Women's Entrepreneurship Day (November 19) gives women business owners everywhere a chance to reflect on the many strides women have made in recent years as entrepreneurs.
As of 2016, it's estimated that there are 11.3 million U.S. women-owned businesses employing nearly 9 million people, according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by and prepared for American Express OPEN by Womenable. These businesses are generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues. The number of women-owned firms has increased 45 percent since 2007.
“Women entrepreneurs are changing the face and landscape of the economy around the globe," says Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform designed to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace. “It's important through events like Women's Entrepreneurship Day that we celebrate and support this courageous network of women putting it all on the line to make a difference."
Angela Mader, founder of fitness lifestyle brand fitlosophy, agrees. “It's [vital] that we celebrate [the] entrepreneurial achievements of women, not only to inspire other entrepreneurs, but to pave the way for the next generation. This isn't about being better than men—or even being better than each other. It's about being the best version of ourselves, not because we're women, but because we are capable."
In honor of Women's Entrepreneurship Day, a number of entrepreneurs share their views on what it means to be a woman business owner today.
Women Entrepreneurs Are Making Progress
“Women increasingly have a seat at the table by creating new businesses," says Heather McDowell, founder and CEO of Tickle Water, a line of unsweetened sparkling water for children. “Women are listened to and respected more so than before. We're often acknowledged for being superb at multitasking and having sharp intuition, which are qualities I believe make us stand out amongst our male counterparts. As a mompreneur, I am proud to have taken Tickle Water from concept to market in an industry that is still predominately male."
—Megan McEwan, co-founder, Jane
Rebecca Ballard, owner of Maven Women, creates and sells fair trade women's workwear. She believes that women entrepreneurs are destined to add more to the business landscape than financial returns.
“Women by nature tend to be social entrepreneurs, and they are poised to be leaders of the future by naturally thinking about how the companies they create impact people and the planet," says Ballard. “Many women business owners are dedicated to how the products they create improve the lives of those who use them, as well as the people who make them. At the same time, these women generously support one another."
Mentorship amongst women entrepreneurs continues to grow, agrees Megan McEwan, co-founder of women's clothing e-tailer Jane. “Women entrepreneurs have made impressive progress in the past several years," she says, adding that mentorship has much to do with those gains. "Women are beginning to have other women mentors to guide them, which leads to greater confidence, less barrier to entry and overall greater success."
Improving the World on Women's Entrepreneurship Day and Beyond
In addition to focusing on building their businesses, many women business leaders are equally focused on making a difference, adds Tina Hay, CEO and founder of financial literacy multimedia company Napkin Finance. “The impact of having more women entrepreneurs is that many of the fastest-growing and most innovative ventures are not only led by women, but are also dedicated to social causes and missions."
“My desire to succeed is fueled by the fact that I am passionate about empowering children and women to reach their potential," says Sharon Blumberg, president of CHOOZE Footwear, Apparel & Accessories. "Our company's social cause is to invest profits in organizations that help women in poverty, so that they can succeed in being entrepreneurs."
The Top Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face
While times are more lucrative and productive for women business owners, they aren't without their challenges, believes Anna Spektor, founder and CMO of Expert Webcast. “Some challenges are just stereotypes of women being a weaker gender, less efficient or less capable than men," she says. “While other challenges are real and come with the territory of being a woman, such as juggling a career and family life."
Balancing family life and the demands of growing a company is often women entrepreneurs' biggest challenge, agrees Michele Mehl, founder and CEO of portable exercise bike provider Excy. “Supportive husbands help for sure, but it's also up to us women to keep ourselves healthy and to strike a balance so we can be great businesswomen, as well as great mothers, wives, friends, sisters and neighbors."
Access to financing is another hindrance women entrepreneurs face, believes Ballard. “Women receive just a portion of the available financing. The data shows that investing in women is a wise financial decision, but we need more investors to put that in action. We would benefit from more investing that particularly focuses on women—from women's investing circles to traditional financing seeking women-owned businesses."
Advice to Up-and-Coming Women Business Owners
While established women entrepreneurs all have their lists of dos and don'ts, their top advice aims at encouraging fellow women business owners to embrace self-confidence and seek support.
“Entrepreneurship requires that you take a leap of faith each day," says Ballard. “You can't be certain that your business will succeed, and there are constant roadblocks that cause the need to pivot. The financial uncertainty can also be overwhelming. Many women entrepreneurs struggle with doubting themselves and are their worst critics. The key is to be good to yourself and set realistic expectations."
Your network is one of the most important assets you have, adds Skeete Tatum. “Build your own personal board of advisors—a dream team in your corner. Such a group should have a mentor, a sponsor, a connector, a point expert, a close friend and an executive coach."
Maia Haag, co-founder and president of I See Me! personalized books, believes that we will see an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs as young women start to see other women who have done it. “When young women see other women starting and running companies, they realize that this is not just a man's game," she says. “That realization shifts the conversation from 'Can I do it?' to 'How should I do it?'"
Mader finds that many aspiring entrepreneurs are often paralyzed by a fear of failure. “I'll speak to would-be business owners, who have yet to take the leap of faith," she says. "Any entrepreneur will tell you that you have to be willing to take that initial risk. Passion and perseverance are an unbeatable combination for success. When you realize that the only person you have to answer to is yourself, you'll succeed as an entrepreneur."
Authenticity can be a key to being successful, agrees Marti Wymer, founder and CEO of a Spoonful of Comfort, a comfort food delivery company. “I am thrilled by the number of women running successful companies, who are authentic to themselves. I think initiatives like Women's Entrepreneurship Day that shed light on the success of female business owners gives aspiring entrepreneurs the confidence they need to start and run their own businesses."
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