Women Business Owners:
Coming On Strong
If there were any doubt that women owners are an ever-growing force
on the independent business scene, new studies of leading female entrepreneurs
around the world supplies incontrovertible proof. The National Foundation
for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) has been hard at work, researching
the small business climate for women and identifying strong trends.
Fifty Top Women Show Trends
In one recent study done jointly with IBM, the NFWBO used as its subjects
50 top women business owners (plus 10 more up-and-coming) to compile
- These women owners cover a wide range of industry categories, for
example: 27 percent in manufacturing, 25 percent in retail trade, and
10 percent in real estate.
- Slightly less than half (46 percent) of these women inherited their
businesses, and more than half began their own: 34 percent by themselves,
and 17 percent with others.
- As a group, the study subjects generate $139 billion in revenue and
employ more than 150,000 workers.
The Majority of Women Owners Prefer "Small"
More research from the NFWBO shows another picture: that women owners,
taken as a whole, prefer pared-down operations. The very smallest, in
fact: among the approximately eight million women-owned businesses in
the U.S., 75 percent of these are one-person operations with no employees.
Ownership of such a small business gives women maximum flexibility with
work schedules and offers a better chance of keeping their home lives
healthy as well.
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Ignoring the big-business gurus who claim that small does not equal
successful, women owners continue to prefer keeping their businesses
small. Although the NFWBO research reveals that fewer than one percent
of these businesses have more than $1 million in sales, women owners
are showing strength in numbers and gaining respect from many quarters
necessary for their support and growth. The Small Business Administration,
for example, offers a number of free counseling and assistant programs,
as well as its loan guarantee program--all helping the woman-owned business
Women Owners Triumph over Bank Loan Inequities
Another NFWBO study shows that women business owners, for the first
time ever, are experiencing access to business loans from banks nearly
equal to that of male owners. A number of U.S. banks, among them BankAmerica
and Wells Fargo, offer special loan programs for women business owners.
Partly thanks to the rise of women to high bank positions, the woman-owned
business is being seen for its untapped potential.
With easier access to loans, women owners can now be less dependent
on high-cost credit card loans for financing, and they have more leeway
to reinvest earnings. According to the NFWBO, all this means that women-owned
businesses have developed into more sophisticated operations.
Although male and female entrepreneurs may have equal access to loans,
a related NFWBO finding shows that the sexes still approach the use of
credit differently. Men owners tend to use this money to help out with
cash flow or to consolidate debt; women put the dollars towards business
In addition to these specific discoveries, NFWBO studies also showed
that, on an international scale, women owners come from similar backgrounds
and voice the same concerns about important business issues. They constitute
between one-fourth and one-third of the world's independent business
owners. They are also vocal, as was evidenced at an international conference
in Paris sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD). Approximately 350 delegates from 35 countries attended the multilingual
sessions and workshops.
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