New data show that more women than ever are starting their own small businesses, and many rely on organizations and networking to succeed.
According to an American Express analysis of Census Bureau figures, between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned business in the U.S. rose by 68 percent. Women are starting an estimated 1,288 companies each day, up from 606 in 2011 and 2012 — that is twice as fast as men.
Most women said they start their own businesses to seize control of their own time and schedule at work.
To secure opportunities and success, many women turned to organizations to gain needed certifications, sought out networking opportunities and relied on mentors.
Certification ‘Opened Up Doors’
Linda Strand, founder, CEO and president of San Diego-based solar company Independent Energy Solutions Inc., said that completing the certification process with the California Public Utilities Commission’s clearinghouse to verify her status as a woman-owned small business owner went a long way.
“It opened up doors working with government utilities contracts,” she said. “San Diego Gas & Electric is mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission to contract with a certain number of women-owned businesses, and this scored me higher on proposals.”
In 2011, the Small Business Administration also expanded contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses and economically disadvantaged, women-owned small businesses, said Ruben Garcia, district director for the Small Business Administration for San Diego and Imperial counties.
The SBA’s women-
owned small business federal contract program presents an opportunity for small businesses to increase their presence in the federal marketplace, he said.
Women who meet certain eligibility standards, such as having a 51 percent ownership stake in the company and being a U. S. citizen, can get self-certified or turn to one of the following third parties for certification — the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Women Business Owners Corporation, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Garcia said.
Garcia said that contracts are awarded in some 83 industries to women-owned businesses.
The hottest sectors are accounting and tax preparation, furniture manufacturing and repairs, teaching and tutoring, business support services and outpatient care centers.
“Engineering, agriculture and clothing and manufacturing are also where we see a lot of contracts now going to women-owned small businesses,” Garcia noted.
Women Are Underrepresented
Garcia said he’s pleased to see that the contracts have helped women gain parity with men.
Still, he added, “Women are substantially underrepresented.”
According to published reports, maintaining a 4 percent-plus market share does not reach the governmentwide small business goal of 5 percent for women-owned small businesses.
Two senators want to see more women-
owned small businesses get their chance at winning more federal contracts.
On June 18, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced legislation that would expand access for women business owners seeking contracts with the federal government through the Women-Owned Small Business procurement program.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., current chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.,
co-sponsored the legislation.
For other women, networking events have widened their opportunities.
Deno Bell, owner and founder of Fit-X San Diego, which manages and brings independent fitness professionals to corporations and residential communities, said that joining the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has been critical to market her business to others.
She said that being a member of Think Local First San Diego, an initiative that encourages local contracting of services, has helped her gain insights into the needs of specific communities.
The National Women’s Business Council recently said in a paper that networks are a vital source for business and industry knowledge, for making market and financial contacts, becoming active in business and political communities, and gaining access to decision makers in finance, purchasing and the community.
“The women who owned the larger, faster-growing organizations belong to more and diverse organizations than do women in smaller businesses,” the paper said.
The most successful women business owners say the best way to gain full
advantage from organization
membership is to take a leadership
This provides access to leaders and decision makers.
In addition, the paper said it is
imperative that as women move from the “more traditional” organizations they create a critical mass of women members by reaching out to other women.