In 1988, the United States Congress passed the bill HR 5050 which opened the doors for women business owners. Prior to this groundbreaking piece of legislation, small-business loans for women required a male co-signer—her husband or relative.
Today, a little over 30 years since HR 5050, women have found their wings.
In the past, most women only exercised control in domestic spaces while men worked blue- and white-collar jobs. These days, women lead the way in educational and professional achievement. We are often both the breadwinners and the primary decision-makers in the home, meaning although we work, we still purchase or influence the purchase of products and services for ourselves and our families.
This powerful trend is true across all industries and cultural backgrounds. We're diverse, multi-dimensional and more vocal about our needs and the brands who support them.
What's clear is that women are the future of entrepreneurship. And small-business loans for women helped us get there.
However, despite these great strides in gender equity over the last few decades, there is still a disconnect when it comes to support for women business owners. These entrepreneurs, particularly those of color, often find it harder to gain funding to get their businesses off of the ground. (I should know! I am both a woman business owner and a woman of color.)
Sometimes, the biggest hurdles for female entrepreneurs are also the oldest: breaking the barriers of public and professional perception in order to grow. For women business owners looking to scale, there are solutions that can help free up cash flow and give you the working capital you need to grow.
1. Keep a close eye on the books.
The passage of HR 5050 may have granted access to small-business loans for women, but that was just a foot in the door. In order to achieve the wide-reaching level of success we deserve, women small-business owners should focus on building a strong financial foundation—and that starts with keeping a close eye on the books.
Accounting may not be the most interesting part of growing a business but it is one of the most critical. When you are scaling, every penny counts. Managing funds in order to have the working capital required to grow is important.
Understanding your detailed expenses can help you prioritize, as well. If you don't think bookkeeping is your strong suit, try outsourcing the task. Investing in a good accountant or financial advisor now can ultimately help you save money in the long run.
2. Develop a strong brand strategy.
As a strategist, I can tell you firsthand how important it is to develop a strong vision and plan for your brand. It does not matter how innovative your idea is if it does not resonate with your target audience.
Your positioning and messaging is often a customer's first touchstone with your brand. In order to make an impact, you need to develop a strategy, preferably one that keeps your customer engaged throughout her life's journey.
Brand strategy can be a major investment, but it is a smart use of your funds. You have to engage your ideal customer in order to get them through the door and generating business. Spend on brand and marketing strategy up front, and you can start developing a loyal and steady customer base.
3. Build a committed core team.
You may not be able to afford a big team to start, so try building one with heart. Make sure the people you bring on board understand the mission of your business and share your core values.
Building a strong foundation—from solid bookkeeping and strategy to a committed core team—can help female entrepreneurs take a well-deserved seat at the table.
Remember that women business owners didn't get here alone. We took advantage of loans for women to start businesses and we reached out to one another for support. Some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world started because of the connections of a few influential men. In this day and age, women can build the community and network they need to thrive, too. And it can start with a core team that is committed to the growth of your vision.
4. Lean on small-business owner perks.
Loans for women-owned businesses can be a great starting place for some. If you are looking for more resources, you may want to research the benefits of your small business credit card. Lastly, you may be eligible to keep cash longer by using your card instead of checks or ACH payments.
We've come a long way from needing a man to cosign our small business loans and act as the gatekeepers to opportunity, but the road to gender equity—in business and in life—is still being paved by women business owners like us.
Building a strong foundation, from solid bookkeeping and strategy to a committed core team can lead female entrepreneurs to the seat at the table that is so well-deserved.
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