These Resources Can Help Women Entrepreneurs Solve the Capital Conundrum
Community business partners, government programs and lenders are helping women grow their businesses, create jobs and fuel economic prosperity.
Even as women-owned businesses are growing two-and-a-half-times faster than the national average, women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when it comes to raising capital, hiring employees, obtaining government contracts, and accessing certain markets.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides resources, including training and funding opportunities, to help women launch new businesses and compete in the marketplace. If you’re aiming to join the ranks of the 11.6 million women-owned businesses, here’s how you can seek SBA support:
Training and Counseling
Census data show that the vast majority — 72 percent — of women entrepreneurs are first-time business owners. Whether you’re cutting your teeth at business ownership or you have years of experience, the time you invest in sharpening your business skills will pay dividends down the road.
The SBA and its partners offer online and in-person training, as well as counseling and mentoring opportunities to help you navigate business ownership.
- Women’s Business Centers. A Women’s Business Center near you (there are more than 100 nationwide) is a good starting point for free guidance and counseling, low-cost training sessions and local networking events. At the Utah Women’s Business Center, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs receive individual counseling sessions that are tailored to their specific needs. These sessions cover areas ranging from concept feasibility and business planning to startup assistance and business growth.
In Idaho, which does not have a Women’s Business Center, Zions Bank’s Business Resource Center helps female entrepreneurs and has a clientele that is 50 percent women.
- DreamBuilder. If you’re time crunched, you can take 13 beginning business courses without leaving your laptop through this SBA partner program. DreamBuilder is an interactive online training regimen, designed specifically for women by the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Following the program, women have a business plan to start their own enterprise or develop an existing one.
- SCORE. Having a small business mentor is linked to higher revenues and increased business growth. You can get free advice from a volunteer business mentor through SCORE’s network of more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters.
Startup capital allows your business to hire employees, rent office and reach its growth potential. But compared with men, women business owners raise smaller amounts of capital to finance their firms and rely more on personal — rather than external — sources of financing, according to a report from the National Women’s Business Council. That can often mean that women entrepreneurs lack the resources needed to scale their businesses. SBA loan programs provide small business financing to startups that might not qualify for traditional bank loan.
Could federal contracts be a potential market for your business? The government pays out more than $500 billion in contracts annually, yet women-owned small businesses receive only 4 percent of those contracts, according to the SBA.
- The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program helps women-owned small businesses compete for federal contracts. If your business is in an industry where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented or if your business is economically disadvantaged, you may be eligible to compete for government contracts that are set aside for the program.
- The 8(a) Business Development program helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. By getting certified as an 8(a) business, you may be able to vie for specially set-aside government contracts.
With support of community business partners, government programs and lenders, women can continue to grow their businesses and create jobs and economic prosperity in the Intermountain West.