Several months ago I had the chance to speak with two different entrepreneurs, who just happened to be women, who had built businesses that have enjoyed steady growth over the last 20 years. When you realize that half or less of the businesses that start today will still be around five years from now, I'd say they've done something incredible. One of these very capable women started a dance studio and leveraged the equity in her home to get started. Her banker didn't take her very seriously in the beginning. I don't know if it was because of the nature of her business, but she says now bankers approach her to talk about her financial needs. After 20 years, it's about time don't you think? The other entrepreneur went into the awning and electric sign business. Not the typical enterprise you'd expect a woman entrepreneur to jump into. Unlike the above entrepreneur, the partnership with her father and the nature of her business made it a little easier for her to access the capital she needed to grow her business. And now, over 20 years later, there's no question regarding whether or not she has the 'chops' to compete in what might otherwise be considered a man's world. In March of 2012, then SBA Administrator Karen Mills suggested, "Today, women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of new businesses in our economy." Citing analysis conducted by American Express, Mills said, "he number of women-owned buisnesses has risen by 200,000 over the past year alone, which is equivalent to just under 550 new women-owned firms created each day." Ignoring the number of new women-owned businesses isn't a good idea—even in the male-dominated small business lending market. Fortunately, it's a lot easier for women today than it was 20 years ago (although I wouldn't say it's 'easy' by any means). Lenders might not be falling all over themselves to offer small business loans to women, but the SBA (Small Business Administration) has made more than $12 billion available to women-owned businesses since President Obama took office. That's 35,000 or more loan guarantees set aside for women-owned enterprises. Traditional SBA lenders aren't the only folks offering small business loans to women. Alternative lenders in the MCA space, peer-to-peer lenders, and other non-bank financing is available to women-owned businesses that qualify. As more and more women start their own businesses, it's time to start taking women business leaders seriously. Women-owned business really is, serious business.