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October is Women’s Small Business Month. There are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States, and over 7.7 million of these businesses are owned by women.
This is a 20.1% increase from 2002. Women -owned businesses, where women own 51% percent or more of the stock or equity, generated $1.2 trillion in receipts. Women-owned businesses will account for one-third of the new jobs created by 2018. (Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute)
According to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, almost 800,000 small businesses are owned by Latinas, more than 900,000 small businesses are owned by Black/African-American women, over 500,000 small businesses are owned by Asian-American/Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, and close to 15,000 small businesses are owned by American-Indian/Alaskan Native females.
“I got sick of my one dimensional career. I basically ’outgrew the pot I was planted in’. I wanted more,” said Suzan McDowell, President & CEO of Circle of One Marketing, an award-winning ad agency in Miami, Florida, about why she started her own business.
For Michelle Levendosky- Fields, the owner of Creative Hair Salon in Lorain, Ohio, the motivation to begin a business came from her husband and her desire for more flexibility. Her policy when it comes to purchases for the business: “ I watch pennies and never buy if I can’t afford [it],” says Levendosky-Fields. “I pay cash almost always. This way I never have to worry about bills and my  employees don’t have to worry about being without work.”
Despite these successes, female entrepreneurs are not shy about expressing the challenges they have faced and continue to face. “I experienced a lot of sex discrimination with vendors and inspectors. “It is very much a ‘man’s world’,” says Debbie Benedit, the owner and co-founder of the popular Havana Restaurant & Havana Sandwich Shop in Atlanta, Georgia. “I have 36- years of a successful business under my belt and it is all but impossible to get the capital or investors I need. Controlling my cost without jeopardizing the quality and affordability of my food is probably my biggest challenge right now.”
For small businesses with no or few employees, the challenge lies in performing many different roles within the business. “ The biggest challenge I face with running my business is having to wear all the hats. It’s me, myself and I,” says Allison Hrabovsky, owner of Trends Boutique, a leading clothing store in Hoboken, New Jersey. “I am the owner of the business, buyer, salesperson, bookkeeper, website designer, marketing department, and janitorial staff. You have to be a quick learner and excel in every aspect of your business.”
As for how the business climate can change to make it better for women-owned small businesses, quicker and better access to credit and capital, global economic stability, lessening and preventing excessive regulation, tax-friendly reform for small businesses are just some of the ways. For McDowell, an African-American female small business owner, a better business climate would have a significant cut in payroll taxes and as she states, “certainly more access to credit and capital as well as the ability to find and pitch angel investors that can see the potential in my brand and not just a struggling P&L sheet.
McDowell’s experience is one shared by many women entrepreneurs, who still experience greater obstacles in obtaining capital for their business than their male counterparts. Moreover, their access to capital is not commensurate with their business growth.
The federal government recognizes the critical role women entrepreneurs play in the U.S. economy. While women-owned small businesses accounted for 33% of small business owners in the United States in 2006, federal government dollars to women-owned small businesses was only 3.4%. Last October, the Small Business Administration (SBA) created a 5% federal procurement program for women-owned small businesses as a response to this inequity. This program is intended to help women-owned small businesses get an equitable share of federal contracts. One measure that women entrepreneurs can take advantage of is federal legislation such as the Small Business Jobs Act, which makes loans more obtainable for small businesses and creates more opportunities for them to access federal contracts. More information on these programs and its requirements can be found at http://sba.gov.