Madam C.J. Walker was a pioneer for Women Business Owners and an advocate for the advancement of African-American lives in America. She was born to recently freed slaves near Delta, Louisiana in 1867 under the legal name, Sarah Breedlove.
During the 1890’s Sarah developed a scalp condition that resulted in significant hair loss. Instead of giving up she, similar to the reaction to the challenges she faced up until this point in her life, found a solution. She founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company and worked to see profits of the modern-day equivalent to several million dollars. She traveled, drove history by founding many non-profit organizations and has been credited as the first American woman to be a self-made millionaire.
According to reports by the SBA, there are approximately 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. There are 12.3 million businesses owned by women. Further, women owned businesses employ over 9 million people and generate over $1.7 trillion in sales. Women of color account for 47% of women business owners and has grown by 163% from 2007 to 2018.
Even though we have come a long way, there are still many challenges women entrepreneurs face each day. For example, women own 38% of the businesses in the country but they only receive about 16% of all business loans. Therefore, it is critical for businesses, governments, and the public in general to support women-owned small businesses.
Become a Mentor
Entrepreneurs who have a qualified mentor considerably increase their chances of success regardless of their gender. As a mentor, you can feel satisfied knowing you are imparting knowledge you wish you knew “at the time” to help build the success of a fellow entrepreneur. The following are some of the ways by which you can mentor budding women entrepreneurs.
- Many women entrepreneurs have great ideas but have not been given the equal opportunity they deserve. We must encourage women entrepreneurs to take smart risks. Jill Griffin’s book, Women Make Great Leaders tells the story of many women entrepreneurs who took the chance, beat the odds and became successful entrepreneurs.
- For some, one-on-one mentorship is overwhelming. Group mentoring sessions can prove to be more successful. You can create a platform where women entrepreneurs meet. The mentor should play the role of a facilitator; starting the session, give advice and guidance, and then open the floor for discussion.
- The mentor should give honest feedback, even when it is negative. Mentees and people, in general, learn more from their own mistakes and successes. A mentor is not doing the mentee any favor by not being honest about their observations. However, there is a way to be honest and still be kind and constructive.
Partner with Women-Owned Businesses
If you know of a woman-owned business whose products or services could prove useful to your business, partner with them. The mutual benefits for both businesses can be anything from product distribution to cross-customer exposure. This could prove particularly helpful for businesswomen who have just started and are looking to build their business. There are many benefits of partnering with women-owned businesses, including tax benefits.
Yelp Them Out
Yelp has made it a little easier for women-owned businesses to be seen using their newly added; “Women-Owned Business” feature. The label can be seen on the right side of the business’ page. Business women can add this tag to their business page by logging in to the Yelp dashboard. Users can then specifically search for “Women-Owned”. Whether you’re a customer looking for services or a business looking for a partner, consider using this feature to associate with women-owned small businesses.
Improve Access to Finance and Human Capital
Women entrepreneurs find it difficult to get financial assistance to start their business. The next step of expanding and is equally as difficult, is to find the right people to hire. Although finance is considered the lifeblood of a business, having the right people is also important. It is up to both the private and public sector to improve access for women entrepreneurs to find the right financing and people. They can start by:
- Creating incentives for individuals, businesses, and organizations to invest in women-owned businesses through private equity, venture funds, corporate venture and social capital.
- Remodeling existing government certifications, loans, and grant programs that help women-owned small businesses stay competitive in times of changing investment models.
- Creating new sources of capital like crowdfunding and impact investments.
Women entrepreneurs who are looking for financing for capital investments into their business should consider an alternative funding source.
Help Entrepreneurs Embrace Diversity in Hiring
Research has proven that gender diversity makes businesses more productive and the businesses that embrace it are 15% more likely to succeed. Having a gender diverse team can also lead to more innovative thinking and signals to investors that the company is strong. Hiring women can also be a way to prep them for an entrepreneurial future. The public and private sectors can participate by:
- Creating incentives for leaders to approach gender diversity as a business strategy. They should integrate diversity with other business processes and talent management strategies as well.
- Encouraging business leaders to recognize and address the impact of both conscious and unconscious gender biases through training programs.
- Promote positive success stories about successful women entrepreneurs through media, leadership movements, and conferences.
- Encourage more women to be included on boards, in venture partnerships and on executive teams.
Help them Get Better Access to Tech
A modern-day business can’t survive without technology. Technology keeps changing. What works now will be something entirely different in a few months. Businesses should update their technology processes to stay competitive. Governments, businesses and other organizations can help women entrepreneurs stay up to date in the face of changing technology by:
- Emphasizing STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and digital literacy in employee education and early training programs.
- Enabling easy access to internet.
- Providing basic technology, including computers and POS systems at subsidized rates for registered women-owned businesses.