.
Using your purchasing power is one way to support women-owned businesses, but donating your money to an organization that supports female entrepreneurs can be equally impactful. Through your donation, you're making it easier for more women-owned businesses to access the funding, courses, networking, and other resources they need. Here are a few organizations to consider donating your time or money to:
NAWBO has more than 40 years of experience in helping women launch and run their own businesses. With chapters located throughout the U.S., each NAWBO location connects women business owners by offering networking, education, and support opportunities.
Ladies Who Launch provides women entrepreneurs with educational tools to help them get their business started and keep them on the right path. On the Ladies Who Launch website, women can find resources and tools to help them create solid business plans, secure funding, and more. The website also includes tips and videos featuring first-hand success stories from other women who successfully launched a business — an invaluable resource for female entrepreneurs who might feel isolated or alone as they get started.
Women often face institutional bias when applying for traditional loan funding. According to researchers from Columbia Business School, businesses led by women are 63% less likely to obtain venture capital (VC) funding than those led by men. Organizations like the Women's Venture Fund aim to shrink that gap. While the WVF offers educational resources to women business owners, one of their more essential offerings is assistance with acquiring small business loans.
The past year has shown us all what happens when communities join together and support each other, whether in combating a global pandemic or keeping local businesses afloat. Whether you show your support by frequenting your local women-owned businesses or writing a Yelp review about a positive experience, we all have the power to support female business owners — and that power is amplified when we all do our part to give these businesses the attention they deserve.
Starting your own small business isn't as daunting when you have the support of your community to back you up. As you build out your business plan and get ready to open up your own storefront, the experts at Swyft Filings are available to support you, too. We've compiled a full list of resources to offer additional support, guidance on how to get started, and inspirational stories from some of our favorite female entrepreneurs.
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