Running A Business

Resources for Women in Business

Dec 01, 2020 • 10+ min read
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      Let’s not beat around the bush. Today’s small business environment makes it incredibly difficult for female entrepreneurs to build successful startups. No matter how much talent or hustle they have, the game is stacked against them. Already, 90% of startups fail, and you can imagine that percentage is even higher for female-founded businesses struggling to find venture capitalist funding and small business loans.

      The struggle is real. And it’s also unjustified, especially considering women-led businesses have greater profit potential than businesses with mostly men in the driver’s seat. Because of this, we want to give every woman entrepreneur the resources she needs to level the playing field.

      Unfortunately, women-only business loans don’t exist. However, a few lenders and loan programs prioritize supporting female small business owners. On top of that, women-only mentorship programs, business grants, and other resources are available to give women the support they need to build successful companies.

      To help female small business owners reach the top of their game, we’ve compiled the best-of-the-best resources available.

      Accelerators for female founders.

      Accelerators offer startups invaluable mentorship, networks, seed money, and more, but they’re notoriously difficult for female founders to join. That’s where women-only accelerators can help.

      Female Founders Alliance (FFA), a relatively new network of female startup founders, has built a free five-week accelerator for women, by women. This program goes beyond finding female entrepreneurs—it also caters to their specific needs. Many competitive accelerators require founders to relocate for three to six months, a feat often impossible for women, who are more often caregivers. FFA’s Ready, Set, Raise, program consists of remote workshops followed by a one-week immersion in Seattle, designed intentionally so women don’t have to uproot their families.

      FFA is not the only one giving women a chance to start businesses. There are a number of other women-only accelerators to consider:

      These are just a few examples of the many accelerators available specifically for female entrepreneurs. It’s important to do research and find the one that best fits your business.

      And women-only accelerators aren’t your only option. A few of the most successful seed-stage investors happen to be accelerators who have a proven track record of supporting women-led businesses. The following are leading the pack:

      Mentorship programs for women founders.

      Mentorship can be a game-changer for entrepreneurs, especially for women who may not have as many role models or connections in their industry. Luckily, there are numerous mentorship programs and networks specifically designed to support and connect female founders.

      • SCORE provides free business mentoring services to all entrepreneurs, but also has a dedicated Women’s Entrepreneurship Program with specialized resources for women.
      • Springboard Enterprises offers a variety of programs and events for women-led businesses, including mentorship networks.
      • Astia provides mentoring and access to investors for female entrepreneurs in high-growth industries.
      • The Boss Network offers online resources and networking opportunities for professional women of color.
      • EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women provides education, resources, and networking opportunities for high-potential women entrepreneurs.
      • The Next Women hosts events and offers mentorship and resources for female entrepreneurs in Europe.
      • The Vinetta Project supports women-led businesses through mentorship, pitch competitions, and funding opportunities.
      • WBENC certifies women-owned businesses and provides resources and networking opportunities.

      Venture capital for women-owned businesses.

      It takes money to start a business, and it unfortunately often takes more effort for women to secure that money. If you look at the $130 billion paid out in venture capital in 2018, businesses owned by women only accessed 2.2% of the pie.

      Despite the bad press and dismal statistics, there are VCs committed to supporting women on the road to success.

      Here are some notable examples:

      • Fika Ventures: Eva Ho and TX Zhuo lead this California-based seed fund. If your business involves automation, data, or AI technology, they’ll be particularly interested in chatting with you.
      • Urban Innovation Fund: As the name implies, this firm offers seed capital to entrepreneurs who will improve cities with their ideas. Sector examples include housing, education, transportation, and recreation.
      • SoGal Ventures: Led by Elizabeth Galbut and Pocket Sun, SoGal Ventures has an international presence and often invests in innovative technologies that solve problems.
      • 500 Startups: If your business is in the retail, fashion, or beauty industries, you should consider 500 Startups. This global VC firm is dedicated to investing in businesses led by women and other historically marginalized individuals.
      • Glasswing Ventures: Aside from having an absolutely gorgeous name, Rudina Seseri’s firm is always on the lookout for startups with great AI solutions.
      • Halogen Ventures: This early-stage VC fund invests in consumer technologies that push the limits of what’s possible. They’re known for giving ample support and development resources to the businesses they fund.

      Small business loans and grants for women.

      Securing a small business loan or grant can be a game-changer for women entrepreneurs, providing vital funding to help their businesses grow and thrive. This section will explore some of the loan programs and grants available to women.

      SBA loans.

      The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several types of loans designed to assist businesses with various needs. SBA loans are provided by lenders like banks and credit unions, and they are guaranteed by the SBA. This means if a business defaults on the loan, the SBA will cover the majority of the lender’s loss. SBA loans are available for most business purposes, such as to purchase equipment, inventory, or real estate, to acquire a business, or to provide working capital. These loans are known for their lower down payments, flexible overhead requirements, and no collateral needed for some loans.

      Business line of credit.

      business line of credit is one of the most flexible forms of financing. With this type of financing, you have access to a certain amount of money (the credit limit) that you can draw from as needed. You only pay interest on the funds you use, and once you repay the funds, they become available again. This is great when you need cash for emergencies or unexpected expenses.

      Small business grants for femal entrepreneurs.

      Small business grants can be an even better resource for women business owners. Essentially, a grant is free money that you don’t pay back, ever (unlike a small business loan or credit card). So, you’d guess these grants would be extremely competitive—and you’d be right! But each small business grant is unique and has its own set of requirements, so you never know when you’ll be the most qualified candidate.

      Although there are a ton of available grants, a few focus specifically on women. These grants are definitely worth looking into:

      Educational programs for women.

      Knowledge is power, and there are plenty of programs educating women to become the most powerful entrepreneurs in the world. These are just a couple of the incredible resources available for female entrepreneurs.

      Women’s Business Centers

      Beyond loans, the SBA has a few different programs to help female small business owners learn to run a business, secure financing, and create valuable networks. The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) manages a network of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) across the entire U.S. There are more than 100 of these centers giving women entrepreneurs a fighting chance by providing management training, technical assistance, certification courses, consulting, and much more.

      NAWBO Institute

      The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is the unified voice of more than 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. With the NAWBO Institute, women get access to online virtual courses to learn best practices, network, and ultimately get ahead of the curve. The best part is that you can learn at your own pace and focus your attention on growing your business while studying on the side.

      Despite the vast challenges female entrepreneurs face, the rate of women-owned startups has been growing close to double that of their male counterparts in recent years. Although these incredible resources don’t completely erase core obstacles, they take a big step in alleviating the hurdles female small business owners face along their entrepreneurial journeys.

      About the author
      Jesse Sumrak

      Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.

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