Woman to Woman: Supporting Women’s Entrepreneurship Through the Power of the Purse

There’s a well-known saying that if you truly wish to support a cause you should “put your money where your mouth is” – meaning not only that talk means little without action to back it up, but that supporting a cause financially beats verbal praise alone.

So it is as well with women’s entrepreneurship: one of the best ways that women-owned firms can be supported is by purchasing their products and services.
pink purse
This pursuit is becoming easier for women-owned purveyors of consumer products through a growing number of online marketplaces focused solely or predominantly on products made by women-owned firms. Perhaps the most well-known is etsy.com, geared toward smaller scale handmade goods, but there are others recently coming online:

  • ananasa.com, an online marketplace based in the Middle East,
  • farandwidecollective.com, a site that sources products from developing economies,
  • pink51.com, which exhorts visitors to “shop with a purpose” – meaning that a portion of all sales are donated to women-focused causes,
  • shop.plumalley.co, sister site of plumalley.co, which invests in women-owned and -led businesses and is based in New York City, and
  • rosiemade.com, which offers goods made by women-owned firms in the USA, and which is meant to remind us of Rosie “We Can Do It” the Riveter.

The biggest potential impact may come through a new initiative spearheaded by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, in partnership with WEConnect International and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). In 2012 Walmart debuted an online marketplace for women-owned products under the “Empowering Women Together” moniker as a part of their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative launched in 2011. Now, they are expanding that effort to include a “woman-owned” label on products not only online but in stores. (See this recent Bloomberg Businessweek article for more information.) This could take the Power of the Purse to a whole new level.

State of Women-Owned Businesses Report Published

Hey, fellow womenablers, your long wait is over! The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses report has now been published. You can view the American Express OPEN web summary HERE, or click HERE to simply download the full report.women_racing

We now have the most up-to-date accounting of the number and growth trends among women-owned businesses in the United States. As of 2014, we (Womenable authored the report, American Express OPEN underwrote and published it) estimate that there are 9,087,200 majority-owned and privately-held women-owned firms, employing 7,854,200 employees in addition to the owner, and generating over $1.4 trillion ($1,410,940,800,000) in revenues. What are some of the other key trends uncovered in this year’s report? Among them:

  • Between 1997 and 2014, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 47%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 68% – a rate 1-1/2 times the national average. Indeed, the growth in the number (up 68%), employment (up 11%) and revenues (up 72%) of women-owned firms over the past 17 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms – topping growth rates among all other privately-held businesses over this period.
  • Nationally, the number of women-owned firms has increased by 68% since 1997. The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 17 years are: Georgia (up 118%), Texas (98%), North Carolina (91%), Nevada (91%) and Mississippi (81%). In terms of growth in combined economic clout, however – meaning averaging together the rankings in growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms – the states in which all of these measures combined place women-owned firms in a much better than average position over the 1997 to 2014 period are: North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia.
  • In 1997, there were just under 1 million (929,445) firms owned by women of color, accounting for one in six (17%) women-owned firms. That number has skyrocketed to an estimated 2,934,500 as of 2014, now comprising one in three (32%) women-owned firms. Firms owned by African American women number an estimated 1,237,900 as of 2014. These 1.2 million firms employ 287,100 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $49.5 billion in revenue. Firms owned by Latinas number an estimated 1,033,100 as of 2014. These firms employ 433,600 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $71.1 billion in revenue. Firms owned by Asian American women number an estimated 675,900 as of 2014. These firms employ 699,200 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $115 billion in revenue.
  • While firms owned by women of color are smaller than non-minority women-owned businesses both in terms of average employment and revenues, their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women-owned firms. Indeed, the growth in the number of African American (up 296% from 1997 to 2014), Asian American (+179%), Latina (+206%), Native American/ Alaska Native (124%), and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (+247%) women-owned firms all top the growth in the number of non-minority women-owned firms (+37%) over the past 17 years.

New this year is a look at business start-up activity, which shows that there are an increasing number of women business owners at the starting gate. On average over the past 17 years, there has been a net increase* of 591 women-owned businesses each and every day. The number of net new women-owned firms has fallen in the wake of the recession – there was a net increase of 714 women-owned firms per day from 2002 to 2007, and a lesser 506 per day between 2007 and 2014 – but start-up activity is increasing. Just in the past year, there have been an estimated 1,288 net new women-owned firms launched each and every day.

