This October marks Women’s Small Business Month, started in 1988 with the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act that established the Women’s Business Center (WBC) Program and the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC).
Women have made significant contributions to the small business community. According to the NWBC, women-owned firms today employ 8.9 million people, and generate receipts of $1.4 trillion. There were 2.1 million more women-owned businesses in 2012 than 2007, representing an additional 1.5 million jobs. Both those numbers continue to grow, in part thanks to a new piece of legislation.
The introduction of the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015 would further increase funding for the WBC program to “improve business training and counseling opportunities for women entrepreneurs.” The proposal would raise the authorization level to $21.75 million from the current authorization of $14.5 million. The bill would also increase grant levels available to eligible women’s businesses from $150,000 to $250,000. In addition, the bill promises to streamline the paperwork required of the WBCs and encourages new programming.
WBCs are a national network of more than 100 educational centers throughout the U.S. that are designed to help women start and grow small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration oversees the WBC network, which seeks to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs.
Despite being one of the fastest growing sectors of business, women-owned businesses still face obstacles in obtaining funding and the necessary support they need to sustain and grow their businesses. According to a report from the Small Business Association, women who seek to open and maintain their businesses face significant challenges in the following areas:
Women do not get sufficient business loans and venture capital. Women account for only 4% of all commercial loan dollars, 17% of SBA loans and 4.2% of venture capital funds.
Studies find that women entrepreneurs still do not have equal access to government contracts, holding back the potential of women-owned businesses.
Women face challenges in getting access to relevant and sufficient specialized business counseling and training, which is important for business growth.
Some scholars suggest that although some of the immediate barriers faced by women in the small-business arena differ from those that confront women employees, the underlying causes are similar. They suggest that women carry their labor market disadvantage with them to the small business sphere, where it is compounded by new indications of the same institutional barriers.
BFS Capital firmly believes in the entrepreneurial spirit and provides funding and support to small businesses owned by men and women alike. We applaud the introduction of the Women’s Small Business Act of 2015 and proudly celebrate Women’s Small Business Month with each of our partners and customers.
Women small business owners seeking additional support can look to some of the following industry groups:
Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC)
National Association of Women in Construction
National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB)
National Association of Women’s Business Owners (NAWBO)
National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
Women’s Presidents’ Organization (WPO)
We hope these resources are useful! Join us in celebrating Women’s Small Business Month and all of the contributions that women-owned firms have contributed to the small business community and the economy in general.