Monday, May 17, 2010

Women still face challenges in growing their businesses

During my career as a business news writer, I had the great fun of profiling many woman-owned operations, large and small. Typically, most centered on clothing, children, food and creative enterprise. For example coffee outlets, second-hand clothing and catering. Some grew large and successful such as the woman-owned Aha! writers group based in Vancouver that develops product labeling and corporate marketing campaigns nationwide, and Spanky's, a recycled children's clothing business. But many local women-owned enterprises remained small, underfunded and at some point faded away.

National research shows that women continue to start businesses at twice the rate of men. More than 250,000 women in the U.S. own and lead businesses with annual revenue of more than $1 million, reports today's Wall Street Journal in an article written by Sharon Hadary, former executive director and founder of the Center for Women's Business Research. Unfortunately Hadary points out that most women-owned businesses remain small. Here's what she sees as the challenges and possible solutions.
The problem starts with how women set goals, Hadary says. "The value of setting high goals for growth is not just a motivational myth. Research shows that the only statistically significant predictor of business growth is not the industry, size of business or length of time in business. It is the entrepreneur's goal for growth," she says.
Other challenges, says Hadary, include access to credit, perceptions that women-owned businesses do not have the capacity to grow and that networks favor men more than women because they are not taken seriously.
Hadary says women business owners need to change their mind-set and "think big" from the start. Women need to think long-term and plan for growth of their businesses. Women must gain more confidence around winning capital and business finance. Women must seek out learning from other women who share their gender experiences, she says. Bankers, said Hadary, "need understand that serving women business owners must be more than marketing and publicity. They need to expand continuing outreach to women business owners at the community level, providing coaching and mentoring for business growth."
And finally, women in business need to "develop the metrics that document their capabilities."
Women are willing to put in the hard work to make a business successful, but they still need confidence when it comes to thinking big and thinking long-term. Click here to read the WSJ article, called "Why are Women-owned firms Smaller than Men-owned Ones?"

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