What’s the bottom line? Women business owners are not only here to stay, they are moving into entrepreneurship in equal numbers. The challenge that remains is moving women-owned firms up the growth continuum, and gaining a greater understanding of impediments to growth and how best to follow a woman’s path from a start-up with promise to a successful business that moves beyond the “majority-owned, privately-held” category to being woman-led and perhaps publicly-traded.

* “Net increase” takes into account all of the new women-owned firms minus the number of women-owned firms that either ceased operations or ceased to be majority women-owned.

More Women-Owned Businesses at the Starting Gate

With the recent release of the findings from the soon-to-be-published 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report (here’s a link to the news release; the full report is coming soon), we now have the most up-to-date accounting of the number and growth trends among women-owned businesses in the country. As of 2014, we (Womenable authored the report, which will be published soon by American Express OPEN) estimate that there are 9,087,200 majority-owned and privately-held women-owned firms, employing 7,854,200 employees in addition to the owner, and generating over $1.4 trillion ($1,410,940,800,000) in revenues.

What are some of the other key trends uncovered in this year’s report? Among them:Census 2014 charts010

  • Between 1997 and 2014, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 47%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 68% – a rate 1-1/2 times the national average. Indeed, the growth in the number (up 68%), employment (up 11%) and revenues (up 72%) of women-owned firms over the past 17 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms – topping growth rates among all other privately-held businesses over this period.
  • Nationally, the number of women-owned firms has increased by 68% since 1997. The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 17 years are: Georgia (up 118%), Texas (98%), North Carolina (91%), Nevada (91%) and Mississippi (81%). In terms of growth in combined economic clout, however – meaning averaging together the rankings in growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms – the states in which all of these measures combined place women-owned firms in a much better than average position over the 1997 to 2014 period are: North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia.
  • In 1997, there were just under 1 million (929,445) firms owned by women of color, accounting for one in six (17%) women-owned firms. That number has skyrocketed to an estimated 2,934,500 as of 2014, now comprising one in three (32%) women-owned firms. Firms owned by African American women number an estimated 1,237,900 as of 2014. These 1.2 million firms employ 287,100 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $49.5 billion in revenue. Firms owned by Latinas number an estimated 1,033,100 as of 2014. These firms employ 433,600 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $71.1 billion in revenue. Firms owned by Asian American women number an estimated 675,900 as of 2014. These firms employ 699,200 workers in addition to the owner and generate an estimated $115 billion in revenue.
  • While firms owned by women of color are smaller than non-minority women-owned businesses both in terms of average employment and revenues, their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women-owned firms. Indeed, the growth in the number of African American (up 296% from 1997 to 2014), Asian American (+179%), Latina (+206%), Native American/ Alaska Native (124%), and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (+247%) women-owned firms all top the growth in the number of non-minority women-owned firms (+37%) over the past 17 years.

New this year is a look at business start-up activity, which shows that there are an increasing number of women business owners at the starting gate. On average over the past 17 years, there has been a net increase* of 591 women-owned businesses each and every day. The number of net new women-owned firms has fallen in the wake of the recession – there was a net increase of 714 women-owned firms per day from 2002 to 2007, and a lesser 506 per day between 2007 and 2014 – but start-up activity is increasing. Just in the past year, there have been an estimated 1,288 net new women-owned firms launched each and every day.Census 2014 charts005

What’s the bottom line? Women business owners are not only here to stay, they are moving into entrepreneurship in equal numbers. The challenge that remains is moving women-owned firms up the growth continuum, and gaining a greater understanding of impediments to growth and how best to follow a woman’s path from a start-up with promise to a successful business that moves beyond the “majority-owned, privately-held” category to being woman-led and perhaps publicly-traded. But that’s a topic for another day!

The full report provides detailed data at the state level, industry level, and by size of firm, so stay tuned to womenable.com; the report will be posted there as soon as it’s published.

 

* “Net increase” takes into account all of the new women-owned firms minus the number of women-owned firms that either ceased operations or ceased to be majority women-owned.

Growing Women Entrepreneurs in LAC

At a recent event in their Washington DC headquarters, the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund showcased the results of a new survey conducted among high-growth women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
WEGrow-infographic
Undertaken in concert with Ernst & Young, the study, WEGRow: Unlocking the Growth Potential of Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean, utilizes a blend of qualitative and quantitative methods, focuses on nine countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay), and explores the issue of what makes high-growth women entrepreneurs tick. High-growth in this case means that the firms in question have grown by 20% or more for at least the past three years.

