While many businesses do grow in spurts, some women-owned businesses seem to get stuck in the periods between growth spurts. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, women-owned businesses account for 40 percent of all privately held firms, but only 3 percent of them reported revenues of $1 million or more. Meanwhile, 6 percent of men-owned firms had revenues of $1 million or more.
If you feel your business isn’t growing fast enough, it may be time to look for outside help. Take the example of Kimberly Martinez and her business, Bonitas International. Finding herself unemployed shortly after September 11, 2001, Kimberly decided it was time to go out on her own. After a few months of searching, she found an idea she felt she could really build a business around. Her sister-in-law, a pediatric nurse, had begun to make necklaces to wear her work ID on. When coworkers saw the necklaces, they immediately wanted to buy their own. Kimberly recognized that a real business was already growing, so she convinced her sister-in-law to leave her job and start a company.
The business launched in January 2003, offering fashionable holders for employee ID badges and eyeglasses. By 2005 the company was definitely growing, but it was still short of reaching the $1 million mark. As she puts it, “At that point we really needed to solve phase-two problems.”
During a period of searching for ways to grow the business, Kimberly received an email from a friend about a Make Mine a Million $ Business (M3) event. M3 is a program from Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence that’s designed to help propel a greater number of women-owned businesses beyond the $1 million mark. Attracted by the education the event offered women small business owners like herself, Kimberly decided to attend and to apply for the M3 Competition. Ultimately, Kimberly was chosen as a competition winner, and the M3 experience was the push she needed to get beyond $1 million.
Before Kimberly won the M3 competition, her business had sales of $650,000. With help from the coaching, marketing and other resources offered by M3, the following year’s sales rose to $1.78 million. Today, Bonitas International employs 15 people and sells products wholesale to distributors, big-box retailers, and independent retail stores, as well as selling retail online.
For many women business owners like Kimberly, M3 is a way to gain from the experience of successful entrepreneurs, as well develop a network of other business owners. If you need to build a plan for growth, join us in San Francisco for the next M3 event on November 8-9, 2010.
 Key Facts about Women-Owned Businesses, 2008–2009 Update, Center for Women’s Business Research.