As Online Services Associate at The Receivables Exchange, Mariah Courtney is responsible for managing various social communities by developing social media programs and cultivating relationships with customers and potential partners. You can connect with her via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
How should we think about the future of business and the economy? If you ask women business owners (WBOs), we should be optimistic. In a survey conducted by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Web.com, a whopping 81% of WBOs were optimistic about their business’s overall performance in 2013. 38% of the women said that they are planning to hire more employees than they did last year. Compare that with results from the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index which indicated that in January, overall optimism was at 89.9% – the fourth lowest reading in the survey’s 40 year history.
Despite their optimism, WBOs still face significant challenges when it comes to growing their businesses. More than three quarters of the WBOs surveyed did not seek financing in 2012. 32% of those women did not think that they could secure funding if they tried. Their hesitancy to apply for financing is not unfounded. Historically, women are more likely turned down for loans or given less favorable terms than their male counterparts. According to numerous studies, this is due to lending discrimination and/or lower credit scores – the former obviously perpetuating the latter.
The refreshing optimism that women entrepreneurs and small business owners are experiencing right now is at least partly influenced by the recent focus on the issues surrounding access to capital. The inequalities between male and female business owners are significant – but the gap is shrinking. Women 2.0, a media company devoted to helping women succeed in the tech industry, recently presented research at a conference in San Francisco that indicated that women business owners are becoming a highly lucrative investment. A Bloomberg Businessweek article noted that “women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies.”
Operating with the goal of connecting WBOs with the networking and financial resources they need to succeed, Angel networks are shaping the future of financing for women. Angel investors (wealthy individuals who invest in startups in exchange for equity) have always been known for being highly engaged and supportive patrons. Angels that invest primarily or solely in women owned businesses realized that one of the biggest weaknesses of WBOs was a lack of financial acumen. They set out to educate women on finance through the creation of Angel networks. The networks range from large nationwide organizations to those that are industry specific with a regional focus. Astia, Springboard Enterprises, Jumpthru, Womensphere, and Women in Wireless are a few of the many organizations that are dedicated to helping women succeed.
There has also been a recent focus on the role of Government in supporting women business owners. Lobbying groups like Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) are working hard to pass legislation that is favorable to WBOs. One of their biggest victories was the creation of the Women Owned Small Business Program in 2011, under which 5% of all government contracting opportunities are set aside for women owned businesses. The Kauffman –RAND Institute for Entrepreneurial Public Policy estimates that the program could benefit 684,000 companies. Once a government contract is signed, there are numerous financing resources available. Some great options include invoice financing, SBA loans and grants, and purchase order financing. Companies like Lendio will research multiple lending options in order to find the best fit for your business.
The future of financing for women business owners is brighter than ever. As even more resources become available, it’s important for business owners to take the time to weigh all options before signing on the dotted line. Find the method of financing that’s a good fit for you and for the future of your business.