What did the study find? Among other things that:

Reflections on Building a Sustainable Women’s Enterprise Ecosystem

In November, I attended and spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship‘s pre-conference women’s enterprise policy day. My 25-minute presentation was entitled, “Building a Women’s Enterprise Movement That Will Stand the Test of Time: Lessons From the U.S.‘” It aimed to reflect on the recent silver anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, to share lessons learned from the U.S. experience, and to offer observations of the common elements that bolster and strengthen a healthy and vibrant women’s enterprise ecosystem – which could be adapted for a variety of political systems and development contexts.

Here, then, is a Slideshare Slidecast of the presentation, which you can watch and listen to as you munch on your lunch. Or, fellow womenablers, feel free to download it and play it at your next women’s business organization member gathering or networking event to fuel further discussion about what ideas you might take forward in your own community. Go forth and multiply!

WOSBs Getting Their Contracting Groove On?

How are women business owners doing in the federal procurement marketplace? According to a new report, authored by Womenable for the American Express OPEN for Government Contracts program, the answer is “increasingly well.” Even though, on average, women business owners who are active federal contractors have been seeking contracts for less time than their male counterparts, they are every bit as successful in terms of overall revenue and employment, and are rapidly catching up in terms of federal contract award value.

pot_o_goldOne reason for their growing success may be the increased traction of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Procurement Program, established in 2011. Two years ago, just over one-third (37%) of women business owners who had self-certified as a woman-owned small business (WOSB) found that designation to be useful in seeking contracting opportunities. Now, a 67% majority of WOSBs find the designation useful, including 28% who find it very or extremely useful.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • In each of the three American Express OPEN for Government Contracts surveys, women-owned firms have been found to invest less time and money researching opportunities and submitting proposals for federal contracts. In 2012, women-owned firms spent $112,112 pursuing federal contracts, compared to the $137,040 investment made by men-owned firms;
  • The average investment made by small businesses in seeking federal contracts has, however, risen dramatically over the past three years, with a greater than average increase seen among women-owned firms (up 59% compared to a 49% increase among all small contractors);
  • While women invest less time and money seeking federal contracts, their prime and sub-contracting bidding activity and success rates match the average for all active small firm contractors; and
  • On average, it takes a small business new to the federal procurement marketplace about two years (24 months) and 4.7 unsuccessful bids before winning that all-important first contract. It took women business owners less time and effort (20 months and 4.3 unsuccessful bids) to land their first contract compared to their male counterparts (25 months and 5.0 unsuccessful bids).

So, while selling goods and services to federal agencies may not be the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” for many small businesses – including an increasing number owned by women – federal procurement is an important avenue to business growth.

You may download and read the report, “Women-Owned Small Businesses in Federal Procurement: Building Momentum, Reaping Rewards,” at the highlighted link. This report is the second in a series of four reports. The first, “Trends in Federal Contracting for Small Businesses,” may also be downloaded and read. The other two reports, the next focused on trends in federal contracting among minority business owners and the final, taking a look at how small business owners are utilizing subcontracting and teaming to achieve procurement success, are forthcoming.

Policy Spark Plugs for Women’s Entrepreneurship

October 25th, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 in the United States – which is frequently referred to as the “big bang” of women’s enterprise. The law extended equal access to business credit to women business owners, directed the US Census Bureau to include all women-owned firms in its business census, established the women’s business center technical assistance program, and established the National Women’s Business Council – giving women business owners a seat at the federal policymaking table.sparkplug

What other spark plugs for women’s enterprise are out there? My fellow womenablers might want to check out the former Gender Law Library at the World Bank, now part of the Women, Business and the Law website. You can search by country or topic, and you may also wish to download the new 2014 Women, Business and the Law report. Regional fact sheets are also available.

Women’s enterprise development does not always have to be sparked by legislative action. In May 2003, a Strategic Framework for Women’s Enterprise was launched by the Labour government in the United Kingdom, which led to a number of positive programs for women’s enterprise development. Unfortunately, a party-launched initiative can fall by the wayside when leadership changes hands – as happened in the UK in 2010, when Conservative David Cameron became Prime Minister and promptly cut funding for women’s entrepreneurship, and indeed for small business development support in general.

This happened as well in Canada,  not too long after their Prime Minister’s Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs – Report and Recommendations was unveiled with great promise but unfulfilled potential. The report was launched in October 2003 – just two months before Prime Minister Jean Chretien left office. Even though his successor was of the same party, the initiative did not gain traction.