Women’s Small Business Month, which happens every October, is a great time to highlight the many contributions and advancements made by female business owners who are making a significant, positive impact to our nation’s economy.
The latest census data shows that in 2012, female-owned firms made up more than 36 percent of all non-farm businesses, up from 30 percent in 2007. As of 2012, there were 9.9 million female-owned businesses — a more than 27 percent increase from 2007.
The fact that the number of women entrepreneurs has increased over the years has been made possible, in part, by their passion, talent and dedication and their ability to obtain essential business support including access to capital. According to a recent Wells Fargo / Gallup national study, 71 percent of women business owners say they feel very or extremely satisfied as a business owner, and 89 percent would do it all over again. Yet women in the survey also expressed less overall interest than men in learning about credit-related issues, particularly choosing the type of credit that is best for their business needs (17 percent versus 28 percent).
It’s important for women entrepreneurs to understand how the use of business credit may benefit their operations. Business credit can provide a business the source of funds it needs for multiple purposes, from bridging gaps in cash flow to pursuing growth opportunities. As women-run businesses continue playing a vital role in our local economy, we want to do everything we can to help these businesses thrive.
Here are four tips we offer women business owners to help them succeed financially:
1. Explore your financing options.
According to the Wells Fargo / Gallup study, women business owners said their top three sources of initial funding for their business are cash or savings (85 percent), personal credit cards (37 percent) and financial gifts or support from family or friends (29 percent). Today, business owners have many business financing options to consider.
If a conventional business loan doesn’t meet your specific needs, you may want to explore an SBA 7(a) loan. Talk with your banker about the full array of credit options available for your business to identify the best option for you.
2. Seek lenders with a commitment toward women business owners.
It’s a competitive market for small business loans, and that’s good for women business owners. Lenders are seeking to make every responsible loan they can to credit-worthy business owners.
When choosing a lender, you should consider financial institutions that have demonstrated a commitment and track record of working with women-owned businesses as well as a lender who may have implemented lending goals or programs focused on women-owned businesses. Many states have programs for women entrepreneurs, so it is worth investigating the opportunities in your area.
3. Connect with other women entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a network of more than 100 women business centers across the country aimed at helping women who own small businesses. Another great resource for women business owners is Score.org, which offers online newsletters and webinars in addition to an extensive database of female mentors.
Finally, women business owners should consider joining the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which has chapters across the country that offer peer-to-peer professional development programs for members. Many of these organizations are dedicated to helping women find the right financial tools to successfully run and grow their business.
4. Build a relationship with a banker.
Having a strong relationship with a business banker can be beneficial to your business. The stronger your relationship is with your banker, the better your banker will be able to understand your business when you come to them for support and financial solutions to help it grow.
For example, a banker can help you build a strong credit profile, as well as help you gain access to the capital your business needs when you’re credit ready. A banker can also provide guidance on how to lay a strong financial foundation for your business, such as establishing a business plan. To build the relationship, make sure to keep your banker up to date on significant changes and notable successes in your business.
There’s certainly a lot to be learned from the many successful female entrepreneurs who have made it in today’s ever-changing and challenging business environment. There is no single recipe for success so to speak, but the four tips outlined above will certainly help you start, run and grow your business.